Cosmo spent another couple of days ambling about town and getting drunk evenings. Wolfie had returned to his vow of silence, and Klaus and Helmut pursued their hobbies, leaving Cosmo pretty much to himself.
It was time to move on, and the thought made Cosmo anxious. It was too cold to stop in the Alps, and south of them lay Italy, the purported goal of his trip.
Wolfie let him know that he could stay; Cosmo could even have another room in one of his apartments when Peter came back, the full import of which Cosmo did not realize since he had no idea how difficult it was to find a place there. Cosmo seriously considered it, at least staying until there was another hot dog stew dinner. He knew it would be a long time until he tasted such fine wines again, if ever. He promised to return, but first he had an appointment with someone in Sienna.
The Italian border was a mere four hours away, and Cosmo hitched it in six. The border guards laughed as Cosmo pointed to his name in his passport and said, “Paisano!”
After safely skirting Milan, Cosmo had himself dropped off on a country road away from the highway. He wanted to see something, and most of all he did not want to arrive too quickly.
Once again he bought bread, cheese, salami and wine in small villages and set up his tent not far from the road. In Florence he was forced to go to a campground, but it was so conveniently located downtown that he did not mind. The people, however, were a different matter. The women wore expensive costumes, obviously designed by a cynical misogynist. Their high-heeled shoes pushed up their backsides enough to please the most anally fixated man. They squawked rather than talked, making even Italian – the most melodious of languages – sound garish.
He soon fled south again, and even though the rides he got were short and he stopped to marvel at San Gimignano and its skyline, he soon found himself being dropped off in Sienna. He made his way to the big square downtown, and then sat in an outdoor café for a good cup of cappuccino and to plan his next move. He supposed he would have to find the official campgrounds to use as a base and to wash himself and his clothes. Then he would check the language and art schools, and maybe he could find out if there were a place where students hung out. It was not such a big city.
The sun was shining and Cosmo soaked in its warmth. He had to admit it was somewhat different from the Italian section of his hometown. There was no denying that the old city was beautiful; perhaps it would be a nice place to stay. He wondered how much a language course would cost. Maybe that would even keep him from drinking too much.
Cosmo’s reverie was suddenly interrupted by loud laughing from three women at a table in the next café adjoining his. He almost dropped his cup; it was her.
She was facing in another direction, so Cosmo could only see her from the side. But her laugh and profile were unmistakable. He gazed at her and thought how beautiful and happy she looked. It seemed like ages since he had seen that same face said good bye to him in New Jersey, though at the same time the picture was in his mind as if it were only yesterday.
He sat and simply watched her and her two girlfriends, content with the world. “This has been a helluva trip,” he thought. He wanted to go over and talk to her and wondered how she would react. Would she be pleased? Maybe she would be angry, or maybe feign indifference.
Cosmo thought back to all the times before and during the trip when he imagined their meeting. The reality seemed too easy; he had found her too quickly. And then he tried to think of what he wanted from her. Yes, she sure was pretty, perhaps even prettier than any girlfriend he had ever had. And, …, and he tried to think.
Lisa paid and got up to leave.
“Ciao!” she called to her friends.
“Ciao,” Cosmo silently muttered, and decided that perhaps he should wait a day or two before approaching her, suddenly realizing that he wouldn’t.
He watched her walk off. “Ah,” he sighed, “Another time, another place, it could have been different.”
But now he had things to do. He heard the Greek islands were great, and then it would be on to Turkey. Maybe he would even take the Trans-Siberian railway to China, then go to Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand, Bali – who knows? – even Korea. He might come back one day and really visit Lisa and Wolfie and Wohnyo and Milos and all the others. But right now he had some things to do. He had wasted too much of his life already.