Broken promise…

June 23, 2014

temple-3-001

Remember that day? It was the end of the season but still baking hot and we went to Paestum? I had been there many times before, but it was your first visit. I showed-off my knowledge of Paestum’s history –

“Founded at the end of the 7th Century BC by Greeks who named their city Poseidonia. Strabo, the Greek geographer, tells us that at the end of the fifth century the Lucani conquered the city. There is some evidence that the twin cultures, Lucani and Greek thrived together until the refounding of the city as Paestum by the Romans in 273 BC…”

I knew it all.

You made fun of me, teased me mercilessly.

During the summer tourist buses come and go bringing large numbers of people to admire the ruined temples.

The standing remains of the three Doric temples date from the 6th Century BC and were dedicated to Hera and to Athena and are very impressive still. That day we had the site to ourselves…There were no tourist buses, no guides with their multi-coloured pennants.

“Let’s make love,” you said. Do you remember? I’m sure you must.

I said, “What here? S’posing someone comes?” I knew you had this thing about making love in the open air, that you found it a big turn-on. I remembered the beach at Rimini.

“The season’s finished,” you said. “The tourists have all gone. No one’s going to come today – except us!”

Your laughter seemed gently mocking.

So you laid on your back with your knees drawn up, and your thighs wide open like the covers of an open book. And in the baking stillness we came together.

“We should come back,” you said. “Do this again. It’s really special.”

“When?” I asked. “When will we come back?”

“Annually,” you said. Then, “No, perhaps, every five years. The two of us. This same time of year, at the end of the season. For the rest of our lives, no matter what. Even if we’re with other people, married to them or what-have-you. We should come back here and make love.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good, it’s a date then. Five years from today at…” You glanced at your watch. “Three in the afternoon. Don’t you dare be late…”

Such stupid things we do. Time passing and I kept my promise to you. I returned to Paestum, drove there from Salerno, five years later. This time the day was overcast, with occasional showers of rain. Certainly the temple site was deserted. I waited for you for almost two hours, standing in the rain. You didn’t come to me…

Perhaps you’d forgotten our promise?

Eventually I returned alone to the hotel. The following day I drove to Sant’Agnello and visited the cemetery where Francis Marion Crawford is buried. While I was there I left flowers on your grave, and explained how desperately alone I felt.

I remember clearly the sudden crack of thunder out at sea. And then more rain.

I said I didn’t think I’d make the trip to Paestum again. There seemed little point. You’d stood me up…

The following day I drove in the rain to Florence and passed that place on the road, the site of your accident. The was no sign of anything amiss now. I left flowers at the roadside beside a white maker. And then the next day, Tuesday I returned to London.

In loving memory of Carnella Alexander.