Ancient Greek temples dotted the hillside of Agrigento. “Aren’t they magificent, Helene?” I tried engaging my wife of seventeen years in conversation.
Helene always wanted to visit Sicily; now we were finally here but our vacation had been marred by the news of the death of Ruth, her friend since college. Actually, Helene had been depressed ever since Ruth’s cancer was diagnosed two years earlier. She became obsessed with illness and death and every little pain sent her running to the doctor. It had become tedious; I thought a holiday abroad would lighten both our moods.
“I don’t like this place, Richard” Helene remarked. “It reeks of death and decay. You can practically see the blood stains on the altar.”
“Good Lord, Helene! Why are you allowing your mind to go there?” I questioned impatiently. “Look at the glorious Mediterranean surrounding us. Let yourself be transported to another era.”
“I’ve got a pounding headache, Richard. Take me back to the hotel!” Helene demanded.
“But we just got here! Look at these fabulous gnarled olive trees. Impressive, aren’t they? Let’s sit and enjoy the view. You’ve always dreamed of coming here, Helene. Enjoy it!“
“How can I enjoy myself knowing Ruth is gone? She was my dearest friend.” Helene buried her head in her hands, sobbing.
“I know it’s difficult but try not to dwell on it. Here, listen to this.” Retrieving a brochure from my pocket, I began to read. “‘In mythology, Agrigento was founded by Daedalus and Icarus.’ Just think of it – these temples have been here since the 5th Century B.C.! The contemporary glass and steel buildings back home can’t compare to these majestic structures!”
“Richard, please! You think I give a damn about any of this? It’s meaningless without Ruth. She was the light of my life.”
Helene stared at me with frenetic eyes. I was beginning to believe she was losing her mind.
“Your life is meaningless? What about me, Helene? I’m your husband, for crying out loud!”
“Oh, come on, Richard! It’s about time we admitted the truth. Our marriage is a sham! And now Ruth is gone! There’s nothing left for me!” Helene turned and started walking away.
“Ruth! All you ever talk about is Ruth!” I yelled after her. “You’ve been consumed with her for years! I always wondered but now I know why you were never interested in sex, laying in our bed like a cold fish. You were in love with Ruth, weren’t you?”
Helene started running; I caught up with her, reaching for her arm. She screamed “Don’t touch me, Richard! Just go away and leave me alone!”
Pulling away, Helene ran toward the craggy cliffs. In a horrifying instant she was gone, plunging headlong against the rocks and disappearing into the sea.
Aghast, I stood staring into the abyss. “Goddamn, you, Helene!” I shouted. “Go be with your precious Ruth!”
After a long while alone on the cliffs I walked back to my rental and drove to the hotel. I saw no reason to rush back home. Perhaps I’d head to the Amalfi Coast. Too bad Helene had to end her stay so abruptly.
NAR © 2021