By Stuart Dybek
In Genoa, as she packs to leave, he tells her that he doesn't want it to end, and she replies that if he really knew what he wanted, she wouldn't be leaving.
Alone, he continues on along the coast toward Rome, but at a station where a field of sunflowers overlooks the sea, he impulsively gets off the train. Not far from shore, he can see two fishermen employing their nets.
He sets off on a trail climbing through olive and lemon groves and steeply terraced vineyards. In Genoa he'd reduced his belongings to what fit in a backpack. He sweats under its straps and imagines this is how it would have felt to tour Europe when he was young. In college he had a girlfriend who wanted to travel together. He'd have liked to go but was afraid it would seem like more of a commitment than he was ready for, and he took a job instead. Along a rocky cliff, he stops to watch the gulls ride the updrafts and wonders if he's ever known what he's most wanted. Then it comes to him with a force like tears that for once, at least, he does know: He wants this, to be here now, this moment looking out to sea.
The town, carved from the mountainside, is terraced like the vineyards—streets of cobbled steps. He wants to stay here where he's had his revelation, where nothing seems out of sight of the sea, but the only pension is closed due to a death. At a restaurant, he orders a bottle of mineral water and figs with prosciutto. The waiter speaks a little English and tells him about an apartment for rent, but it might not be a place the man would want to stay.
"Why not?" he asks.
"No vista di mare." All Americans, the waiter says knowingly, want a vista di mare. "That's why it is so inexpensive."
"What does it look out on?" he asks the waiter.
Next: Read John Edgar Wideman's Witness