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Amber Paulen


Drafted out of draft #2 of The Body’s Long Madness, Part 1, pg. 20-21

On one of these nights, where the enriched clarity of the air takes my lungs and fills it with more riches of sights and smells, I walk to Isaac’s quartiere, Trastevere. On this night, like most nights, this quaint quarter is vibrant. Trastevere always seems to emit the best of the best possible fumes of Rome; the small side-streets turn in and around on each other, revealing hidden restaurants and tucked-away bars; the balconies and terraces overflow with floral abundance, smells, voices, little shops and of course the Italians, those who live here and those who come for the legendary ‘Best Possible Food in All of Rome.’ For the still small family owned restaurants are the niche, turning out plates of delectable plates of pastas, pizzas, antipasti, carne, pesce, dolci. A mouth can water unreservedly in the summer while walking through little streets where the tables—always topped with red gingham—and chairs are pulled pellmell onto the roads, and yet the cars insist on passing within an arm’s length, by.

Conveniently placed is a weather-washed bench in a mini-piazza before Isaac’s elephantine green door. This seat is already mine. I make myself comfortable, allow my mind to slacken and my senses out in their full receptivity. I have come to Trastevere only for Isaac. His window, on the topmost and the third floor is gently lit; there is no silhouette breaking into shadow, though I have no doubt that he is up there. I have come to match him with the image I have harbored. His appearance, sure. . .lax slipshoddy shirt that hangs off of him with a nostalgia for its hanger, his thin waist cinched by a belt bunching up his pants two sizes too big, but usually too short, his dread-locked hair, a bungle of thickly entwined strands hanging down his back in natty defiance, his Roman nose balancing wire-rimmed glasses that slip down as he pushes them back up. Isaac is the pure picture of negligence, of an image unsought though almost as much sought after.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is lighting-up or rolling-up a fat spliff. That he is sitting back on his black leather couch as he exhales sheer clouds of sultry Moroccan hash through his parent’s apartment. Though they profess themselves as academic intellectuals, they have somehow managed to secure this lofty pad in the enviable district of Trastevere, somehow. When they had lived their studiously Roman and Latin lives, not too long ago, when Isaac was a little boy, it was in a different apartment in a different section of town. But now it is here and their small family will be forever lucky. For in this apartment Isaac is allowed to be as slothly or as smartly as he wants to be. Valerie would say he is brilliant, the most brilliant male she has ever been with. But I fail to find this an excuse for slackness in other areas. Sure, he can speak Latin, sure he reads ancient Greek, sure he read and understood Ulysses at the tender age of fourteen; but does all that make him a better person?

And anyway, I’m beginning to sound myself bitter so it is best to take my own personal vengeance a bit further away from here. Leave it across the Ponte Sisto, that will be fine; that way I can pick it up again on my way home.

Just when my baseness needs rescuing, the elephantine green door cracks in half. Isaac emerges. A blissed out grin shows beneath the mass of hair. He is out for his nightly passegiata, so much more delightful with the effects of the hashy smoke spinning up the lungs, fluffing out the tips of the mind, splaying forth each nerve-tip of the senses. The door shuts behind him with a resounding CRASH!—like all the heavy doors of Rome. Isaac shuffles away, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his nose sniffing out the air.

I lean back and drop my head so that my face is parallel with the heavens. A brackish orange-black color despite the cloudless sky, but I am closing my eyes anyway. There are four outlines that I am attempting to join together as it sometimes happens when you slowly blink one eye, open. . . closed. . . concentrating on a singular figure that jumps from one ocular perspective. . . now two. There is the Isaac of Valerie’s mind and the Isaac of mine; and then there is the actual flesh-blood Isaac that I have just witnessed step out of his door and my own flesh-blood Isaac whose name is certainly not Isaac. I can’t say if they will ever join together or if they even need to or that one is more or less important by way of this book. It is the irrevocable web of life that keeps them stuck; and no matter if that living breathing person not called Isaac comes along and sneezes, the whole sha-bang wouldn’t budge a bit. As it happens, that sneeze would come too late for the fermentation is just getting ripe and whatever this shall be it shall be, because that person who is not called Isaac no longer has anything to do with it.

Bracciano, Italy
February 2008


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