Chapter 2: GIOVANNI ROMANO
Paige and I sat in silence during the ride home, while Amelia slept. We were distraught with one another for diverse reasons. I felt content in the silence; it was an upgrade from bickering. I was too old for relationship quarrels. I smoked a stale cigarette from my glovebox with the window cracked open just enough to allow to the smoke to escape. Paige hated when I smoked; at the moment I didn’t care; maybe I did it to get back at her.
It was mid-afternoon now; a train pulled into ‘industry city’ across from our apartment complex as I parked my Cadillac. The neighbor, who flagged me earlier, rose off the concrete steps of our apartment complex wearing a fabric mask that his wife had hand sewn. It was printed with pale blue flowers, and stained by his fingers from his constant adjusting of its position on his face. He came around the driver side of the car as I locked my door. Paige emerged with Amelia and waited for me on the sidewalk. She refused to interact with Phil as he addressed me—she was in a bitchy mood.
“Hey Giovanni…” Phil’s voice drew my focus in his direction; I gave him my complete attention after I tossed my cigarette butt aside. “Michael left you this. I hope you didn’t mind that I signed for it,” he presented a rigid envelope wrapped in brown paper, “it required a signature, and if it was important enough to require a signature—I didn’t want you to miss its delivery. Again, I hope you don’t mind.”
“Thank you for looking out for me, Phil,” I took the envelope from his reach. My heart sunk as my brown irises focused on the name of its sender: Theodore Lovington. Phil noticed my rich olive complexion growing pale.
“Giovanni… hey Giovanni, you alright?”
“Yes, thank you again, Phil,” I short phrased him; then pushed my curious neighbor aside and stormed past Paige to reach the building’s heavy double-doors. I wished to be exposed to the letter’s contents in the privacy of my apartment—alone.
Theodore Lovington was a name I hadn’t heard for over a century. Like me, he was forced to walk amongst first dimension men for all eternity—as my jailor. I thought I had rid myself of his presence. I had only heard from him once, and I immediately burned the letter. I never bothered to glance at the wonders it held inside.
“Giovanni—wait!” Paige chased after me as I burst through the first floor door to go upstairs. Her poor eyesight didn’t slow her down. My eyes studied the shape and form of every shadow as I raced up the building’s iron stairwell. The clanking of my boots thundered like the feet of a thousand men who were alive in my wake. The shadows inspected my every breath; they too were watching—waiting to pounce. Theodore invaded my head, as he hoped.
“Giovanni! What is it?” Paige trailed me as I finally came to the steel door that permitted me access to the third floor. My shaking hands deformed the letter’s thick shell as I stepped through it. “I know that you can hear me, Giovanni!” She screamed. Amelia began to cry loudly in her arms. I couldn’t breathe as I charged down the lengthy corridor to my residence.
The hall seemed as if it was continuing forever—lengthening by the second. The shadows followed me, and tore at the rubber heels of my boots. I nearly took my apartment door off its hinges from the force exerted by my shoulder. The door swung open with me clutching onto its round handle. I quickly slammed it shut behind me, and fastened the lock on its inner surface. Paige crashed into its exterior surface and began to beat on it like a crazed ape.
“Giovanni! Let me in—damn it Giovanni open this door!” She grabbed the handle and jerked at it in-between her pounding. “Giovanni, I live here too! I deserve to know what is happening! Tell me—Giovanni answer me now!” Paige screamed louder than she needed to. No doubt all of our neighbors heard her commotion.
“Giovanni! Let me in, let me in!” She ripped at the knob.
“Shut up Paige—and stay out!” I bellowed wildly, only making her madness worse. I chose to ignore her—it was for her own good.
“I’ve got your letter, Arthur!” I cried out while switching on every light in every room; and then every lamp on every table in my five room residence.
I refused to allow a speck of darkness in my Second Avenue home. I would not permit Arthur that kind of satisfaction. I swooped to the blinds that veiled the daylight, tore them open, and then caught the edge of my desk while still holding onto the envelope. My sweat rained down on its card-board like exterior. “Alright! You hear me! I will open it!” I howled as I tore at the tape which sealed its folds, “are you happy? I am opening it!” My hands trembled like never before. I was never a man who never confessed his fear—but in this moment I experienced pure terror. From the cardboard paper, I removed a letter written on lined paper, and unfolded it.
3rd of March, 2021
Please see me at the temple on May fifth, 2021. Your presence is required. If you are not there, I will hunt you down every way possible. One way or another, I will meet with you.
My ‘heart’ sunk. Today was the first of May; I had to get to India in less than four days. I needed to call and make arrangements, immediately. India was a fifteen hour flight, and I intended to take my vehicle, I was not to leave it with ‘risk-taking’ Paige. She would have my Cadillac up a pole by the time I would return. The damned postal service had delivered the letter late!
I slipped out the door long before day break on May forth. I was not one to sleep, and maybe accumulated one-hundred-some hours of sleep in my total lifetime. My natural insomnia permitted me to confirm my booking without Paige peering over my shoulder; I was fortunate to align a last minute flight. It was obvious that Arthur neglected to acknowledge the implemented COVID-19 travel restrictions. Humanity had modified its behaviors since the beginning of the global pandemic, and was just now recovering after Coronavirus shook the world. We were in for a long recovery.
I strolled home with a cheap bouquet of flowers in my hand; I had purchased them from the corner ‘twenty-four hour’ convenience store. They were still fresh, and would hopefully ‘soothe the blow’ to Paige of my prolonged absence. The night crowd was still out—their eyes followed my shape as I reentered the building. I discreetly sealed my apartment door behind me, and fastened its lock. Paige was absent from her place on the couch; Amelia was still sound asleep in her crib. My nose caught the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke; I put Paige’s flowers in a glass of water then followed the smoke’s potent trail to the bathroom. The door was closed and the light was on.
I gently turned the knob and entered—Paige was asleep in the bathtub. Her head hung to its side, and was weighted down by her wet hair. I pulled a towel off the rack and cautiously approached her.
“Paige…” I spoke as I ran the back of my hand down her face. She flinched and moaned my name. Her deformed eyelids delicately enveloped her eyes. I dipped my fingertips into the water; it was long cold, “come on, Paige.” She grunted and began to wake as I pulled the drain plug.
Paige and I had barely spoken since the letter arrived from Arthur. We slept in separate rooms and she only addressed Amelia. She was deeply insulted by my behavior, but it was for her own good. It did not bother me that I had offended her; I greatly forbade her from getting involved with my oldest affairs. Though we had quarreled, I still cared about her wellbeing. As I wrapped my towel around her naked body, I noticed an extinguished cigarette on the ledge of the bathtub—she had gotten into my stash. Paige would rarely smoke; she was a hypocrite.
“Giovanni…” Paige yapped as I lifted her. Her voice expressed disapproval of my actions—I refused to let her freeze, no matter how angry I was with her.
I then transported her to my bedroom and tucked her shivering body beneath my comforter to warm up. She faced away from me; her sloping spine and plush buttocks captured my eyes. I felt my skin grow hot as I admired her features; tingles congregated in my haunches—damn, I wanted her. Paige’s youthful flesh was a tease to my manhood. I glanced at the alarm clock beside my bed; it displayed the time as 2:23. I needed to depart to JFK within the hour; this was my final interaction with Paige until the unforeseeable future. I hesitantly removed my overcoat and
shoes and scrambled into the bed behind her.
“Giovanni?” Paige sighed as I securely gripped on to her, and planted kisses across her bare shoulder. “Giovanni, is this your way of saying sorry?” My young lover rolled over and opened her weary eyes, “what is wrong?” She sensed my ‘blankness’.
My emotions were tangled; I understood my obligations but also felt a degree of guilt while intending to abandon her with Amelia. I pulled my frame overtop of the twenty year-old instead of answering, “Giovanni! You are acting strange?” Paige squealed and took my face into her hands. She traced her nimble finger tips around the shape of my eyes, and smiled, “you always have such kind eyes, which is why I can tell when something is wrong. You have been acting so bizarre, please talk to me Giovanni. Though peculiar, you are calm, and you’re beautiful when calm. You are naturally soft-spoken. I don’t like this person you have been lately.”
“I will make it up to you, Paige,” my voice was soft; I kept
my volume down not to awake Amelia. I leaned headfirst and affectionately tasted Paige’s collar as I liberated my pelvis from the prison of my slacks. I just wanted to connect with her; her body; her soul, one last time.
“Then what are you doing now?” She questioned as I coupled our lips; my soft hands were lively beneath the covers. I busily hooked her legs around my hips, “Giovanni!” She forced out my name between breaths, “you are not deaf, stop pretending that you cannot hear me!” Paige grew frustrated; I had no interest in building an argument during intercourse.
“Shh…don’t wake Amelia,” I spoke into her ear.
“If waking Amelia will make you listen to me...!” I seized her face and pressed it into my neck as I penetrated her. Her warmth sent shivers through-out my body—I was in love. Paige gasped and burrowed her finger-tips in to my clothed flesh. Her muscles gripped
onto me—transporting my soul to a world of ecstasy.
“That’s it, Paige…” I unconsciously expelled a gentle moan. Paige drew me deeper with her calves.
“Giovanni…” she panted into my ear. Her voice was emotional; I could tell that she took pleasure in reconnecting, “you’re back...”
I held Paige until she was sound asleep. A half hour had passed since I burrowed her beneath the comforting folds of my blankets.
“Don’t leave me…” Paige groaned from her deep subconscious, she sensed my exit as I rose off the bed. I froze and looked her over one last time, my eyes memorized her—exactly how she was. She was dreaming. Somehow, I knew that I would not return; Arthur’s letter indicated extreme seriousness. Paige whimpered in her sleep as I dressed myself in a hurry; I had to make it to the airport.
I experienced sorrow in my doings. I didn’t lack all compassion. Paige rolled onto her back; her bushy hair enveloped the pillow around her small skull. Her fairy-tale like appearance entranced me; I silently returned to the bedside and traced her lips before kissing her one last time.
“Au revoir, Paige…”
Before departing Brooklyn, I had left Paige a personal letter on the counter, the telephone numbers of two of my neighbors and a reloadable debit card with enough funds to cover emergencies and previsions for a month. If she could manage online shopping, she could utilize the tools I gave her. I did not expect to be away longer; I tried to ignore the hunch I sensed earlier. I had my job and students to attend to. I wrote my letter with an old fountain pen, and left it open next to the flowers I had purchased earlier. I moved them from a temporary glass; they elegantly filled out a watercress crystal vase. It read:
My dearest Paige,
I have departed to India on official business. Please recall what you read from your grandfather’s journal and you’ll understand. I fear that I will be gone for some time—please use the debt card if you need anything. It is preloaded with five thousand dollars for previsions and emergencies. Fifteen hundred goes to the building manager, and the rest is yours.
I boldly signed my real name on the letter in lieu of not returning. I intended to make it up to her when, and if I would return to New York—maybe I would bring her a souvenir from India..