She and the River

(Character Study)

The river is so immense that she thinks it’s the sea.

And she almost forgets where she is.

A different continent, a different life. Even a different century. Strangely surreal.

She reaches over, her hand trembling faintly. The water is cold under the late fall’s still brilliant sun.

But it’s so real.   She couldn’t be closer to her river.   And he listens.

She unburdens her sadness, and he accepts is. But doesn’t respond. Or maybe he does. The waves gently lapping at the gritty sand, only a few inches from her feet. I’m here, he says, lay your grief on the water and I will absorb it.   But I cannot rebuild you.

Can loneliness last a lifetime? Must she endure forever?   Is she deserving at all of a ray of sunshine that doesn’t last one day?

Does her existence matter?   Even in the scheme of things?

A speck in the fabric of the ever-turning world.

Dutiful, always. An eternity of sacrifice. Be quiet, she orders. To herself.  Her voice is too faint to matter to anyone else.

There is a point when woman (a mother) becomes part of the landscape. She forfeits feelings, desires, dreams, passions. Total subjugation to duties, others, ‘what’s right’, what matters.   Expected to accept it peacefully.

Bear it, she tells herself.   Let the universe run its course, hang on to karma, to a vague promise of heaven.

The river seems calm.   He is her friend.

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Because Nobody is Listening

This is the world we live in.

A world where only some are heard. The ones who scream the loudest, the evil ones, and, ironically, also the self-righteous.

They, who proclaim their unbound holy faith, who recite their part of servants of God, prostrate themselves in church, tote a Bible studded with notes and bookmarks, reach out condescendingly to those who struggle at the edge of society.

But ignore (and berate) those who are closest to them. By right or by misfortune.

Those who trusted them because innocent and naïve perhaps (or, simply, too young and tender to understand), who unquestioningly placed their budding lives in their hands.

The invisible ones remain invisible. And always will be.

They can cry behind closed doors, then smile, joke, laugh in company, because this is what society wants.

Suffering is not cool.

It’s their word against the others’. And the others win, because life is unfair, uneven, meant to crush us (or, some of us).

The invisible ones can be beautiful. (Painfully) outgoing, (sadly) funny.

But long, sleepless nights are their routine. And human beings are resilient, are they not? We can get used to cohabiting with pain just fine.

Nobody knows. Christ, nobody knows.

Life is indeed a valley of tears.

Go on, lucky ones, proceed with your stable lives, be amazed, be amused, be touched by the loud phony ones, play their game.

Karma, some say.   Karma will vindicate you.  Will it make a difference though?

Will one’s suffering be worth it?

The wheel keeps turning.   On and on and on.

Survival of the phoniest?

To be continued, I suppose.

A Love Story with a Twist

When a love story is truly that.

But so much more.

The gray areas that one refuses to acknowledge because they are too real. The ones where most of us dwell, cry, exult, bear, rejoice. And hide, mostly hide.

My beloved novel The Summer of the Spanish Writer is indeed an exhilarating love story, or, rather, two. Significantly different from each other, like the two women who live them.

When one is very young, love is solely eternal butterflies, a never-ending thrill that deletes any desire to sleep or do anything at all, because nothing is above that feeling of unadulterated joy. Till it ends with the thunderous crash no one expects though we all do.

Then one grows. And, often, love becomes the all-concealing cover for its dark side.

Enter Cassandra, one of the two main characters of my novel.

Her apparently calm, ordinary world hides a darkness more powerful that a stormy winter night, and as painful as love gone bad.

What will a mother do to protect her child? She will construct a fictitious story of normality, of routine, enhanced by smiles that almost look genuine. The grief expressed (quietly!) when alone, when sleep eludes her, is to remain forever silent though it’s screaming. Living her lonely days in the shadow of a man whose well-rehearsed charm seems to deceive all around them, Cassandra performs the duties expected of her as wife and mother and nothing else. The invisible woman, who surrendered her dreams to the harsh reality that engulfed her, and does her best to perform them to keep the peace.

Read her story, dear friends, shiver, get angry, but dream also. Always dream, because sometimes that unreachable light is all one has to hang on to.

Every human being needs an incentive to get up in the morning, to labor through the day, to absorb the blows. A reason, people, we all need a reason for existing.

Some succumb to the loss of it.

A tale of love, a tale of hatred, a tale of a friendship, a tale of passion and of grief.

Also known as the life of a woman.

Click on link below and lose yourself in this extraordinary adventure.

The Way We Were

Young and innocent, we were.

The world was a field of dreams, and our hearts ached with the tender agony of anticipation.

I’m walking fast, down the main street of my Westchester town, barely used green Skechers on my feet, propelled by my customary anxiety, fury, determination and pain.   An older man is ahead of me, baseball cap on his head, advancing at an irritating leisurely pace, looking around, as if…life were a walk in the park.

Move on, I’m inwardly hissing, don’t got time for this, I’m busy, just trying to get some stupid exercise done before I dive into my nerve-racking life again.

And I see my grandfather.   Nonno Romolo, the only grandparent I really knew, my mother’s dad. He came to visit us twice a year, for about 3-4 weeks, and we little kids so looked forward to his arrival. My father drove the trusty old Simca to the train station in Naples to pick him up, a bit worn out by the overnight ride from Modena, but still cheerful and calm.

We waited at home in Portici, peeking out from the kitchen balcony to witness the arrival, excited about all the gifts he would bring us, especially (for me) those large beautifully illustrated fairytales books I loved to lose myself into.

Nonno Romolo was a dignified old gentleman, always impeccably dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and tie, and a fedora hat. Comfortably resigned to the fact that his daughter had married a Southerner, il nonno would wander, curious and eager, the uneven streets of Portici, unmindful of the unruly drivers that never even dreamed of stopping at a red light, of the ever-expanding pot holes, the cars parked on the sidewalk just because, slowly but steadily continuing on his daily path, stopping at the newsstand at the corner, where the smiling giornalaia handed him the local newspaper, Il Mattino, and wished him a buona giornata.

Often, we little hyper children would go with him, ever mindful of the abundance of the hard mint candies he always carried in his pockets, to be dispensed according to our behavior. He would take us to the Royal Gardens (part of the old Royal Palace Estate), of Portici, where a delightful skating rink awaited, always packed with kids, in those days, a wonderland in the deep greenery of ancient, illustrious trees.

He would sit on a bench, pull out of his pocket the Settimana Enigmistica, the most popular weekly crossword  magazine in Italy (to this day), and watch us out of the corner of his eye, while we attached roller skates to our sturdy sandals with the two straps, and flew off into the freedom of the rink (well, me not so much, as I, always tentative, stayed in close proximity of the handrail).

Those wonder mornings of my childhood, easy and innocent. After our exhilarating roller skate ride, off we went, skipping on the dusty trails, to the little lake, where regal swans glided proudly. We pulled out the chunks of stale bread we had brought and tossed it to feathered creatures, anxiously waiting to see whose crumbs they snapped up first.

The sun rose higher in the sky, and burned on our skin, sign that il pranzo would soon be ready.   “Andiamo, my grandfather would say, la mamma ci aspetta”. And indeed, my mother excitedly waited for us for lunch, happy and serene (a rare thing) because her adored father was there with us, his tranquil and benign presence an anchor in her taxing life. Sometimes, after lunch, while my father took his routine afternoon nap (or happened to be out), I would catch il nonno and my mother sitting pleasantly on the kitchen chairs, the floor still damp after the daily mopping, smoking a cigarette and speaking in modenese dialect, a mysterious and indecipherable language. I would watch, fascinated, awed and somewhat confused (after all my father had forbidden smoking), catching a glimpse of my mother as a woman and a human being. Strange, yes.

I slow down my frenzied pace, and look at the old gentleman with the baseball hat, relaxed, retired from the rat race, finally viewing the world as the miracle that it is.

We were lighthearted, we were loved, we were protected.  But didn’t understand it.

Grazie, nonno Romolo, for those magic days of childhood.

When Summer Meant Heaven

No, really heaven.

Pure joy, fun, excitement, change, nearly endless.

Crowded beaches, perfect sea, ice cream cones every afternoon, and even your birthday being in August.

Being a child in the summer. The only way to truly enjoy it.

My mother frantically surveying every room in the house, to make sure nothing would be left behind.   After all, we were going to rent a tiny apartment in a family-friendly beach area, so lots of household items had to be packed. Cleaning, cooking and laundry needed to be taken care of.

Carefully folding my two new bathing suits, one red, one a lively print with yellow and orange flowers, I anticipated wearing the one-piece red for the water, then changing into the other one to dry.  Well, yes, after we kids were allowed to go swimming (in a manner of speaking, since only my brother could actually swim), at noon, when the sun was at the hottest, thus less chance of catching a chill, the moment we came out of the water, my mother would wrap us in a large towel, and we changed into a dry bathing suit, to minimize the possibility of contracting a cold. Then after we were thoroughly dried, we could have a snack on the beach, a small panino with salame or prosciutto, one of my favorites, and every bite tasted wonderful, salty, appetizing, the bread soft and wheaty.

Once home, my mother put on the water for the pasta, reheated the sauce she had made in the early morning (before packing the beach bag), breaded the veal cutlets she was going to fry in a little butter, one at a time, while we kids and babbo were eating the first course, tossed the fresh salad with olive oil and a touch of vinegar, and made sure she had remembered to put together the moka coffee maker before starting the meal process.

Playing quietly (babbo was taking his afternoon nap) on the floor in the hallway (the tiny apartment did not have a living room), my siblings and I would talk about the evening car trip to a nearby village where they made the BEST ice cream, and the little souvenir shops; I really wanted that red and gold link belt, my brother yearning for the Matchbox Ferrari. But I would end up with dainty embroidered handkerchiefs because my mother was practical.

The coffee aroma lingered in the kitchen, while my mother washed all the dishes by hand, after heating water in the pasta pot, because there was a limited supply of hot water in the tank, and it had to be saved for bathing.   She removed the chairs to the hallway (Spostatevi un po’, bambini… Move over kids), washed the kitchen floor, checked the fridge for food for dinner – around 8 or 9 pm), then sat in one of the chairs and leafed through a magazine. Ten minutes later, she went to see if the clothes hanging on the line on the balcony were dry (oh, she had washed the clothes in the bathtub, because there was no washing machine provided).

Sitting outside on the balcony, at night, eyes turned up to the black sky decorated by a myriad stars, we listened as my father pointed to the constellations, awed by his knowledge of the names of nearly every star. The glass doors were ajar so the nasty mosquitoes would not filter into the bedroom and feast on our tender skin all night.

My mother deep in thought (though her eyes rolled occasionally as my father elaborated on the wonders of the firmament), possibly compiling tomorrow’s shopping list, Wednesday, the butcher would have the country sausages…).

As I felt my eyes begin to close, I knew the our bed time was approaching, and my father would tell us the story he created every night for us, just a few minutes of a journey into the splendor of his imagination before we dozed off. And tomorrow maybe my mother would let me have that delicious ice-cold pineapple juice that was constantly turned and mixed up in that huge container at the local café, sweet and a deep yellow in a clear glass.

My wonder years.

I think I’ll have some icy pineapple juice right now.  But in a different glass.

Quando il fiume ti accarezza

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La splendida semplicità  del mio fiume di mattina presto.

Tranquillo e intensamente azzurro, scintillante sotto il sole sorridente di New York, l’Hudson mi emoziona ogni volta che lo guardo.

L’aria è delicatamente fresca e i gabbiani volteggiano vivaci,  richiamano la spensieratezza dell’estate, anche se i prati sono ancora coperti dalla neve che si scioglie lentamente.

È amore questo?  Direi proprio di sì.  L’amore che ti calma, ti sostiene e non ti ferisce.

Grazie, grande America per avermi accolto a braccia aperte, tanti, tanti anni fa.

Yes, life is beautiful.

My New Short Story is on Amazon Kindle!

the lotto ticket

“Imagine holding a winning lotto ticket in your hand. Envision the euphoria, the avalanche of dreams. Your life is about to change drastically, the struggle is over!   All you need to do is have the ticket scanned at the store where you bought it, and sign the back. Simple, right? It should be, but life is ever-surprising. Sometimes, not even a winning ticket will give you a break.   Enough said. Just read Jeanine’s story.”

I’m super-excited to unveil my new short story, dear friends!

What inspired me to write The Lotto Ticket? Well, perhaps those square, shiny tickets that I sometimes find in my hand, resigned from the start that, of course, I won’t win, but also secretly hoping that perhaps, possibly…

A lotto ticket is a dream you can hang on to for a few hours. And dreams are always worthy, because, as they say, you never know.

Listen to Jeanine’s tale and fly off with her for a bit.

Easily download the story on your Kindle or other tablet.

Happy Reading!

ebook

Take a look at my other short stories too!

My New Short Story!

first selfie

When Laura attends a family wedding, she decides to attempt taking a selfie, something she had often wished she could do. Later, when she examines the photo, mostly curious to see how such a close-up of her face would turn out, she realizes that she got herself entangled into an explosive predicament. Careful what you wish for!  Available on Kindle, for any tablet.  Just click on the picture!

Inspired

“For each person there is a sentence – a series of words – which has the power to destroy them”.  A quote that caught my eye.  And that reinforces my opinion on the subject I like to call the infinite power of writers.  We are a sensitive lot, we crafters of phrases.  Our moods are eclectic and transient, we are restless beings who dive into the deepest darkness of hell, then re-Computer screen, Nov. 2013emerge bruised and battered, but triumphantly bearing ‘a piece’.  Pain is sharper for us, because we hang on to it, we flip it, squeeze it, reshape it, re-charge it.  Yes, super-sensitive, our very pores are on alert, picking up a word, a gesture, even a thought.  Indeed, people’s eyes can be read so clearly at times that we must take a few steps back.  Because the impact can be overwhelming.  Iknow what you’re thinking and I’m storing it.  We are not talkers, we keep it to a necessary minimum in order to interact with society.  We’re listeners, collectors of moods, sweepers of emotions, creators of parallel realities representing everything you are, but even more so.  Somehow we can understand even the confusion in your mind and make perfect sense of it.  Outsiders who get it, simply because we’re such.  Sensitive we are, I was saying.  Perhaps too much, I’ll admit, rudeness means a little more to us, it doesn’t casually slide off .  It pounds on our chest, it grates on our brain, its weight ballooning as we consume it, rearticulate it and, well, put it on paper.  We might even whisper thank you (through our unshed tears), but you’ll never hear it, as you dismiss the situation, whether consciously or not.  So proud of the actors in our stories, so realistically depicted – the false friend, the opportunist colleague, the over-paid and self-important individual who doesn’t even see you as you pass right by their shadow, often with a polite smile on your expectant face.  Sticks and stones are not our scene, we’re a pacific lot with a big memory and a sackful of words.  Which we use masterfully.

Cassandra’s Chinatown

And Natalie’s.  Tracing their steps, I catch myself, following the heroines of picturemy latest novel, The Summer of the Spanish Writer, when they, too, wandered the streets of mysterious New York’s Chinatown, lost in their tangled emotions, unraveling secrets, and the exotic aromas and faces picturearound them.  If you haven’t read my novel yet, you might not know that a crucial scene takes place in Chinatown (shh, all of you who have, let’s not give anything away!), as the two friends finally allow themselves to dig bravely into their hearts and expose the carefully concealed old, little (but not to little) skeletons.  Chinatown in the summer, not a place for the super-sensitive, as the heat pictureunearths aromas that may not be exactly pleasing, might they come from the exuberant fish markets, the piles of colorful thin purple eggplants, scallions and dragon fruits basking in the white sun of New York in July, or the acrid scent of incense filtering through the door hinges of the store-front Buddhist temple.  A flash of picturecrimson distracts me as I browse in a shop thick with dangling dresses and Mandarin blouses, silky red, embroidered with gold and fuchsia dragons and flowers. I hold my breath as I stumble on the dress that caught Cassandra’s attention, whose fabric she caressed and coveted for a few seconds, while disclosing – though not looking into her eyes – her shameful truth to Natalie.  I walk past the herbalist’s shop, whose glass window displaying jars of gnarled roots and powdery teas in green canisters, still bears the fingerprints of a distraught Cassandra seeking (yet fearing) a sympathetic ear.  The unassuming restaurant at the corner proclaiming Vietnamese Cuisine beckons tantalizing, promising crispy fried spring rolls wrapped in fragrant cilantro leaves, to be dipped in an aromatic amber sauce.  I give in and enter the dark coolness of the candle-lit room, where only a few patrons sip their tea.  Here, then, is the table which the picturefriends shared, while talking openly for the first time, the relief of Cassandra’s confession reflecting in Natalie’s own, since, she too, disclosed a memory she had deeply buried inside her soul.  The light is dim, the food warm and appetizing, and I imagine Cassandra nervously twisting her new delicate jade ring, which she wished so much to believe would bring her luck.  Come on over to Chinatown, dear readers, follow Natalie and Cassandra, feel their picturepresence in the narrow streets, see their images in the shop windows, peek at them as they sit at a small table, sipping sweet Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, and daring to reveal their sad secrets.  Enter the world of the Spanish Writer, live the passion, the intrigue, the treachery, the fear, but also the soothing comfort of true friendship.  (Click the book link on the banner for more info).