In the balmy nights of Carmine summers, when the residents sleep with open windows, and lightning streaks silently across the skyline, strange things sometimes happen.
A few months ago, on just such a night, I awoke at about 3am. I lay awake, straining my ears to try to separate out the gentle sounds of Carmine Superiore’s slumber. A resident’s snoring, the running of the streams, the woodland owls, the snuffle of a wild boar, the far distant humming of a goods train across the lake in Lombardy. What had woken me? Did one of the children cry out in sleep?
The first alien sound I identified was the rattling of a ladder. Perhaps my neighbour, then, had arrived. Well-known for leaving his keys behind four hours away, he was more than twice seen extracting a ladder from its cradle and insinuating himself into his house by unexpected avenues.
Then I heard something else.
Strange. Statistics would have us believe that by this late hour burglars have already slunk off to their beds, and besides, no self-respecting burglar would be making this kind of noise – would he? (For statistics also tell us that the vast majority of burglars ARE men.)
I felt for my specs, got up, went over to the window as quietly as possible, and looked out. Ah. First I located the ladder sound. A light breeze was rattling the ladder strung to a wall in the next-door garden. It wasn't some masked man heaving it up the hill after all.
And then the voices took up my attention. Two people were sitting together on the bench way up the path. They sat by the signpost under the light of the ‘street’ lamp (well, it’s hardly a street), just where the path splits : up for Molinesc and Cannobio, down for Carmine Inferiore.
Two people sitting on the bench, chatting and laughing. A canoodling couple, perhaps, out on an amorous adventure.
As I watched, one of the figures stood up and I drew in my breath sharply. A man. Definitely.
Definitely, because in the words of David Byrne he was buck naked.
The other stood up too. Not a woman, but another man. Also starkers. I smiled an involuntary smile of disbelief and continued to watch as they jogged along towards the nucleus of the village, passing the end of ‘our street’ and up the great broad steps towards the church, where they were no longer visible.
There was much whooping and shouting in the churchyard, before I once again heard the patter of naked feet. And saw them streaking back past the house and on up by the gardens. Reaching a rocky incline, they slowed before disappearing under the canopy of trees, leaving my incredulity as the only sign that they had ever been there.
HAD they ever been there? If not, what does my vision say for the state of mind that conjured it? Was I overcome by the erotic stillness of the summer evening? Or rendered momentarily insane by the triple stresses of child-rearing, house-painting and daily hill-walking?
If what I saw was real, and two high-spirited blokes had come jogging around Carmine that night, having left their clothes under a riverside rock perhaps, or in a neat pile on some bar-stool, WHAT on earth were they doing? And why? When they could have been tucked up in bed (or sprawled on the floor) with the world spinning happily and the beginnings of a hangover headache mustering up in their temporal lobes.
If you can enlighten me, I’d rest happier in the knowledge I hadn’t momentarily paid a visit to La-La land.
Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007, 2008. All rights reserved. Please ask first.