Monday, January 24, 2011

Mothers and Sons, IV

Servi did not look out the window. He simply watched the woman speak Hebrew into the microphone. The hail of words were incomprehensible, but occasionally Servi could hear such terms at Vatican City, the Pope, Michelangelo, the Sistine Ceiling, and noticed without intersest that he was in front of such and such a monument to human artistic achievement.

They would get down on the street, and the woman would point and speak, and then they were on the bus again, moving rapidly down the Via Veneto. Scooters surrounded the bus, like sucker fish near a shark, moving ahead and behind, forward and back, of the larger beast. Servi saw this only through the corner of his eye, for he solely watched the woman.

Now, after nearly an hour of surveillance, he thought that perhaps she was not really like his mother at all. Her face was far more theatrically inclined; the lines beneath the eyes gave the woman a certain gravity to her expression which offset her quick step, her fast talking, and the glimmer of her white skin like light kissing the surface of polished marble.

And then it was over. Servi was all alone on the bus, and the woman was no longer at the microphone. All the elderly Israelis were gone, and Servi sat in the seat in front of some second class hotel he did not recognize on some side street he could not name.

The woman was talking to the bus driver in Italian. The man was grunting in response. Then she was in front of Servi. She did not even try to address him in Hebrew, but in English.

“You need to get off,” she said primly. “We have to clean the bus for the next group.”

“How did you know I speak English,” Servi answered in Italian. The woman just flicked her wrist.

“I do this for a living,” she answered in Italian. “I can tell from a glance who is who and where they are from… even someone like you, who tries to hide it with your big beard and shabby clothes. You can’t hide it from me,” she wagged her finger at him, as if he was a naughty child. “It’s in the face, the hands, the walk, America, America, America.” She seemed irritated, but she smiled at Servi. “You have to get off, another group is coming.”

“What language?”

“German,” she explained, placing a hand on her hip. She gazed inscrutably at Servi.

“I can’t understand German either,” Servi answered.

“Well,” the woman explained, dropping her hand from her hip, “then there is no harm in staying on, I suppose.” She smiled brightly at this idea, but then the smile fell from her face, as if the notion pleased and displeased her in such rapid succession, the sensation was irritating.

Then Servi was once again surrounded by elderly people, and the woman took up the microphone and addressed them in German.

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