One day, Cinzia came to see me. She was by herself. I didn’t mind, I mean whether she came or not. It was her revenge on Graeme, the husband who stopped loving her and went with other women.
“I’ll show him!”
The exact words she used, in her head, I’m sure they were, before she came to see me.
In Salonica, the 23 bus starts near the waterfront, runs quickly over the flat ground, then winds up the hill. It’s usually over-loaded. The way up to the Old Town is nice and steep. To anyone who’s travelling, the bus feels heavy on the road, as if it doesn’t want to go. It’s one of my favourite buses.
You take a bus for a reason. There’s something you have to do. When the 23 that was carrying Cinzia got to the arch at the top of the hill, it reversed and turned right, as it always does. It’s just too big to get through. Cinzia got off, walked underneath the arch, as you had to if you were coming to my house, and tapped on the door. She didn’t tell me she was coming. She probably didn’t know until she came.
The first thing she did, before we sat down, was wrap her arms around me, and hug me very tightly, face to face. Then she lifted me. My feet were off the floor. After that, I don’t remember much. Did we even sit down? I don’t know. I didn’t black out. Maybe not much happened. She held me in the air, like a bunch of pillows, although you don’t squeeze pillows so hard, so close to you. She said things, too.
“People might think it’s strange, me being here alone with you.”
I don’t know if Graeme was people. We hadn’t touched before. It was straight to the embrace.
“Why are you so skinny?”
She put some stress on skin. Was she lifting other men, frequenting the Old Town, hugging around?
She held me near the fridge. It was second-hand. Things, like people, got passed around. I bought it from an English girl when she was leaving, squat and yellowish – the fridge, not the girl. I don’t know if it was made that way, or went yellow over time, like paper. The trademark Spring was stamped on the front; something built to stop things getting warm, something so decrepit. It sat there humming coldly. Sometimes it snored.
She was showing him.
“I hated you when I first met you!”
Still saying things, too. I almost fired back, “I really liked you.” But there was no point in being cruel. She wouldn’t have understood, and she was still holding me.
People noticed Cinzia. She was in her twenties, fair-haired, light-skinned. Her arms and legs turned caramel in the Greek sun. A deeper layer every time you saw her. She was boyish, in spirit as well as build. She reminded me of a classmate in Year 7, a boy I knew for a long time, but who looked like her most when he was twelve.
She put me down before she left. As she was going, she hesitated. Her hand was on the door.
“I don’t know where Graeme is.”
She didn’t wait for an answer. There wasn’t any. I felt sorry for her now, now that she was leaving. I didn’t see her again.
She’d shown him, wherever he was.
I saw Graeme in Singapore, months later, in the airport transit lounge. We were changing planes. We were there an hour or two. You can live in the same house and not see someone.
Cinzia re-married. She had Graeme’s books. He wanted them. She and the new man were keen he didn’t get them.
Still showing him.
She had lifted me as you lift a child, too easily. The fridge was snoring. I could have slept with her.