The skirt was of a fine quality, made with pure linen, sticking tightly to the hips and stopping at the knee. The sensible neckline of the blouse showed a not-so-ample bosom. Tecla’s eyes lit up in the colors of the forest as she told Italo all about her young dreams, spears of the future that broke in front of the vestiges of the Mulinaccio and scattered throughout the still water of the old dam and the stone bridge.
Tecla adored that spot just above Scandicci. She’d discovered it when she’d left Florence to live in a town that was yet to be fully completed. There was no Brunelleschi’s Dome to gaze at adoringly from all angles; nor was there a Ponte Vecchio, which she’d catch sight of in the morning when leaving her old house on Por Santa Maria. And yet the Mulinaccio still managed to steal her heart. It was her place in the world.
She lit a cigarette and suddenly felt powerful. “So what then, you’re not going to kiss me?” she said to Italo, pointedly. He moved closer to her; he was twenty years older and possessed the experience of someone who both knew women and yet was still afraid of them.
“No, I want to hear you talk.”
She laughed and stuck her feet in the ice-cold water.
Italo was transfixed by such vitality, frightened of being alive to such an extent and unable to understand it. Her jet-black hair flounced around her snow-white shoulders, her eyebrows changed expression frequently. Curiosity, happiness, contempt. Tecla had become melancholic, like that old ruin.
“Let’s go,” he said, straining to stick her still-wet feet into her shoes. He climbed onto the turquoise Vespa. The wind blew the tears away, and the hills moved fast toward some old farmstead and fields where grapes grew with abandon.
He asked himself, why the tears? Perhaps it was fear of losing this happiness. Like those landscapes that you see one minute, which then suddenly disappear after one curve. San Vincenzo a Torri, San Michele, the descent toward the plain. San Martino alla Palma.
Italo stopped in front of the small church.
“Get down… we need to talk now.”
He took her hands. “I’ll always be there for you. I’ll never stop listening to you recite your poetry, or watching you paint faraway worlds.”
The jelly-like tears left everything indistinguishable, including happiness itself.
That day, those moments, everything – today it all comes back to life. Outside it’s raining; it’s 2017 and the windows of the tram are all fogged up. Tecla looks at them and can see her life play out. Italo, that city just a stone’s throw from Florence, the one that still had to take shape, where there were fields, farmers, villas here and there with their masters. All in the span of twenty minutes, on that new-track tram leading her from Piazzale della Resistenza to Santa Maria Novella. Today, the fields are no longer here and an architect named Rogers has brought about a modern center, complete with shops and spirited lights. Rolling by are different people, another life. The hills that watch her from afar. The “Mulinaccio.” She opens her purse and takes out a notepad. With her pencil she marks down new itineraries, new travels, notes of her new life. She casts her eyes on Italo, who’s seated in front of her. Eighty-six years old; he kept his promise.