The Hiding Place

Joe Lanzon

From my small balcony overlooking the Lake, I could see the tourists embarking on boats to go to Bellaggio, Tremezzo, Varenna and the other enchanting towns and villages on the Lake. On my right, the caterpillar train was slowly climbing the Brunate mountain, taking people there to be closer to nature. Nearby, the strong smell of good coffee coming from the cafeteria below my balcony, filled my nostrils.

I checked my mobile to see if I had any messages, wanting and not wanting to receive any. The screen stared vacantly back at me and I put it back in my bag, only to take it out again and check a few seconds later. I stared again at the scene before me. The sun was up, shedding colour on the buildings, the blue sea glittered and the boats plied the Lake from one end to the other. I shielded my eyes against the glare with my arm, hoping my mood would improve as the day got hotter.

I had come to Como to rest and think things over in peace after a few problems had cropped up in my life. My mother, widowed for the last few years, had died a few weeks ago. I had reeled from her death, missed her terribly, she was so part of my life.
Also Brian and I have had frequent arguments lately culminating in a rather big one some days ago when I had stormed out of the house after a shouting match. Was it the end of my marriage? I just don’t know. I needed some time and space to think things over.
Brian had since been phoning me but I did not reply. He had also been texting me endless messages which I ignored or only just glanced at. He wanted us to get together again, make an effort to make our marriage work again. He was convinced that we could do it. But was I?

I was angry with myself for giving in to melancholy. I grabbed my sun hat, slipped my sandals and made my way out of the hotel, crossed the piazza and walked along the promenade. There were a lot of people about, mostly tourists starting on their sightseeing for the day. I noticed this endless procession of people of different nationalities communicating in various languages. There were young couples embracing each other without a care in the world, older ones holding hands and guiding each other with care and students overflowing with energy, laughing at each other’s antics. I wondered what their life was really like, whether they too had problems.

Sitting on the wooden bench facing the shimmering Lake, I let my mind wander and go back to far-away London. Brian and I had met at a friend’s birthday party, we started dating, he came to our house and met my mother and after some time, we married and set up house in nearby Chiswick. Brian loved children very much but we both led a hectic life and I never gave it much thought or importance. I remember Mum telling me before and after marriage, that all marriages have their ups and downs, that life is not always a bed of roses. She insisted that you have to make marriage work by compromising, by giving besides taking, by showing love to one another. I now remembered all these things. Sometimes, however, we forget the things we don’t want to remember. It was now nearing noon.

The sun was getting hot. I crossed the busy piazza again, entered the cafeteria of the hotel, sat down on an outside chair in the shade and ordered a cappuccino. Various boats still plied the bay. People were in movement everywhere. The piazza thrived with activity. The telephone rang again. I retrieved it from the bag. It was Brian but I did not reply. Perhaps he was trying to find where I was, to discover my hiding place. But I still felt comfortable in my loneliness. I looked at the heart-shaped chocolate coating on top of my cappuccino. It is nice to have everything exactly as you wish. But life is not like that, is it? Things happen that we cannot change and we have to learn to deal with them as best we can. I have to learn to accept other people’s weaknesses as well as their strengths, particularly because I have discovered that I am weaker than I thought. 

I remembered King Solomon’s wise words when he was pondering on life’s ups and downs. In the book of Ecclesiastes he wrote – “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Perhaps for me it was time to heal the wounds of the past and look forward to the joys of the future.

My mother’s wise and gentle words came again to my mind – “Make your marriage work”; “Don’t be stubborn in love”. I finished my coffee and recalled a time when Brian and I were so much in love, the kisses and the laughter, the hugs and the smiles. “We could do it again”, I said to myself. “Especially now, especially now!

I placed my hand on my belly. Through the folds of my dress I caressed the new life inside me. I took out the phone from my bag and with shaking fingers typed a message – “Come to me Brian. I’m at the Bayview hotel in Como. I have something to tell you.”