Even though she was here only for the conference, for three days counted down to the last breathless instant, she finally got up her courage to write the letter. It was also time she looked love straight in the eye. She found beautiful yellowish sheets of paper and an envelope with the hotel’s logo in the brochure folder in her room. She wrote a draft during the first night and put it away in her handbag, read it twice, once during the coffee break after she had presented her paper, and then inside the withering emptiness of the last tram she took back to the hotel after a noisy dinner with her colleagues. She was amazed at how she had preserved her large, beautiful handwriting. “Perhaps because I am still old-fashioned,” the thought crossed her mind. She believed that once handwritten, words acquire some spirit and emanate their own energy.
My dear Ivo,
I used to love writing letters, responding to letters and did so once, when I imagined I had all of time’s infinity at my disposal. I clung to the utopia of that parallel, more meaningful and deeper life, I liked to foresee, analyze and invent it, I felt free and different amidst words and allowed myself such lavishness of mind and intuition, while imagination often took me to the very impossible horizon of sharing. I was even sure that I would become a writer, while now I am merely my dad’s most precious dream-come-true. This is exactly what my dear old dad had wanted most: for me to become a doctor, because he was a doctor, in other words, his complete continuation, delighting him with grandchildren in my prime, actually no, he always used the term “sweet little grandchildren.” And here I am, Associate Professor Kamelia K., in a white coat with a stethoscope in my left pocket, with a grown-up child I raised myself and two biographies – before and after communism – stitched together somehow or other, two specialties and the crowding pain in front of my consulting room. Dad would be happy, if he could see me from somewhere in the hereafter, with the many flowers in my room, he would also take pity on me for the hard time I am having and my puffy eyes stuck together with exhaustion in the evening, and for falling asleep dog-tired even before the shivers of self-pity, doubt, various kinds of solitude and despair all start creeping over me. The week before I left, I decided I ought to tell you during our next lunch flooded with wine and cheerful laughter that I was in love with you, that I have loved you throughout all of these seventeen years, if not more… I do not recall if we met after my getting married and divorced or before, but only in you do I recognize my inspiration for living. Or else the daily meat grinder that whirls me awake at six a.m. would have annihilated my nature. A few mornings ago I was in a sour mood already in the crammed shuttle, and then I spilt my coffee which I had gotten from the machine in front of the medical center. It was as if I spilt over some tension onto the ten patients, clustered in the niche in front of my office. Before lunch I conducted examinations and filled dozens of pages with names and diagnoses of human pain while waiting for your call, but instead of you, my mother rang me worried, she was running a temperature and if she got sick now who would look after her mother, my eighty-year-old grandmother who had been bedridden for about a year and a half, then my daughter called crying, she had fallen on the sidewalk in front of her high school, her knee was bleeding, her tights were torn and she did not have enough cash to get a cab home, could she possibly get a cab and come to me so I could pay for it, then bandage her leg and give her cash for new tights and another cab, “of course, I’ll be waiting for you, please don’t cry, you’re all grown up, in two months you’ll be graduating” and then I remembered her as a little girl with scraped knees and a smile that never left her little face, waving to me from the top of the jungle gym, and you turning your head away, scared to look at her and this picture filled me to the brim as much as the thought that she has already been accepted to a university in Arizona and will be leaving very soon, and without hesitation I let female patient number 13 in, left her to wait and went out, it was past 12.30pm, I wanted to grab crackers, get some coffee and drink it instead of spilling it, and borrow some money from the administrator, as my daughter was to arrive any moment. A friend was patiently waiting for me in front of my door, she was the only one who had not taken the liberty of disturbing me on this crazy day. I had helped her some time ago and now she was back from Italy wanting to give me a gift. On the miserable staircase where we hid to have a smoke, I managed to tell her briefly about my hellish day and she laughed and took a blouse out of her bag, the silk flowed along her arms and stopped at a large and beautiful mother-of-pearl button and this was the only thing I could hold on to that day, the next days and in this repulsive reality. It was your text message reminding me of our lunch on Friday the 15th at 1:15pm that brought me back to my shoes and got me on my feet.
Dear Ivo, we are getting old while always just missing each other in this delightful way. I have been repeating this to myself right here, at each step I have taken, as I imagined your jerky walk along with my running around you, and how I would be telling you about the city during our lunch, and I do not want this, I want to live it with you, to see it in the shining green deepness of your eyes, to touch you and kiss you in the hotel room, and elsewhere from now on, because I have loved you for seventeen years, if not more …
Kamelia got to the airport a few hours earlier, checked in her luggage and sat down in a coffee shop to re-write the letter. It seemed to her unfinished and she froze in the noisy loneliness of the place, squeezing the big mother-of-pearl button of her blouse with her left hand. She wished she could think up the ending with one sentence alone, to name that very impossible horizon of the sharing, where she would finally be loved and desired.
As she was sealing the envelope, Professor Lumacci from Naples came to her table and took a seat without waiting to be invited, kissed her hand and started talking about her paper as an opportunity for a future project between them, why didn’t she come to work at his clinic for a year or two, he was all beaming with joy, as though singing a Verdi aria. Tearing the draft letter to tiny pieces, Kamelia awoke from her stupor and carefully, almost on tiptoe approached the meaning of the proposal she had just heard. As if for the first time she looked at Gianfranco who was offering her a glass of Prosecco beaming and almost fervently, and burst out laughing at his loquacious and melodious toast to their future.
He saw her off and they waved at each other for quite some time, exhilarated by the Prosecco and their old-fashioned shock at the fact that they did not want to part for as long as two months, after which she would land at Naples airport and he would meet her there.
The letter lay on the table in the sealed and unaddressed envelope with the hotel’s logo. A waiter looked at it and even opened it. He did not understand the large handwritten letters so he took it to the bar. At midnight, as nobody had asked about it, he dropped it in the paper recycling bin. In this place, they had been collecting trash separately for a long time.