Meredith Wadley is an American-Swiss living and working in a medieval micro town on the Rhine River. Her writing has been anthologized and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Find her monthly musings and publication links on her website, www.meredithwadley.com. She tweets @meredithwadley. On Instagram, she’s @meredithkaisi.
(Fuori come un balcone)
On our street of crowded, sea-view houses—deafeningly absent of the trade and din of tourists, left to the slap of waves against our town’s foundations, the occasional click of a loose rooftile, the cries of gulls hungry for crusts and cones and crisp fries, and the stealth of a silent predator—the push back began on a Sunday. Bella Seràgnoli threw open her balcony doors and played Les Contes d’Hoffmann for us all to enjoy. After noon, a neighbor responded with La Traviata. In the evening, La Bohème drowned out the gulls and waves. It calmed the fear we shared.
Imagine, on the sea there were no boats.
Marco the piano tuner opened his balcony doors on Monday and played “Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille.” Tuesday, Lorenzo the Spaniard played “Addio, del Passato Bei Sogni Ridenti” on an arciliuto we didn’t even know he played. He’d studied with the man who’d toured with Leonard Cohen; we were charmed.
Alain, a man about whom we know nothing more than how familiar he was with storefront windows reflecting his handsomeness, elegance, and style—and that women regularly whispered with accents into his intercom, “I’m here, darling”—sang “Che Gelida Manina.” A natural! (Someone rumored his cousin was Pavarotti!) Oh, how we clapped.
Imagine, in the sky, there were no longer vapor trails.
Over days and days—weeks—we played and sang and clapped. We cheered as praise. We cheered to encourage. Many, shy at first, revealed incredible talents, instrumental, vocal, DJ. One night, the young put on a rave! (No drugs involved.) Of course, not all of us had talent. We laughed on karaoke night at our inability to synchronized and begged Marco and Lorenzo and Alain for a return to their more professional performances.
Imagine, in the streets, the ambulances came and went.
They took Bella Seràgnoli. They took Lorenzo the Spaniard. A young DJ lasted only a few days in intensive care before being stacked like wood onto a military vehicle, the procession of which we watch on the TV; not a priest in sight. For departed neighbors and loved ones, we bowed our heads to Andrea Bocelli’s “Ave Maria,” “Alleluia,” and “Nelle Tue Mani.”
The sun set nightly; the sky and sea married in black.
Still, we played and sang, sharing our music and joy for each other, for living, for staying sane on our balconies despite the endless cries of gulls, the ceaseless, salty crash of waves, the plagues we have borne and will bear—and grief’s forever blue horizon.
Prose in this post: © Meredith Wadley
Published with the permission of Meredith Wadley