My heart was broken. Cracked like old paint on a wall. I was in Florence, Italy and Marco had left. It was Christmas Eve. Marco left on Thanksgiving. He said he didn’t want to spend the day with my family and then said we should end things. Just like that. He packed up some things and left. We had been together for three years. We had met at a party in Brooklyn. I saw him and my heart thumped. My inside voice said he was the one. We dated and then moved in together. I assumed we would marry and grow old together.
I reached into my savings and went to Florence. I didn’t want to be near family or friends. I was devastated. I stayed at a hotel in old Florence, very near the Basilica. On Christmas Eve I dragged myself out of bed. My limbs felt heavy. I checked my email. There were so many emails from family and friends. I ignored them all. I dressed and walked the streets of Florence. Nothing seemed to delight me. I was hungry and stopped at a restaurant. It was a standard menu. I had learned long ago that all the food in Italy tasted wonderful. I ordered a pizza and salad. I sat glumly at a table with a bottle of wine when I noticed a man seated two tables across from me. He was sitting on the bench against the wall. We could see each other clearly. The waitress had been absent for some time. The man was growing impatient. I could see it in his limbs. His were agitated and mine lethargic.
“Where is the waitress?” he asked. He had an accent and a beard. Dark hair and dark eyes.
“Tall, blonde. She’s somewhere here.” I struggled to smile.
The waitress finally appeared and I noted he ordered the same thing I did. Our food oddly arrived at the same time.
“This is quite good,” he said.
“It’s Italy. All the food is good.”
“Where are you from?”
“Brooklyn via Scranton, Pennsylvania. You?”
“Belfast via Belfast.” He drank some wine.
“Interesting. Why are you here?”
“Why are you here?” he smiled widely.
“I needed to be away. It’s really a basic story. My heart was broken. What about you?”
“My wife left me. But that was a year ago. I spent a lot of time in the States after. I went all the way across Route 66.”
“That’s quite a trip.” I was smiling despite my misery.
“It was fun and when I reached Chicago my wife was out of my life.”
“Maybe I should have tried Route 66 instead of Florence. Honestly, the beauty of this city is just making me want to cry.”
He laughed. “Don’t cry. When a relationship is in your soul it knots and then you have to spend time untangling it. It just takes time and maybe some distance.”
His accent made his words seem quaint and ominous at the same time. We finished our meals at separate tables. We left the restaurant together.
“What are you doing on Christmas?” I asked.
“Playing my guitar and eating in my hotel restaurant.”
“Oh…my hotel doesn’t have a restaurant.”
“Care to join me for Christmas?”
“I brought my violin,” I said. “It doesn’t go well with a guitar.”
“Nonsense. We can harmonize. Somehow. So Christmas?”
“Christmas,” I said with a smile. For the first time in weeks, I felt a lightness in my limbs.