Scene in Europe, Scene 7, Eruptions in Pompeii
“You remember the dust in Florence, Marty? Well, let me tell you, I was wrong, that wasn’t dust, this is dust. How many bubkes did this cost us? Look at it, I mean, the parties certainly done and dusted in this fakakta place,” Sophie complained, not for the first time, to her long serving husband as a sea of sweat swept its way down her neck, seeping under the strap of her bulging brassiere strap and on down to places her husband hadn’t seen in years, “and where are the people? I read in a book they had folks from ancient times, days of yore or what-have-you, who were turned to stone, literally, and you could see them! Well, I ask you Marty, where the hell are they?”
“That’s a lot to deal with all in one go, Soph. You want me to start anywhere in particular?”
“Oy, Marty. It was rhetorical, re-tor-ic-al,” she repeated phonetically, “don’t be a schmuck, if I ever needed an answer to anything, have I ever asked you? Come now Marty, let’s face it, you don’t send a dog to the butchers shop!”
Marty ignored her little saying, and the knowing dig, but was grateful that, since being in Europe, she’d actually managed to reduce her spewing of confusing little rhymes, phrases and all around sayings about what to do or not do with life, though never her’s, alway other peoples, but she rarely managed to use the right saying at the right time, he knew her more as a woman who liked to be heard than to put too much worry into the content of what she was actually saying.
“If we ever get to Berlin, you can be advised to just lock me up in Jane’s apartment, after we check it out first, mind you, and then just leave me there, night and day,” she told him.
“What, so you can take to peeing in the closets like Mary Margaret’s old klutz? That was a narrow escape, I tell you.”
“I just need some structure, can’t you understand that?” she asked him as she twisted her fanny pack back around to the front, “I need walls that are built to last, air conditioning, the fresh smell of polish. I believe the Germans know the difference between a bomb site and a bloody good building,” Sophie said, ignoring the still painful reminder of the loss of two shiksas who seemed like the perfect travel companions who they’d bumped into in Barcelona but who turned out, regretfully, to be no more than one half of a pack of lunatics.
“You can’t say that,” her husband told her.
“You wanna bet? Show me a good German and I bet they can show me a perfectly made bed with hospital approved corners and a decent martini, but I will say this,” she said, looking up along the remains of a cobble stoned road and off into the distance, “I will confess to being very partial to this landscape. Look up there, at that mountain, the pointy one,” she said as she mustered up enough force to raise her arm through the weight of the midday heat, “I wonder if they have a cable car or yet another form of decrepit transport to get up there. I’m sure the view from the top is just darling. And away from all this soot into clear breathable air. I need something to get my mind off all those vulgar men, loitering around that backwards station this morning. What is it about Italian men and their need to constantly touch themselves, as if it makes us gals all wanna run up to them and have a go on it ourselves?”
“I’m not sure what you mean about the Italian’s and having a right old go on them, but I do know about that mountain up there. That’s Vesuvius, Sophie!”
“Oy, look at you, who’d have known it? A schmuck like you knows the name of a hill. Marty, you wanna build one of those now, too.”
“It’s not a hill Sophie, or a bloody cathedral, and I never wanted to build a cathedral in the first place, thank you very much. But I will tell you that that hill you’re talking about, that’s the damn volcano that tore this place apart,” he informed his uninformed wife, “but if you want me to send you up, then I tell you now, Sophie Moskowitz, I’ll sure as hellfire carry you up there myself,” he told her, eye to eye, in no uncertain terms, “and throw you in.”
“Marty,” she yelled at him as the already ruined walls shook from the force of her gravel grazing voice.
“Sophie,” he yelled back, sending further reverberations into the city of what used to be.
And then there was silence. It was a standstill. It was 40 years of marriage together, day in, day out. It was 50 days on holiday, alone but together, back to back, with no family to break them up and distract them from each other. It was Pompeii and the weight of its own destruction in the scorching midday sun reflecting poorly on their own long standing, but often fragile, union. It was blisters, bowels, bunions. It was flights, fatigue and foreigners. Eruptions were bound to arrive, eventually. They just had no idea who would blow first.
After 30 minutes of time out, Sophie found Marty sitting in the remains of the 80BC Roman Amphitheatre, looking more broken than usual as he sat on one of the steps, melting in his white tracksuit. What a vision, she thought to herself, this ancient site with its rising stone walls all around her and her ancient husband amid it, certainly no gladiator but, well, he’d done her well, so far. Maybe his angina was acting up again, she thought as she came towards him, although she was secretly more concerned that he’d get dirt stains on the seat of his white pants.
“But you love me,” she began coyly, hopefully and her head nodded with a mix of rejection and old age.
“But I love you,” in said as his facial frown cracked like plaster and he reached out and took her fine freckled hand in his as he stood up, next to her, and they looked around as if there were Pompeiian King and Queen.
“You know Soph, we’re just like this place. Once young and happy and now just crumbling under a heavy layer of ageing.”
“Oy vey, I gotta tell you Marty, you sure are full of shit sometimes. The only thing heavy about us is your mozzarella and basil filled pizza belly. How I ever managed to marry so beneath myself, I’ll never know,” she told him, much to his surprise as she looked out over the walls of the amphitheater until her gaze closed in on the point of Vesuvius, once again, “but I guess we gotta face it,” she continued, rubbing her free hand along the length of her husbands arm, at the end of which their hands were forever entwined, “it’s gonna take more than a volcano to tear us down!”
All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly