My Second Major Breakup

Editor’s Note: The following piece is among the short stories to be published in The Absent Traveler: A Novella & Other Stories by Randall DeVallance. The Absent Traveler, an Atticus Books Trade Paperback Original, is due to be released at the end of 2010.

She said she’d met a violin-maker from Italy and had fallen madly in love. This hardly seemed likely. He had told her his shop was just down the street from where Stradivarius had apprenticed as a young man. I asked her what part of Italy, and she froze. “Cremona,” she said, after a minute. Well, that much was right. Maybe she was telling the truth after all.

My ancestors came from Italy, I reminded her. The ones on my mother’s side, anyway. From Belluna, in the north. Not far from Cremona. Very famous for its sunglasses. Right now, I said, a second cousin of mine is probably designing for Fendi. I could get her a discount.

But it was no use – violins had won her heart. Materialism trumped by Romanticism, Modernism by Old-World Charm. I appealed to her practical side. Italian men are sleazy, I told her. They’re in love with their mothers and never mature. They catcall and grope and chain-smoke unfiltered cigarettes. “None of them drive cars,” I said. “They all zip around on scooters. You know how bad your balance is. You’ll never make it there.”

“I’ll just hold on to Paolo and let him drive,” she said. Nothing would sway her; she had it all figured out. While Paolo worked in his studio, she would keep their apartment clean and do the shopping. When he returned home in the evening, a piping-hot meal would be waiting for him on the table. Pretty domesticated stuff for a one-time feminist. She replied that feminism had many guises. A very convenient ideology. In her spare time she planned on visiting the countryside and doing a little painting. Painting. It was like talking to someone with Stockholm Syndrome.

My ammunition grew thinner. I fell back on the practicalities of the matter – the difficulty of obtaining a visa, the cost of uprooting and moving across the ocean. “What’s bureaucracy in the face of love?” she said. I rolled my eyes and offered to help her pack.

She moved out on a Sunday morning, two big bags under her arms. Down by the curb she dropped them and waited with hands on hips, looking up and down the street while I watched from the window above. A silver sedan pulled up and she loaded the bags into the trunk. I couldn’t tell if it was Paolo; no one got out of the car to help her. Fine beginning, I thought. As she went around to the passenger’s side, stepping up onto the sidewalk, the heel of her shoe snapped off and made her stumble; I could hear her cursing as she limped over to the car, got inside and slammed the door. The cobblestone of Cremona would not be kind to her.

Randall DeVallance is the author of the short novel, Dive (2004), and the short-story collection, Sketches of Invalids (2007). His stories have appeared in several print and online publications, including Pindeldyboz, Eyeshot, McSweeney’s, Vestal Review, and Word Riot. He currently lives in New York City.

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