Act 2, Scene 20
Last Day in Cortona

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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When we got back to Cortona 8 students were violently ill with some stomach ailment. Heather's roommate, Miriam, vomited for 12 hours straight. I had to help her stand just to get her to the emergency room. She was completely ashen and I felt ill just looking at her. The other sickly ones fared better, but none are good. Larry and Attila refused to investigate, so a student looked into it and found that all 8 had the fish that night at Tonino’s while the rest stayed away. Larry dismissed this as a "rumor" and said it was just stress from the big art history test, though not all the sick were even in that class. When asked about Miriam's hospitalization, he replied "I get sick every three or four days in Cortona, not a big deal."
When Miriam was still in the hospital the next day Larry said "When you go to the hospital and tell them you're sick, they keep you."
I wanted to send him to the hospital as well, and not as a courtesy visit to Miriam.
Attila blamed the mayonnaise that sits out on the table, un-refrigerated yet unopened since nobody would touch it. Bureaucracy is the religion of evil.
"He's unhelpful," said Heather.
"No. He's worse than that, he's anti-helpful." I responded.
A couple of days later Miriam was well enough to leave the hospital. I was wishing I had a bit of that fish dish somewhere that I could slip into Larry’s food, but it would have been tricky since they (wisely) don’t eat in the same room with the students.

As it was the final week in Cortona, I poked around looking for a way to sell our bikes. Larry saw my post on the school bulletin board and asked after them. He and his wife would be returning with the program the following quarter. I ended up selling him the pair, neglecting to tell him about the slow leak in my tire or the continuing problems with Heather's brakes. Maybe the odds of getting some revenge on the bastard weren’t so bad after all…

I showed Lena around Cortona. She asked about the church on top of the mountain, Santa Margherita. At the top of the hill, just outside the fort that stands over Cortona, Margerita built a small church. Upon her death in 1297 a new church was built, then rebuilt in the 1800’s. I hadn't ventured into the church, but the view from up there was glorious.

Santa Margherita, above Cortona

I told her the tale we'd learned from a book on Cortona in the library. Santa Margherita is not the patron saint of frozen beverages, though her life may remind you of someone who's had one too many. She renounced her family, as many saints are said to have done, and stripped herself bare and ran off into the woods. There she starved, and beat herself until she heard voices. I told Lena she should have been medicated, not sainted.
Lena said “Maybe she was just happy in a different way.”
“In that case I have some friends who are just happy in very different ways. Maybe some of them should be sainted.”

Back at the monastery all the girls with codependents back home were counting down the days until reuniting. I mention to Beth that it's as many days until I possibly lose my partner.
"Yeah, but maybe you'll find true love in Amsterdam," says Beth
"Then the money will run out!" said her roommate.
Even I had to laugh.
At some point Beth pulled Heather aside and asked her what on earth she was thinking letting me run off to Amsterdam to pay for sex.
“Are you kidding? I’m tempted to cancel my trip to Greece just to go with him!” answered Heather, confusing Beth even further.
She and I laughed about it later and I raised an eyebrow, silently saying “Well? Why don’t you run off to Amsterdam with me and pay for sex?”
Heather’s eyes lit up, paused in thought. Then she said “I could pay her to do anything I wanted, couldn’t I?” staring off into space with fantasies running rampant in her head.
Damn, I like this girl.
But she was meeting her friend Jenny in Venice who expected a trip to Southern Italy and Greece, not a jaunt up to Amsterdam for dope and hookers. I told Heather we’d have to save that fantasy for the next trip. She just grinned, half lost in her own gutter of thoughts. One of the countless times I shuddered at how much we were alike.

Our final night in Cortona Heather was not in the best of moods, foul even. I wasn’t much better so I mentally predicted an early end to the night's festivities. Umberto, the woodworker who’d done so many favors for us during our stay in Cortona, saved the day.
We tracked him down so that Heather could give him a thank you gift for all the help. I played with his kids, John Carlo and Gabriella, the most beautiful children in town. Umberto let Heather select one of his carved wooden fruits as a parting gift and she got a beautiful plum. We all went out for drinks. Heather listened to the wife's tale of woe. She'd been a student on the program years ago and had met Umberto and fallen for him. She didn’t really have any good friends in Cortona, as the locals don't take to kindly to strangers marrying into the family, so to speak. Lena and I flipped through the books of Umberto’s work that he'd brought. He ran off and returned with yet more gifts, small bits of Etruscan pottery from 1st century B.C. By the end of the round of drinks Heather was glowing with that electricity in her eyes I adore.
We got one last pastry from the pastry lady. We told her we were leaving and she nodded sympathetically. Lena headed back to the dorm to pack and I talked Heather into heading to our favorite hillside spot for one last time.
It was too cold and windy for comfort but we stayed long enough to enjoy it thoroughly. She thanked me afterward for talking her into making the hike.

Elvis Costello's Every Day I Write the Book is the perfect tune for this scene, as well as this entire effort:
Don't tell me you don't know what love is
When you're old enough to know better
When you find strange hands in your sweater
When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote
I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions
And I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book
Chapter One we didn't really get along
Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you
You said you'd stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and
And I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book
The way you walk
The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh
In four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks
And I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book
Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel
And I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book...
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