The plane ride to Milan is uneventful. As a result of new aerospace technology, the flight is less than six hours. Flights now travel at the speed of the ancient Concorde. Kevin becomes a little manic at the start of the flight and I keep talking to him in low, soothing tones for an hour. We have seats in business class so we are comfortable. After an hour, Kevin settles down with a movie and I can finally talk with Josh.
Josh starts whispering in my ear. “Didn’t he say he travelled on an airplane before? He is like a gremlin sometimes. Good job talking him down. I am glad you are sitting between us. He listens to you.”
“Kevin just needs assurance sometimes. He is settled now.”
Josh lifts the seat divider between us and I snuggle up to his chest. “Do you want to watch a movie?”
“No. I am just going to read and catch a few hours of sleep.”
After an hour, the two of us fall asleep. Upon arrival at Malpenza airport, the car service takes us to the Four Seasons. After we check in, Kevin who stayed awake throughout the flight elects to take a nap and meet us in the afternoon.
Josh and I check into our rooms and decide to walk for an hour and then take a quick nap. We head to Il Duomo hand in hand and for the moment we are just two young lovers strolling the Via Vittorio Emmanuelle. Upon arrival at Il Duomo, I’m taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the cathedral. It took six centuries to complete Milan’s Cathedral and it is the fifth largest church in Europe.
“The sheer size of this building is incredible. The architecture in the United States does not even approach this.” I say with wonder.
“Well, compared to the United States, the Europeans did have a lot more time to complete this cathedral and the Church was the most powerful benefactor throughout Europe. It is an engineering marvel. Some people have called it ugly because there are so many architectural style elements combined in this church, but the size is inspiring.”
“Hard to imagine they did this without the aid of technology. It says something about the power of the human mind.”
We walk though the cathedral and later head for a bite to eat at a nearby trattoria. It is a beautiful, sunny day with a cool breeze coming off the Alps. As we finish eating, jet lag starts to hit and we take a taxi back to the hotel. We leave a note under Kevin’s door to meet us at Josh’s room and then we fall asleep together.
When we meet up with Kevin later, we quickly decide to make a visit to the Convent Santa Maria Dell Grazie to see Leonardo’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper”. Kevin is completely revived by his nap and nearly sprinting to see it. The mural painting has been undergoing constant renovation due to Leonardo’s use of dry plaster creating the masterpiece, but it is still one of the greatest works of art.
“I can appreciate why this painting is considered a masterpiece. The faces show so much emotion. I am so glad I saw this. It is not the same when you look at pictures of it.” I give Josh a nudge. “We have to come back one day. See all of Europe.”
“We will. Leonardo was an interesting guy. Bit of a perfectionist and procrastinator. Otherwise, he would have produced a lot more paintings. He had so many interests. He probably was the most profound genius the human race ever produced. He’s definitely one of my favorites.”
Kevin had wandered back towards us and jumps into the conversation. “I read somewhere that he would sleep twenty minutes every four hours when he was engrossed in a project. Claimed he got most of his work done that way. Weird when you consider they didn’t have alarm clocks back then.” Kevin walks closer to examine the painting. A few minutes later a nun comes along to keep him from getting too close. Kevin tries to engage the nun in a stunted conversation in Italian and begins gesticulating wildly.
“I love the way his mind thinks.” Josh is trying hard not to laugh. A giggle unwillingly escapes from me.
“Kevin does try. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian. Some of the greatest art in the world came out of that period. It’s funny that we don’t see periods of greatness like that anymore.”
“We do to a certain extent. It is just in the fields of science and technology. Every one works to make money. Back then, the rich allowed these men to create without worrying about money. Do you have any place in particular here in Milan you would like to see?”
I link my arm through Josh’s elbow. “No, I am content to just stroll around tonight, now that we have seen the Last Supper and Il Duomo. Do you have anything in mind?”
“Let’s head over to the Navigli quarter. It’s a big artist’s quarter with great restaurants and galleries along the canals. We can take a canal ride and then grab dinner somewhere along the canal.”
Just then an attractive couple, who look effortlessly well dressed, interrupts us. The gentleman addresses us in halting English. “Scusi, I don’t mean to alarm you but I think your friend just asked the nun if Jesus was sleeping with Mary Magdalene. It sounds like he has just learned Italian and may be unaware of how confusing some idioms can be.”
Josh looks at me with facial features contorting between concern and laughter. “I’m sorry. Could you please explain to the nun that he just learned Italian and did not mean to be insulting? He tends to be very literal and not always aware of the effect of his words at times.”
The couple nods in tacit understanding and walks over to where Kevin and the nun are speaking. The gentleman interrupts their conversation politely and speaks in quiet tones with the nun while Josh goes over to Kevin and does the same. Kevin is shocked and mortified by the turn of events and I step in and try to soothe him. Kevin walks over and apologizes to the nun. He explains to the gentleman in English that he had asked whether Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene and is sorry for any confusion he caused. After the gentleman explains to the nun what happened, she looks at Kevin with compassion and tells him not to worry.
The three of us bid farewell and walk over to the Navigli district and take the hour-long boat cruise. I relax against Josh’s shoulder as Kevin snaps away with pictures. I mentally remind myself to get an Italian phrasebook to at least monitor any further conversations Kevin may have with any more people.
After the boat ride, we stroll along the canal. I find a beautiful piece of art in the colors of Milan. The artist is unknown but I love it. The only debate is where to put it given our upcoming departure but Josh convinces me to take it. He has a storage facility I can store it in. As fatigue starts to envelope us in a blanket, we find a quiet, family owned restaurant to eat dinner.
“This has to be the most incredible meal I have ever eaten. Do you think the chef would give me the recipe?” Kevin asks.
“Please be careful how you speak in Italian Kevin. We don’t want another repeat of what happened at the convent.” Josh laughs as he takes a sip of wine and throws an arm around me.
“I only asked her to comment on whether she believed Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. Things got lost in translation.”
Josh smiles. “I would say so. But I have to compliment you on how fast you were able to learn Italian. Idioms are tough in any language.”
“In New York, Luis introduced me to a lady friend of his from Bari who speaks Italian. I practiced with her several times at the coffee shop by his father’s restaurant.”
“What does this lady do for work?” Josh looks a little quizzical.
“I am not sure, some kind of shift work. She was working nights when I met her. Her name is Stella and she is very sweet. She told me she would introduce me to some friends of hers when I get back.”
I give Josh a look. Josh just shakes his head and asks for the check. We taxi back to our hotel and agree to meet in Josh’s sitting room the following morning for a few practice runs of our presentation before we head over to the conference. We say goodnight to Kevin and head to our own rooms. Once inside, Josh takes my hand and leads me out onto the balcony. I shiver as I step outside. Josh grabs a throw from the couch and throws it over my shoulders.
“Today was pretty eventful. I think we need to monitor what Kevin says. I am pretty sure Luis introduced him to an Italian- speaking lady of the night. I don’t think Kevin realized it.”
“I bet things got lost in translation when he spoke with Stella as well. No wonder Kevin likes Luis so much.” I put my head on his chest.
“Most guys like Luis and his colorful friends.”
“I thought the nun seemed pretty sympathetic after she got over her initial shock.”
“Yes she did seem to take it well. I think she understands people like Kevin.” Josh wraps his arms around me. “Do you think we’re ready for the presentation in two days?”
“I think so but if not, there isn’t much we can do about it now. This view is so incredibly romantic.” I look at Josh when I say this. “Does that make me sound corny?” I lean in and kiss him on the neck.
“No. You’re amazing.” Josh takes my hand and leads me back inside. “We’re just going to enjoy tonight. I am so happy we have the next six nights together, just us.”
The next morning we head over to the conference center after running through the presentation twice. We first stop at a conference hall to listen to a presentation on gene therapy for achondroplasia that is being presented by a group from Harvard. There is a lecture later that day by a group from Krier Institute in Switzerland where the memory altering serum was first created. The research scientist who created it is named as a collaborator on this afternoon’s presentation. I am hoping to subtly ask him a few questions in private if I get the chance.
We run into Dr. Morehouse at the lecture and go out to lunch with him, before returning for the afternoon session. As we return to the conference center, we run into Katharine Lucas. She is speaking with Dr. Monteverdi, the scientist I wanted to meet concerning the memory altering serum. After Katharine introduces us, she is called away by a colleague. As I start to ask the researcher about his work, I can feel the eyes of Dr. Morehouse and Josh bearing down on me.
That night, we attend a dinner organized by Katharine at a five star restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. Katharine had invited eighteen scientists from the conference to the dinner. The food is excellent but the conversation, while intellectually stimulating, lacks animation. Kevin is semi-catatonic during the dinner and Josh and I are too worried about the following day to have the patience to stay for longer than necessary. Josh, Kevin and I bid goodbye as soon as it is socially acceptable to leave with the excuse that we need to review our presentation.
As soon as we hit the street, Kevin blurts out. “I need a drink now. Dinners like that are so stressful.”
“Relax Kevin, that is the only mandatory dinner we have this week. I’m actually surprised that my mother hasn’t scheduled more but she may not have wanted to run the risk of organizing a dinner the night of our presentation in case we get hammered.”
“That’s not terribly encouraging.” I laugh nervously as we enter the ornate lobby. We walk across the lobby and take the elevator to the seventh floor.
“My mama is not the soft and fuzzy type. She is always out for her own best interests.”
As we depart the elevator, Kevin looks worried. “Does she really think we will bomb? Why put us into the conference then.” Kevin starts exhibiting the facial twitch he normally gets when stressed.
“Don’t worry Kevin, I think we will be fine. The research is solid. Sure there may be a heckler who tries to throw us off our game but if we stick to the science, we’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Go get some sleep. We’ll meet again for breakfast in the morning and go over it one more time. Let’s meet an hour earlier than we did today.” I pat his shoulder, which Kevin had agreed would be allowed between us as a form of physical affection.
Josh adds. “Good night buddy.” Kevin walks quietly back to his room. “Hey Kev, don’t stay up going over the presentation It will work out.” Josh turns to me. “ I agree with Kevin. I hate dinners like that. I’m so glad it’s over. We should get some sleep tonight to be on top of our ‘A’ game.” Josh opens the door to his room and I go to my own bedroom to put on a nightgown and wash my face. We curl up next to each other and fall asleep.