She got away from the bustle of the industrious metropolis. She found a town by the seaside, far away from large cities, far from Ellen, her boss, far from her mother’s reminders about the biological clock.
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Nobody could upset the luscious predictability of her daily ritual. The old couple running the boarding house asked her no questions. They left her alone but watched her from a distance as she had breakfast at their simple morning buffet, and quietly unlocked the door for her when she returned at exactly 10 at night. She never knew their names.
Her boarding house was on Viale Del Sole. A small bedroom, a tidy bed. In the window, a grumpy air conditioner working hard to chill her nights, and obscuring the view to the beach. Every morning she would take coffee to her room, to sip and watch the strip of the sea peeking between the cafe and the hotel. She could not understand Italian, but she enjoyed the musical pace of the news on the radio.
She never saw ships on the sea. However, there was always a flock of scarlet frolicking on the horizon. Sometimes it appeared as crimson birds, sometimes as red sails. They celebrated her vacation, a paradise free of local politics, singles clubs, libraries, shopping malls and fast food.
Sometimes the red sails were missing. Using her Berlitz book, she fashioned a question, asking the cafe waiters about the red sails. The question only fielded invitations from the men. They wanted to be her companilisti, to show her the ancient ruins, cathedrals, castles and wineries. They wanted to take her on a boat ride. “The red sails will escort us, signora, as you and I sail a real boat with an American motor and the sea and you and me will all smile at each other,” as if from her Berlitz book they seemed to say. She withdrew into the silence of the language gap.
“How can you be so antisocial for so long?” a man’s voice asked in clear English. “It’s not healthy on this beach.” Her heaven disturbed by a young Italian god. Swarthy, sunglasses in his hair, the smirk of happiness on his puffy lips, he stood over her.
Prizing her silence, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “I like it.”
“We’ve watched you for long time, and we are just fascinated with your loneliness.”
“Who are you? Who’s we?”
“I am Antonio.” He pointed to a couple of his look-alikes: “My friends are over there, Giovanni and Fabbriccio.”
Giovanni was the one washing off under a beach shower, while the Michelangelo statue drying itself was Fabbriccio.
“And who are you and your friends? Beach patrol?”
“No, miss –”.
Remaining anonymous, she waved him on.
“We windsurf here almost everyday. You have probably seen us,” he said, pointing to the hotel parking lot. Three scarlet sails stood leaning on a car.
In the dark cool of the cafe patrons glowered. The lonely foreign woman was seen to get up and walk, escorted by one of their brethren, to the red sails.
Up close, the red sails were not all red. Giovanni’s sail had a waterfall of pastel colors and the crest of the city of Rome. Antonio’s sail had a silk-screened poster of Dalida the disco queen smiling at Antonio’s horizons. Fabbriccio’s carmine sail was festooned with the dreamy turquoise mountains between the blue sun and sea, the logo of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.
From then on, the architect, the interior designer and a voice instructor courted her as one old-fashioned man would court a woman.
They dined together at the hotel restaurant. They took her to Rome, to museums and jazz concerts. Sometimes they left her alone on the beach to watch their sails pirouette all over the sea. They are training for summer games, they told her.
One evening, Fabbriccio led her to his garage and asked, “What car do you think we are going to take?”
“Ferrari, I guess.”
“No, ragazza. This is not Ferrari.”
“Lamborghini? Alfa Romeo?”
“No,” he said softly. “This is Allante. Cadillac Allante. Power from America. Body from Italia,”
- His fingers in a pinch thrust into the air, as if praising a bottle of wine- “Every day, Sergio Pininfarina sent Cadillac Allante an aeroplane, from Turin to Detroit.”
Giovanni scheduled their outings, bought tickets to concerts, provided her with books on tape, and tutored her in Italian. Antonio served her as a consultant on all things Italian. Fabbriccio was their driver, boat skipper, piano player and an older brother.
The carefree evenings of Italy belonged to the Red Sails and their sister. One evening Fabbriccio cooked a fine Italian dinner and served it in a California setting, on an airy porch of his villa. The Red Sails sat down to dinner wearing shorts and skimpy gym shirts, their chests a dark hairy background that contrasted the delicate white linguine con carne and the blush wine. Fabbriccio improvised jazz medleys on the piano, as Antonio outcrooned Sinatra.
She listened. They spoke. She watched. They entertained her.
One night, after an unusually hot day, they just walked and talked. They walked the length of the beach. She was full of love for each of them. The Red Sails told her that they stopped going to mass. They told her she was the living spirit of their pretty Italy.
It was as if the sea whispered the sweet words. She was in heaven. The beach was exceptionally beige and balmy. The heaven was this beach.
“And what happened?” Tewtie asked.
Achsahlee the impish genie materialized before him, giggled, made a naughty face, snuck back into his head, making him say:
“And they loved her all night.”
“And the Red Sails loved her as one man makes love to a woman.”