Bugiardo and the Signorina


Link to Part 1

I stared dumbly at the man, who before had seemed rather benign, but now appeared more sinister.  He leaned forward and reached for my hand, shaking it and introduced himself as Signore Bugiardo.  He then stood, bowed slightly and left without another word.  As I watched him depart, I was baffled, somewhat irritated and more than a little concerned. It was then that I realized that he had secreted a small piece of paper into my still-opened palm.

I had watched enough movies and read enough books to know better than to sit there and read the note.  I may be an amateur but I am not a stupid one.  I gently closed my hand over the note and continued gazing out the window, concentrating on acted interested in the view.  I counted to 100 tend times before rising and carefully making my way to the ladies’ room.  With practiced disinterest, I looked over the heads of the other passengers who were in various states of bored sleep.  Of the man, I saw no indication.

I opened the door to the lavatory that I would have never gone to if it weren’t for the note pressing itself into my hand.  I entered, put the seat down and sat.  Wasting no more time, I quickly opened the note.   In cramped writing I saw:


I stared at the note for a few minutes trying to fathom the implications of Bugiardo’s note, simultaneously memorizing every word, every nuance of it.  After a few moments, I returned the note to its former state and pushed it into my mouth.  With a grimace, then a cupped hand of water, I swallowed the note.  The short melodrama of the act amused me somewhat and when I caught my reflection, I saw a wry smile playing about my lips.  I quickly left the confining space and returned to my seat and resumed staring out the window.
Later, as I watched the train pull away from the station, Canada bound, I picked up my suitcase and asked the ticket agent about applying my refund towards a return ticket.  The man simply smiled and wordlessly handed me an envelope with my name written in a familiar hand.  Inside was a return ticket.  I looked at the ticket agent, who nodded.

“You have made the right decision, signorina.”

He turned away and I was left standing and staring at him before turning away myself to wait for my train.

Years later, sitting at a café with one of my few friends, we talked about trifling matters before she lit a cigarette and after a long pull, she commented on how I had changed after that trip that I had refused to speak of.  I asked her how she thought I had changed.  She mulled it over for a few long moments and then spoke carefully, looking at a place just beyond my shoulder.

“You seem more secretive now.  You rarely give straight answers to questions. I think of all the times I asked you about the time you left with little explanation and returned abruptly with even less of an explanation.  What happened?  Really.”

“Nothing,” I returned.  “I just changed my mind.”

“Bugiarda,” she replied, angrily stabbing her cigarette out.

With a start, I asked her what she had said.

“I called you a liar, cara mia.”

ceg 8.28.15

Agatha Christie, Chekov and the Train Ride


What is it they say?  Something about a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?  Something like that.  And I suppose that’s true in its most basic sense.  However, I believe that journeys begin someplace else and long before the feet are engaged for walking.

I never really saw the need to leave the city.  I had lived here all my life and never wanted to go elsewhere.  I guess that’s because it’s all I have ever really known.  I have everything I need within walking or biking distance.  Work, library, bar, restaurant, grocery store, friends.  Seriously, what else is there?  I also hate traveling.  I find it dirty, exhausting and uncomfortable.  So I guess you’ll understand when I tell you my friends thought I had lost my mind when I told them I was planning a trip to Canada and would be leaving at week’s end.  Or maybe you won’t.  It’s not like you’re that invested in what I do and what seems odd given my character.  Just take my word for it; it was weird.  But, I had a thing that needed to be done and so I packed my bag (one I had gotten years ago from my parents after I graduated-“Well, we’re done with educating you, perhaps it’s time to go”).  For this particular journey, I had opted, in all my wisdom, to take a train.

I had this long-held romantic notion of what rail travel would be like.  If you’ve ever seen that one Agatha Christie movie with the train,  you would have a pretty good idea about how my fantasy train ride would look. It’s where all the men and women are rich and svelte and hoity toity and they travel with their small yappy dogs, which are named Bayard or Fluffy.  Sprinkled in the mix of these hoi polloi are the kind of greasy, slightly sinister guys who are from some foreign country and tend to be on the swarthy side of melanin scale. Of course, those are the bad guys. Except when they’re not.  Aha!  They were simply a red herring and the really bad guy was . . . Mrs. Myra Elisabeth Smythe-Winters?  But, she’s so lovely and why would she kill that poor girl?  Anyway, yeah, not like that.

What I noticed first and foremost was the smell.  Talk about your wretched refuse and there was I.  Yearning to breathe free. Imagine the rancid odor of last week’s deep-fryer oil.  It seemed everyone exuded that smell.  Throw in a little rotting bacon and some lettuce that has given up on being completely solid. This lovely miasma swirled around me.  Its origin was the collection of huddled masses who had, at best, questionable hygiene practices.  I concentrated on breathing. Slowly.  Through my mouth.  This, as it turned out, was a spectacular failure.  I quickly decided that the smells were preferable over the taste that seemed to have permanently taken up residence on my tongue.  I quickly found my seat and looked out the window, praying that we would soon be off.  The sooner off, the sooner home.

The windows were surprisingly clean, given the condition of the rest of the train.  I fixed my gaze through the glass, hoping to send an obvious message to my fellow travelers that I was not particularly interested in starting up some lively intellectual conversation which always seemed to start with the obvious . . . “Going on some sort of journey, are ya?”  No.  Not really.  I think to myself what sort of snappy answer I could come up with to quiet even the biggest of oafs, but nothing came to mind.  Maybe I wouldn’t be verbally shanghaied and the snappy answer wouldn’t be necessary.  Hope springs eternal, right?

The man who sat opposite me, barely gave me a glance as he sat down.  He pulled out a book and began reading and completely ignored my existence.   Good.  I have learned to revel in even the smallest of miracles.  As the train moved forward with a lurch, I settled into my seat and continued to look out the window.  The largely empty platform slowly slid past and I was relieved to be on my way at last.  Soon the city gave way to green expanses that I had only really seen in movies.  Trees, wildflowers, tall grasses, fields all flew past my window until my eyes grew weary of the view and I moved my eyes forward again to the man seated across from me.  He was on the younger side of middle age, no facial hair, horn-rimmed glasses and no watch.  At least none that was obvious.  He smelled of licorice and of pipe tobacco.  Pleasant combination.  My eyes drifted towards his book; something by Chekov, but I couldn’t tell what it was. He continued to completely ignore me, so I let my eyelids begin to droop and let the sway of the train lull me to sleep.

When I awakened, the landscape had changed dramatically and was now flat and unremarkable.  Across from me, the man was no longer reading, but studying me closely.  I was at first amused and then uncomfortable by the fact that he didn’t try to hide his examination from me.  He was blatantly staring at me.  I didn’t flatter myself that he found me attractive; I knew better than that, but I was nonetheless the object of his rapt attention.  I cleared my throat and was about ready to say something when his eyes locked with mine.  He pursed his lips and laid his index finger across them.  The international sign for “shhhh.”   (to be continued)

ceg 8.24.15

Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant*


When the starless skies labor beneath a gravid moon, it’s so easy to imagine your face and the way you looked at me as the door swung shut behind you.  Most of the time, there is a veil between me and my memories of you.  In the brightness of the day, I can walk down these streets and not think of the souls you crushed and how you sucked the marrow from us and picked your teeth clean with the fractured bones.that once held our fragile frames together.

It didn’t matter that you left us, each one of us, sleepless and lying on beds we once shared with you.  Heated whispers and touches swirling around us like sweet incense. We believed each promise, each lie, because your blue eyes, so absent of guile, pleaded with us to believe.  To trust.

When you see another tasty morsel walking by, the staccato sound of her steps echoing against the pallid brick and mortar of the old buildings, I wonder if your eyes begin to glisten in breathless anticipation.  And it doesn’t really matter if she is a long-legged blond who sees right past you or a disillusioned artist who weeps her pictures out on stretched canvas.

No, it really doesn’t matter, because after all, a meal’s a meal, right?

ceg 8.7.15

*Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
Emily Dickinson

Vigilans Somniat


as i lay dreamless
wearing only the night’s stars
i remember your voice
whispering love
against the pulsing of my throat
and how you covered
my skin with the honey
of your words
your song so beautiful
it makes my heart ache still
as I lay dreamless

ceg 8.4.15