THE POET Guglielmo Michelini became old, it seems overnight. He remembers being in his forties for a long time and in his fifties for a fairly long time and in his sixties for a much shorter time. The next thing he knows he’s seventy. And his wife is seventy-four. They have been married for fifty years.
When he was a young man the idea of marrying an older woman was wonderfully seductive. He loved women. The architecture of their bodies, the audacity of their breasts, the arc of the waist, the anticipation of the vulva, the slender ankles, the arch of the foot.
He loved this older woman, Suzanne Marrôn. They met in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. She was a poet lover with perfect arches. They were married in a hail of hope and illusion.
It amazes him that they are still together. Sometimes he cannot believe it and thinks he is dead.
They are reading in bed. He looks at her. She has a dignity and a vulnerability grown more fragile with age. She looks like a photo of his mother. He is in bed with his mother.
She looks at him looking at her. She puts down her book. She says, “You never touch me anymore.”
He doesn’t know how to answer that. He sees her eyes moisten. They look at each other for five seconds. Five seconds is a long time when your heart is dying for a leap backward.