We stared silently out the train window at the Adriatic coast. David was already anxious to be in Greece; he didn't like Italy and he didn't understand why I did. He looked at his digital, waterproof watch. Six more hours till we arrived in Brindisi, and the ferry to Greece. That is, if there were no more delays. He shook his head.
"Only in Italy would the conductor stop the train just for apricots," he said accusingly. "When I looked out the window and saw those guys knocking apricots off that tree . . ."
"I think it's funny."
Just then the door to the train car slid open. Three Italians, a boy and two girls, peered in. The boy, thin and pale, said something in Italian and then sat down. The girls followed. One of them was small and pretty. The other had a chipped front tooth and scraggly hair. They sat down across from us.
"Buon giorno," said the small, pretty one.
David nodded, then turned and pressed his nose against the window.
"Buon giorno," I said.
"Parli italiano?" she asked.
"Si, un poco." Then the girl started speaking English.
"I studied in England," she spoke in careful syllables.
I looked at the girl's clothes and wondered how she could have afforded to go to England.
Her name was Anna. We spoke in English and Italian about the late rock star Jim Morrison. David read his book.
"It's going to be dark soon. We should figure out where we're going to sleep," David interrupted. "If we stay on this train we'll end up in Brindisi in the middle of the night. I'd rather stop in one of these towns."
"We know a beach. It has a cave. Nobody's going to bother you and the police won't send you away," said Anna. Then she spoke quickly to the boy, who was cleaning his nails with a knife. Turning back to us, she said, "He says you should come with us."
A little later the Italians assembled their belongings. The boy stood up first. The girls followed, including me. David looked annoyed but didn't protest.
The town we stopped in was a resort. People stared at our group as we trudged along the beach, past the neat rows of chaise longues.
The boy knew where to go. We climbed up a small cliff. He pointed to a spot further down the beach. Suddenly he crouched over, his whole body shaking. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve.
"He has a fever. He's been sick for almost a month," Anna explained. "Because he hasn't slept in a bed for awhile."
The boy stood up and we walked toward the town. "I think we've joined a cult," whispered David, with a sarcastic smile.
Suddenly, the boy hurried toward a man with a black bandana tied around his head. They walked off together. I saw in their quick movements an exchange of money and a small tin-foil parcel--drugs, I realized suddenly.
David's I-told-you-so stare confirmed my fear.
"Anna?" I said.
"Don't worry." Anna sounded calm. "It's no big deal."
"I'm sorry, but--" I said, lifting my pack up.
Anna looked sad. "Go, if you must. Do what makes you feel better."
"Just go. Before he comes back and gets mad." Anna said this firmly.
"Will you be okay?"
Anna just smiled, but for a moment she looked like an old woman. Her eyes said what she couldn't. --Barbara Feinman
Grossinger's for a three-day weekend. Everything you could want to escape the swelter of the city. Really looked forward to it. Swimming. Tennis. Golf. The cool, clean mountain air of the Catskills.
It rained. Buckets. Continuously.
How many times can you take the tour of the kitchen without going insane?
Eight years later and I still don't want to talk about it.