Appointments with the Dead
She has become the face I paint on the edge of sleep. I want her in my dreams where I believe she’s still alive. My dreams have lost the heaviness of sorrow. I long for my nocturnal appointment with the dead. Last night, though, after I fell asleep on the sofa, watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, my husband and son by my side, a voice jolted me awake, injecting words that were mine and awareness, real and dreadful. My father is dead. Breathless, I understood mortality like never before. And then that wisdom was gone and I knew nothing of dying.
Nonna Ciuzza wouldn’t have left her house even with an earthquake. It suited her. But once my father persuaded her to spend the summer with us at the garden, she and the cripple. It was the summer they boiled pears and locked doors, sulked and left my mother’s food untouched. They walked slowly from their room to the dining room, always together, wearing thick black dresses below the knee, shapeless and frayed. They never sat outside to enjoy an evening al fresco. Never wandered the garden’s paths, stopping to pick apricots or peaches. Never bent to pick a lily, a carnation.
Under the full moon, the orphan boys of Piazza Armerina waited. I was nine and wore old lady glasses, the most expensive from Contarino’s shops on the Corso. My sister was thirteen and as bold as I was mousy. Pina, our cousin, was the blonde beauty. After we climbed out the window in the cabin where my mother and younger siblings slept, we ran down the dark dirt road all the way to the orphanage where a dozen boys stood in the moonlit yard. We clustered, anxious to see the lupo mannaro that howled in the belly of the night.
Evidge Giunta is a Professor of English at New Jersey City University. Her most recent books are Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Teaching, and Culture in the Work of Louise DeSalvo and Embroidered Stories: Interpreting Women’s Domestic Needlework from the Italian Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @edigiunta.