visiting Napoli.

by s.m.

“How long has your family lived here?” she asked as they walked down the hall.

He furrowed his brow.  “Five years?  I think it’s been five years.  Maybe a little longer.  My father didn’t want to move for a long time.  Now he has to drive to work, which annoys him, I think.  But it’s much easier for Chiara to get to school, and it’s a nicer neighborhood.”  They passed a small dining room, a bath, and then came to three doors at the end of the hall.  “Chiara’s room, Papa’s room, our room,” he said, pointing at each in a counter-clockwise arc.  He opened the door to the room that was theirs.  Inside, she saw a double bed, a chest of drawers, and a bookcase of trophies.  Medals hung from ribbons nailed to the wall.  Silver bowls, framed photos, his entire career of accolades crammed into this dark little bedroom.

She began studying them, exhibits in the museum of Paolo.

“These are recent,” she remarked.

“Some,” he said.  “There’s some old ones, too.”  He pulled some pieces off a shelf and took out a small plaque, the size of a paperback book.  It was wood laminate and brass-faced, engraved with his name, a club name, and the year 1994.  “This was my first golden boot award.”  He grinned and handed it to her.

She traced the letters on the brass with her fingertips.  “You were eight?”

“Eight or nine, something like that.”

“Did you know, then?”

“I think this was the moment I realized it was possible.  This was the last time I played just for fun.”  He took the plaque from her and placed it back on the shelf.  “The bathroom is just right here,” he said, changing his wistful tone and walking out of the room, pointing at a narrow door in the hallway.

She turned back and looked around the room.  Of course she had never noticed a single award in his flat, no sign of the fifteen years he had dedicated to the sport.  She wondered, briefly, if the picture she’d given him for Christmas would end up here as well.  On the edge of the dresser was a framed snapshot of a young Paolo in jeans and a replica Napoli jersey, Lucia holding a chubby, toddler Chiara, and Amedeo looking dapper and proud, his hand on Paolo’s head, smiling into the sun; Francesca picked it up.  They looked to be on holiday, Lucia and Chiara were wearing pretty dresses, Amedeo reminded her of an actor in his sunglasses, and Paolo’s jersey looked new, it looked like he refused to take it off.  He seemed, if she had to guess, to be the same age as she was when her father died.  She replaced the photo on the dresser.