As in the beginning of her many trips these past months between Rome and Pisa, she suspends what she thinks is a perfectly appropriate paranoia, a paranoia which insists that her battered luggage is going to be stolen, and shuts her eyes. And even though she has become an expert in achieving deep slumber confined to seats that don’t recline, she fully intends to stay awake behind her closed eyes for the the two and a half hour train ride north. Recently she’s re-conjured a grade A livewire memory ripe for milking and now is the time to indulge.
She’s an escape artist and deftly skilled at bleeding all vestiges of any sweetness, even the bitter kind, from her collection of dead fledgling romance remembrances, pieces of past that she holds dear as means to cheat a reality somehow heavy and perverse in its perfection. She will happily bleed a choice memory of a time she felt more alive until all that’s left is a bleached vestige of a dry husk of a recollection wholly devoid of its once potent transportive powers. It’s an intimately familiar desperate grab for residual endorphins mercifully fueled by a potent imagination. So speeding up the coast yet again, offending the Italian countryside with her utter disregard, she relaxes with a sigh into the cherished memory the way an addict relaxes into their first hit. What a relief. Bodily and mentally she melts into the past:
Black lacquered walls reflect dim points of light in a way that tinges the cavern-esque bar in an aura reminiscent of moisture rich stalactites. Not a claustrophobically friendly establishment but to her it’s the epitome of comfort. This was in a time when bars were still properly smoke-filled and cigarettes came cheap with the pull of a knob, dispensed by a well-worn machine leftover from an era where one could still smoke on airplanes. The odor permeating her hair and clothing the next morning, however, wasn’t simply that of ashtray, there was a complex layered patina of a something-more-than-meat greasy tinged stench. A proper Russian doll of a smell and no amount of perfume dousing could ever make her favorite sweatshirt olfactory presentable. Everyone on campus could pinpoint that telltale smell and easily figure who in the class was secretly, or not so secretly, nursing a hangover.
Once, she finally got one of the bartenders to let her in the kitchen to observe his grilled cheese culinary machinations but she couldn’t discern a damn thing that would lead one to expect the superior specimen of grilled cheese that arrived on her table in a flimsy paper plate for a measly $1.75 every other night of the week. The only thing she could figure is that the same smell that clung to her hair and clothing was absorbed sponge-like into the utterly nondescript bread, infusing it with decades of accumulated dive-bar-essence transforming it into a sandwich that was decidedly more than the sum of its parts…