Trouble In Paradise
Lorenzo awakened in the hospital to find he was no longer in love with his fiancee.
There had been an accident, that was clear. Lorenzo had a strong memory of a ski vacation in Cortina, during which he could not manage to admit to his fiancée, or to his friends, that his only ski experience was teenage trips to Lombardy. And so he borrowed a rainbow-colored ski suit, rented equipment, and, terrified, boarded a gondola that rose along the sheer side of a cliff into the clouds. Where could it lead? Valhalla? Good guess: to his death. For that is what Lorenzo foresaw from the summit. Here, the sun shone no more, and a freezing crystalline wickedness presided over them all. He was alone; his friends had all happily vanished down the slope, like those horrible schoolchildren who open their exam books and begin scribbling away while we try to make sense of the question. And what is the question, Lorenzo DiLetto?
He stared into the whirling white tornado below. He was afraid. Not just of the death-drop ahead, but of every laugh he heard echoing from the mountains. It felt as if everyone else was born with an instruction manual he was never given; how did they know how to ski, how to pick wines or cook or face a family dinner? How to plan weddings, such as his upcoming one, or plum the baffling depths of girlfriends, such as Roberta, or be a man in the world, such as this one? What is the question?
It was there, in the wind, along with the answer, but Lorenzo did not hear it; down he went into the white oblivion.
And awoke here, in a blue hospital room, his hand held by a total stranger: a man, in green, with glasses. Across the room, he saw Roberta sitting in a chair and understood immediately that it was over between then. She stood up, but his face turned to that of the strange man beside him. Not a doctor. “Lorenzo!” the man said. The pomaded brown hair, the black glasses, the three-day stubble on his jaw. “Lorenzo you’re okay!” Yes, it was over between him and Roberta; it was as if it had never been. He understood he had passed through the veil of oblivion and was in some other life, in which he did not love her.
He looked into the eyes of the man, who smiled and squeezed his hand. Strange! For some unknowable reason, this was who Lorenzo loved now. Lorenzo had certainly been a heterosexual. He had kissed girls behind the liceo, and dated them frequently until coming upon Roberta. He had loved her emphatically. Hadn’t he proposed marriage? Hadn’t he climbed even to that summit, in Cortina, to show her he would even die for her? Alas – he had died for her. Or, at least, the old Lorenzo had.
For now he was obviously not heterosexual at all. Listening to Roberta and this strange man, it was clear this was no case of coming to life after a hard jolt, like a soda machine. He was not miraculously gay. In this dreamlife: he had never been straight. He had never dated Roberta. He had never slept with all those girls.
He had led some other life he could not remember. And he told them this – he told them he was sorry, but this man was a stranger. He could not remember their life together. And they looked at him – Roberta and this man – with sorrow. As if that had been the dreamlife. This was the real one. Was it perhaps true? Did it matter?
“I was going to get married,” Lorenzo explained. “You are getting married, honey,” Roberta said, smiling. “You’re marrying Igor.”
“I’m marrying Igor,” he repeated, and turned to the man. Igor. Squeezing Lorenzo’s hand, wearing that look of pure love. And, to our new Lorenzo, it felt like a paradise. •