Alexander doesn’t fall in love, alright? Just so you know.
Apart from not falling in love, today he is flying to Rome to a rhinoplasty convention. Yes, he is a plastic surgeon. He redresses human ugliness, literally.
Also, he’s not the least bit scared of airplanes, so we’ll skip the part of boarding and getting off one.
Just a sec, we might pause briefly at the getting off part.
A blonde passed by as he was alighted at the Eternal City. He stared at her and when she noticed, he shifted his gaze to the ground.
We can now move on.
The cab driver helped him get his grey suitcase out of the trunk and the hotel bellhop helped him take it inside. He was handed the key, went up to his room, didn’t think an awful lot of the décor, left the suitcase on the bed, went in for a shower. Got out of the bathroom, hung his clothes in the closet, looked at the view from his window; he didn’t think much of that either and he lay down to sleep.
He woke up and went in for another shower to stop himself from rubbing his face against the pillow like a kitten.
Ever since he got out of school, he had been trying to convince himself that this is the right time to be getting up and that crawling out of bed at noon is a kind of pathology. The thing is, he had a pressing need not to pressure himself. Alexander silenced it with a cold morning shower.
It was nine o’clock by his watch, Greek time.
He got dressed, looked out at the view for a minute to make sure nothing had changed and went down to reception. The convention was on Sunday which meant his day and night were free, and empty.
He handed his key to the man behind the desk and went out the gold plated, revolving door which made him nauseous to look at.
He’d have breakfast at some picturesque side street, taking photographs with his cell-phone so that when, at some future time, he got a girlfriend, he could show her the pretty places he’d been to.
After sitting for some considerable time in front of a silver tea set, he consulted his watch and realized only sixty minutes had gone by.
He decided to stay some more and began to watch the passersby.
An elderly woman with her dog, a man with a guitar case strapped to his shoulder and his arm around a girl who was smiling crookedly, a very pretty, blonde woman.
Ah, it’s the one from the plane.
Alexander who doesn’t fall in love recognized her and, what’s more, smiled when she looked his way. Passing right by where he sat, she gave him an intense stare that caused him to lower his eyes. The blonde giggled and it might have sounded silly to someone else, but to Alexander’s ears it was like notes trilled out at a classical concert.
“May I join you?”
Lucy introduced herself to Alexander, then ordered tea.
“Oh, I love their tea-sets here.”
“Yes, um, aren’t they?”
“Their plates, too, are quite fine.”
“Are you interested in crockery in general?”
No, but I can’t think of anything else to say.
“I am interested in beauty.”
“Oh, that’s very nice.”
“I am a plastic surgeon.”
“Well, you are the first one I meet.”
She fluttered her fingers to get rid of the crumbs (from his breadstick), tautened the muscles of her face, then relaxed them and looked at him expectantly.
“Now, tell me honestly, what would you change?”
Alexander didn’t let the opportunity slip and gently touched her face pretending to look for imperfections, in truth relishing the texture of her skin.
It was a strong face though its features were soft, large brown eyes, a mouth that looked like an upside down seashell, and eyebrows with a high arch. “I wouldn’t change something.”
“So, then, I’m perfect?” Lucy clapped her hands.
“Yes, I suppose you are.” Alexander smiled shyly rubbing his forehead.
“I knew it!”
They both laughed and went on getting to know each other. She was English and was vacationing in Italy on her own. “For the adventure of it”, she said.
They walked together to the piazza Cavour, talking about Rome and their respecting homelands, while the sun was rapidly sliding out of the sky.
At the moment of saying goodbye, Alexander noticed a restaurant to his right. Feeling his time was running out, he interrupted Lucy who was saying how glad she was to have met him, and suggested having some pizza or pasta or something Italian, at all events.
Lucy stroked her hair and smiled, not meeting his eyes. She said she was tired and wanted to get back to her hotel because she was flying out the next day, in the afternoon.
At the mention of ‘flying out’ Alexander felt an indeterminate pain. Bunching her hair to the side, Lucy suggested lunch tomorrow at one, at the restaurant that made the square a little prettier with its candles and chequered tablecloths. Alexander’s pain stopped. He agreed, said goodbye and headed back to his hotel.
Oops, Jesus, the convention.
But no. The convention didn’t start until three. They had enough time to arrange the details of their marriage.
Not that he was in love with her or anything, but why not spend the rest of his life with her?
That night Alexander had a dream, the first in a long while. He didn’t remember what he’d dreamt of, but there was something there, he remembered as much. At breakfast he had a plain croissant, then a chocolate one and some of the reconstituted orange juice that, for reasons unknown, they still serve at the buffet of respectable hotels. Afterwards he again went out the revolving door which, in combination with the juice made him feel doubly nauseous, and walked for a couple of hours around the – now beautiful – city of Rome.
Glancing at his watch he saw he still had twenty minutes till one o’clock. He decided to arrive a little early and watch the people go by till he saw her, Lucy with the concert laugh. He even thought of telling her.
He sat and ordered a cappuccino. Alexander, the bona fide tourist.
Twenty minutes came and went. Alexander had his cappuccino.
Another ten minutes passed. Alexander ordered wine.
Half an hour went by. Alexander stood, left on the table a twenty euro note and his heart and started to walk through the – not so beautiful now – city of Rome.
Once it was half past two by his watch, he headed for his hotel, shaking his head a couple of times to get over – let’s admit it, already – love.
Walking into the convention hall he saw about one hundred brown chairs arranged in amphitheater formation. Empty.
He walked out again and asked a member of the hotel staff what was happening with the convention.
The hotel clerk laughed. Alexander got angry. The clerk stopped laughing and reminded him the time was two o’clock, not three. Alexander laughed. Then, he froze.
He swirled out the gold plated door without paying it any notice and started to run in the direction of piazza Cavour.
The restaurant and his heart were there, along with Lucy. He came up to the table panting and sat down. Lucy looked at him quizzically, puzzled.
“Sorry to be late. You won’t believe what happened to me…”
Lucy’s puzzlement grew and her eyes half closed.
“You’re not late!”
Alexander was more puzzled than Lucy.
“But it’s past two o’clock.”
Smiling sweetly Lucy raised her watch to him, which showed one o’clock. Alexander smiled even more sweetly.
“You aren’t on Italian time either, huh?”
Lucy drew back her arm, blushing. Alexander reached out for her embarrassed hand before it had time to hide under the tablecloth. He began explaining what had happened.
The scene recedes as if the camera was moving slowly away.
Laughter can be heard from the piazza Cavour that sounds like notes from a classical concert.