30 October, Tuesday.
I lunch with Fernando. He lives near Piazza Del Gesu Nuovo.
From the Piazza square he called out to me, “Bella.” How tall you are, he gestured. I am tall, taller than many Italian men or most men, ok, all people for that matter. Anyway. We chatted as best we could. He asked me to join him for lunch at his regular cafe’ but overcome with asinine shyness I said no. What I really wanted was the recommended Ragu from a different trattoria.
Halfway across the Piazza I turned around. "Let life happen to you," is my motto, a line from the poet Rilke.
When I arrive Fernando is standing next to a table speaking to a middle-aged man who may or may not be his friend. He had put on reading glasses. When I said his name he glanced up without recognition. Immediately I suspected dementia. This is going to be awkward. The waiters were awkward. I ordered a beer.
When you dine with a seventy-five year old man whose language is not your own and unsure he’s not the local nutter, lovable but unmanageable, well, you must generously find simple touch stones to touch, and touch again.
Fernando is a musician, specifically a pianist. His wife is dead. He lives across the street. He comes to the same cafe everyday. He meets friends for coffee, sometimes lunch. His routine is morning coffee, go home, play the piano, potter about a bit, eat lunch at the cafe, play the piano, cook dinner, do it again. He opens his wallet that contains just this, his photo from forty years ago, a handsome man, and a photo of a female grandchild, his love.
His food arrives. Ragu. Ragu Genovese. Beef and onions, slow cooked ten hours served over pacherri, very wide tubes of pasta. He offers me a taste. You don’t eat from others plates in Italy, the waiter brings a plate. I eat a small portion and, it’s magical. Days later I try the Ragu from the other trattoria, I realize Fernando has it right. Same time, same place, same bat channel.
There was something in the air that night The stars were bright, Fernando They were shining there for you and me...
Fernando There's no regret If I had to do the same again I would, my friend, Fernando