The incongruous appearance of the Chinese lanterns, tissue thin, is what I like to remember now; that and the cat that hovered around us. Every time it opened its mouth it sounded like a plague of crickets, like an omen. It was so cold that winter. I spent my time wishing away the one-eyed stares, those ancient flagstones, so slippery when wet. The lack of any kind of hope. You claimed no allegiance, but never once complained. You accepted the inconvenience. In fact, you’d grown to love it. That Sunday in Messina felt like all of the Sundays I’d ever experienced in the whole of my life: barren, as if the entire world was lost in a slumber from which no one could wake. Someone’s mother, not yours, and surely not mine, sloshed our narrow street with a bucket of soapy water. I watched the iridescent sluice with something akin to despondency. You disregarded the moment, perhaps sensibly. Instead, you offered the old woman, bent at angles, proud in the navy blue and black. Like a banner of endurance you said. A woman is not a bird, I said, but perhaps you knew better. The glow from the stufa cast your face into shadow, made your heavy brow look like the prow of a ship. I stood aside, prayed for the light of day. You rubbed your hands so hard I thought that any moment you might burst into flames.