14. The subway carried Servi toward the center of Rome. He felt the overwhelming desire to be at the very core of Christendom, of this vast and thriving city, whose ancient heart was still thumping, and at times appeared to beat with his.
But perhaps it was only the drugs. All of Doctor Tedesco’s prescriptions were draining from Servi’s body, and his heart pumped erratically, his breathing was shallow, a froth of sweat pooled on his skin and the world was drained of color.
But no, it was a trick of sensation and perception: the first rays of the sun were rising over Rome, casting the Eternal City in flat and unflattering light. Servi went to a public toilet, paid the attendant who had just arrived for the day, and entered. He dumped all of Doctor Tedesco’s pills down the toilet and flushed.
Servi was out in the street in front of the Coliseum. He felt his body stippled with pain. Yet the pain appeared to float on the surface of his being, not penetrating beyond the outer layer of his skin, a mere sensation of surface tension, heavy and dull and tingling.
But everything around him looked wrong. The world appeared to have remade itself, like a corpse brought back to life and told to resume its old routines, forgetting the memory of death. Servi sat on a bench and softly cradled his head, trying to replicate the loving touch of another. When he looked up, the sun had fully risen. Servi pulled out a letter, and with a shaking hand, started to read the sloping handwriting.
Dear Aaron, someone wrote, and Servi did not know if it was his father, mother, brother or Father Francisco, for it hardly mattered at all. The world had bled dry to a bleached white and every letter was a facsimile of every other, a version cast aside only to be reused to no great effect…
I know you are a young man of great qualities. I know you will someday perform heroic deeds. But you need to come back to your home and family… in America.