10. “Have you ever been in love?” a small voice asked Servi, and he snapped awake. Maria was sitting by his bedside. Since he had fallen ill, she kept appearing and disappearing like LaOmbra and Doctor Tedesco, banking in and out of Servi’s personal depository of fog.
“Yes,” Servi answered, but then, “No… well, maybe…”
“How can you not know?” Maria asked with untrammeled wonder. “When you are in love, don’t you know? You must have never been in love.”
“I suppose that is true,” Servi answered, rising his head from the bed, astounded to be propped on one arm. “I suppose when you know you know.”
“Look at these,” Maria said, and handed Servi a bundle of letters. Servi tried to read them. They were from LaOmbra to Maria in stilted and misspelled Italian. When LaOmbra could not find the Italian word, he substituted an English approximation, and half the time the grammar or spelling was mangled beyond repair.
“He’s far too old for you, Maria,” Servi mumbled, trying to let his voice rise from the mist. “How old are you, anyway?” When she told him, Servi groaned.
“He said he’ll wait till I’m eighteen and then we’ll marry. That is not that long from now.”
“Maria, he is training to become a priest. He is going to marry God.”
“He’s doing that to please his mother,” she said dismissively. “He isn’t going to go through with it.”
“Maria, he doesn’t kiss or touch you, does he?”
“Only like a gentleman…”
“Maria, stay away from him,” and then Servi had a quick, lucid thought, like a bolt of lightening in a murky, featureless sky. “May I keep these letters for a bit… read them in greater detail? I want to see what true love is…” Maria agreed, pleased that Servi had recognized her ardent emotion. Then Servi felt a surge of pain down near his groin which moved like a choppy wave up to his chest. Then the red pill he had taken no more than five minutes ago began to spread a beneficial balm, and he wafted into a deep, black sleep which felt to him as if he was being pitched about in a gently rocking boat.
Dear Aaron, his father wrote, are you even alive? The American Consulate does not know your whereabouts. If they can’t find you in two weeks, we can list you as a missing person on Interpol…