“How could you have loved someone who thought movies were a waste of time?” he asked with genuine incredulity, fully aware of Lina’s ardor for the medium. “That’s just it, I guess. Because I loved him.” He took a swig from the bottle of red wine they were drinking while sitting at the edge of the Arno. Unlike the Seine, it didn’t seem to be a very chic or desirable place to drink in Pisa. There was no one around them but, instead, people above walking along the bridge, occasionally pausing to glance at how absurd they looked in their attempt to “revel” by the river. The place where only drug deals went down.
Xavier continued nonetheless, “So you’re saying love makes you delusional? You went crazy long enough to ignore how much not watching movies regularly was killing you?”
She smiled. “I think you know love is steeped in delusion.”
“Not with us,” he insisted.
She stared at the moonlight being refracted in the ripples of the water. Ripples caused by phantom movements from underneath the surface. “How can you be so sure? We haven’t been together long enough yet to know if we’ll eventually look back on this as a delusion.”
Xavier practically spit out his wine in repugnance over her cynicism. The French always seemed to forget that they could be outdone on negativity by an Italian any day of the week. Lina had met him only a few months ago while studying in Paris. When she announced she had to go back home for the weekend to see her family and friends, he was adamant about joining her. Though she knew it was a bad idea, she agreed. Maybe this is how she would weed him out. Only the strong survive in Italy. And only the damned live there in the first place.
But, to her surprise, everyone seemed amenable to Xavier and his presence. At the same time, they had also welcomed Flavio, that anti-movie tyrant, with open arms and look how that turned out. Ending in anything but cinematic glory save for the part where she slapped him across the face after he confessed to having cheated on her for almost a year of their four-year stint. Xavier’s blood boiled when she told him that, even before they were officially together. His passion was in contrast to Flavio’s dispassion and she liked it. What she failed to foresee in such a heat burning inside of him, however, was that it might lead to volatile bouts of rage every now and again. And just as Lina couldn’t make the Arno feel like the Seine, she also wouldn’t be able to make his impending anger feel justified. But that was still yet to come, and, for the moment, they were honoring their mutual love for film by packing it in on the river and attending a nearby screening of Vertigo at a theater that was having a Hitchcock retrospective.
The movie, she warned, would be dubbed in Italian. The Italians didn’t surpass other nations in much else except this. Dubbed movies. A testament to why Italians spoke rather atrocious English for the most part. Lina included. It was already enough of a marvel to her that she could speak French.
Xavier said he wouldn’t mind the dubbing, he’d seen it enough times to know what was going on, and it’s all about the visuals anyway, right? She concurred, and in they went, neither seeming to notice that both their phones were about to die, the curse that comes with being out all day and a lack of public outlets available to remedy the situation.
Thus, roughly two hours later when they returned back into the night, the city looked even less familiar in the heightened darkness. For Lina, as well, who had not been back in months and had already readjusted her brain to knowing only the map of Paris like the back of her hand. How easy it is to betray the city of one’s origin.
As they found themselves moving from one dead end corridor to the next, Lina finally had to admit to Xavier, “I’m lost.” Already tired and irritable, Xavier snapped back, “Are you fucking kidding me?” She knows then that it’s going to be bad. The romantic narrative that might have played out between them onscreen cannot do so in life. Their honeymoon period is coming to an end and she’s about to see something in him that she won’t be able to unsee. It bubbles to the surface slowly and then, like lava erupting from a volcano, it can’t be controlled, pouring out in gobs and spurts as he demands how she could possibly be lost. She’s lived here most of her life, shouldn’t she know the fucking way by now? The ins and outs of every alley, every Maltese cross-pocked crevice?
“No,” she declares. “I don’t.”
With both of their phones in a state of non-functionality, all they can do is roam, trying their best to retrace their steps. When Lina inquires if he remembers seeing this or that specific landmark from before, all he can do is shout back, “I don’t know! I don’t fucking live here!”
Hours pass, and they are more lost than ever, seeming solely to get farther and farther from the river, which would be the only surefire guidepost to tell them what direction they were going in. Lina decided to collapse in a side street and sleep there until morning. Xavier, disgusted with her, says, “You’re giving up, just like that?”
She balks, “When you’re Italian, giving up gets to be pretty easy. There’s nothing left to fight for.” She puts her hands behind her head after fashioning her jacket into a blanket atop her torso. “You’re welcome to do what you want, but I’m done for tonight.”
Xavier looks from her to the indecipherable darkness beyond. Defeated, he sighs heavily and lies down next to her. In the morning, Lina opened her eyes and soon lamented entering consciousness, as an immediate and agonizing pain in her stomach and chest announced its presence. As though someone had spent the entire night pummeling her. And he had.
To boot (an almost cruel term considering our stage is in Italy), Xavier had found a wrapper in the trash to write a note in her own blood that read as an explanation for his absence that morning, “You’re too weak for me to stand.”
Hobbling out of the alley, she felt like Cabiria. Bamboozled again. Because whether or not they shared her love of movies, they were all the same.