I met Anna Roper last month while I was trying to rob her at her
home, in the village of Mawle in Berkshire.
I write this. I write this to explain no, that is not the beginning.
Let me start again. I write this out of an overwhelming need
to confess, to record, and, just possibly, to apologize. There. I
have set down the first few strokes of the pattern. To apologize to
whom? To Anna? To myself, for making such a hopeless hash of
everything? Or to the universe? I feel that it somehow deserves
my most abject assurances of regret. I know that running away to
Asolo now, at the end of this terrible summer, was a mistake. The
stones of the buildings are still as ripe with sun as honeycombs, fat
and warm with false promise. The Italian sun itself rises each day
as though nothing has happened, awful in its innocence. Only
the noonday shutters avert their faces, as if in sorrow or in shame.
So this is what has become of my lifes ambition
There was a moment, on the flight over, when it all seemed
insignificant. As the plane flopped down through the crevasse of
summer sky that opened sheer above Treviso, the true proportions
of things were suddenly revealed: a toy cow; a childs blue
hair ribbon, negligently draped in imitation of a stream; a putty
church. The last three weeks were erased. They belonged elsewhere,
to another time and place. Here everything was newly
hatched, blameless. I took a fierce gulp of airplane gin and peered
down through the dusty doubled glass of the window at a landscape
that, miraculously, did not contain me. If I could have held
things there forever, with my maudlin, drunken self permanently
suspended above the unsuspecting life below, I swear I would
have. But then the craft dipped and we were plummeting down
toward the black lip of a reservoir, a looming farm, the unscrolling
tarmac of a landing strip. I had arrived in Italy, and
within a few minutes everything was life-sized again.
My confession should begin here. My name is Thomas Joseph
Lynch. I am fifty years old and until last year I was an art historian.
In spite of everything, the term still suggests to me something
harmlessly quixotic: a savant in a skullcap, a scholar in his
robe; or at the very least a distinguished old fart with elbow
patches, dedicated to the complex understanding of simple
beauty. Simple beauty! As if the human eye is capable of perceiving
any such thing! We cook up meanings, endless interpretations
of what is. We smear and smudge everything with our quest
for pattern, with our insane appetite for words
Let me introduce a lapidary pause while the camera lenses
sparkle and flash in the chilly shadows of the temple of justice.
My reader, I know that you will be the jury in this case. Most certainly
you will be my judge.
Why did I do it? Because I couldnt help myself, of course.
Because Anna stood before me so meekly, holding the front door
invitingly open. Question: what do such innocents have in common?
They never knew what hit themcasualties, all, of a lethal
convergence of apparently random currents, of an accumulation
of old wrongs and hurts, not to mention old obsessions, gathering
purpose in the fetid cockles of the human heart. A weal on tender
skin. The cry of a child. In Annas case, a by now faded picture
in a shilling book, many years ago.
Enough; I cant bear it. Enough.
It is a shock to be here at last, in Asolo. What do the guidebooks
say? Town of a hundred horizons. Renaissance gem of the
Veneto. Home of exiled royalty and poets. Originally home
did I dream the whole thing? No, the diary is lying here in front
of me on Professor Ludovico Puppis writing table, torn but perfectly
realof my Madonna. It was naturally to Asolo, just a few
miles north of Treviso, that I came when everything went bellyup
at Mawle; can you see the connection? I had to run somewhere;
I could no longer live with myself. Where better for the
disappointed pilgrim-scholar to go? Home, then, yes. I admit that
I was hoping for some sort of miracle; for a welcome, for redemption.
Instead I merely found my own self lying in wait for me here,
as the little shit always does.
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