5. Servi sat on a park bench with every other slat missing. A few rusted and serrated pieces of playground equipment surrounded him like the open doors of an iron maiden. An old bocce court’s walls were strewn with graffiti: who loved who and who fucked who and who deserved to die.
Servi could not get into a comfortable position. He thought that perhaps it was hunger, and got ready to stand up and buy some bread when he saw two people in front of him. One was Maria, his landlord’s daughter, and the other a round young man nearly Servi’s age, with puffy cheeks and short black hair and a look of undefined mischief in his eyes, all slung beneath the line of his single black brow. They had been walking through the abandoned park and were obviously startled by Servi’s unexpected presence.
“Senore Servi,” Maria said formally, “this is Antonio LaOmbra.”
“Maria tells me yur frum Canada,” LaOmbra said in New York English. Servi swallowed hard. He could feel the lie catch in his throat and searched for words in English, which appeared to be missing. Then he switched to Italian, a tongue with a more supple notion of truth, and here found fluency.
“Yes, I’m from Toronto. Born and bred.”
“Yes?” LaOmbra answered in stilted Italian, “What part? I gotta cousin dere,” he said, ending with the last sentence in English.
“Near the University of Toronto,” Servi answered, again in Italian.
“My Italian ain’t dat good,” LaOmbra explained. “Can’t we just tawk in English?”
“I don’t want to be rude to Maria,” Servi answered in English, and suddenly, the pain flared to a woozy height. The air rushed out of Servi’s lungs, as if the cabin of the world had suddenly been depressurized. Servi wanted to bend forward, but did not dare, believing he would topple to the ground by the sheer weight of the pain’s inertia.
“Shit,” LaOmbra waved his hand. “She’s usta dat. She only understands halfa wat I’m sayin’,” he laughed, and then pinched the girl’s cheek.
Servi viewed this through a wavering lens. It was as if the world was groaning and heaving, shifting from one side to the next, stopping suddenly only to move just as abruptly, without pattern. Servi was aware of LaOmbra speaking in rapid Brooklyn English, but he was not sure what he was saying. Finally, Servi leaned forward to stop the spinning pitch of a world off kilter. But the maneuver only hastened his fall to the ground. Servi looked up. First he saw an overcast sky the color and texture of curdled milk. Then the peering, alarmed face of little Maria, followed by the florid, amused face of LaOmbra. Then the world spiraled to white, to brown, to black…
Dear Aaron, his brother Frank wrote, you are causing me a lot of fucking grief. As you damn well know, I am living at home to save money so I can get through Saint John’s Law School with fewer loans, and I can’t even study in this fucking house. All Mom and Dad do is worry and complain about you, running around like chickens with their heads chopped off. You always were a little spoiled brat, weren’t you? A glum little bastard. All you cared about was yourself, that is why you left for Italy and left me here to deal with this boatload of shit…