Thursday, August 24, 2006

An Indirect Route

The three of us flew to Pisa and then caught a train to Florence. M was reading a book by Graham Greene, Journey Without Maps; he said it was to prepare him for our Guyana trip. One night after dinner, sitting outside a cafe near the Piazza della Signoria, surrounded by holidaying Germans, I sketched a map of Guyana on the back flyleaf of M's book, naming villages and rivers and mountains. I traced the route we might follow, from the coast south to the Rupununi.

The next day we took the bus to Siena. I knew nothing about the city, and was surprised by its beauty, by what seemed the sweetness of the light, as though all the old buildings were stained with honey. We climbed with the other tourists to the top of the unfinished nave of the Duomo, high on its hill. We heard sirens winding through the city, then an ambulance appeared in the square below us. A circle of people formed, too far down for us to guess their nationality or their ages. Someone had fainted, or had a heart attack.

A young man in a violet shirt and a jaunty straw fedora was standing near us, also looking down. We asked him to take a photograph of us, and gave him L's camera. He was American; he was in Siena with his whole family, he said, parents, siblings, siblings' children; he had climbed up here to escape them for an hour.

"Are you staying in Siena?"

"We've only come for the day. We're staying in Florence."

"Where are you going next?"

"We're on our way to Guyana," M said.

"You're taking a very indirect route," the young American said.

No comments: