By Genni Gunn
A couple of years ago, I went to visit friends in Fossombrone in Le Marche, Italy, to chase down a story about an old man and his museum of crystal ammonites. I had been there years before, and had never forgotten the fluorescent stones in the basement of his house, situated on the ancient Roman Via Flaminia, along the Metauro river.
On the way, my friends decided to first take me to a lookout, high above the river. After a 8-kilometer, hair-raising switchback gravel road to Mount Pietralata, we reached the trail head, where, to our astonishment was a black Mercedes, inside which were two young men engrossed in an animated conversation.
We parked, then skirted the Mercedes, thinking it seemed an odd, solitary place for a conversation. We proceeded up the trail to the lookout, a wide stone balcony from which we could see the canyon, the emerald river, the Appenines silkscreened across the sky, and in the distance, the Adriatic sea. We probably spent an hour or so, then turned back down the trail to our car. Imagine our surprise to find the same Mercedes where we had left it. The windows were rolled down, and as we passed, we heard one of the young men say, “I only want to be with you.”
It was a scene right out of a romantic film, and on our way down the switchback road, we speculated on possible stories behind those words.
On arrival at Via Flaminia, we discovered the old man had died a couple of years before and his stones had been sent to a museum in Milan. What I could take away was the black Mercedes and the echo of that line “I only want to be with you.” Back home, I wrote the story, using that line, but in a different context, though it still contained all the longing of the original. This story, “Erasures,” became one of the stories in my recent collection Permanent Tourists (Signature Editions, October 2020).
Genni Gunn will appear in the Literary Cabaret, Friday October 16, at 6:00pm PDT.