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. •

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