The Bay of Naples

It fails me now the quarter in which we were staying, Pedro and I, but we headed out from there. We passed the prostitutes under the flyover, cut through the throbbing perversity of the traffic, then slopped through the fish market. Into the ghetto Espagnolé, mothers scrubbing kids in tin baths in the street, toothless grandmas shelling peas on doorsteps, insults and curses and fights ricocheting from windows up and around: a poem of southern Italy. Past the concrete football pitch. Weeds growing up from the cracks. Bin bags and trash piled twelve foot high around the far perimeter. Refuge strikes. Rats strolling about freely. Cock-roaches the size of almonds. Out from the tall shaded third world into the sun baked thirder first world. Illegal Nigerians and Malians. Odd shoes, socks, rags, DVDs, video cassettes, saucepans, books, electrical gadgets, fabrics, blankets, broken toys, board games, cutlery... All splattered out along the pavement. Screaming pushing grabbing haggling fighting. The dribbling arsehole of the common market. Up Head, the bag snatchers on Vespers. Weaving in and out the traffic. Up on the pavement, whizzing by, arms reaching out, whether they're making a snatch or not. Piazza Garibaldi. The junkies of the central station. Those who've copped marching off like snivelling storm-troopers. A junkie girl. Bare bruised legs and flip flop feet, holding onto her man. Laughing. Life is sweet and it's just about to get sweeter. A poem of love in the South. Vacant stares on wastrel faces. A memory of the future. Down now, into the city proper. Syringes in the dustbins, packets of prescription drugs in the gutter, stains of human life in the doorways. The new wave punks sold on anarchy and printed slogans. Graffiti. Torn flapping posters. Leaflets. Flyers. A call to arms. Whistles and screams ringing out from manifestations. Police motorbikes parked outside cafés. Traffic cops staring out at the noise and heat and bustle over small espressos. Onto the main street. The sickening and universal smell of commerce turns out from revolving doors. Leather, perfume, polished floors, brass adornments, tailored shirts, fetish heels, gold trimmed bags, designer sunglasses, gold watches, rings and pearls and ground roasted coffee beans. The Vespas ever present. Smelling blood. Zipping by for the idiot girl who carries her bag road side. The homeless and the trash hosed away, back down to the station with the niggers and the whores and addicts. Up now. Climbing. The roads widen out and there's a haze in the near distance. Palm trees plotted along the central divide. They shake and whisper through faint breezes in the baked day. Huge rectangular advertising boards. Sun cream, breasts and bikini lines. The sea front. Salt and sand and sex and slime. A host of gay bars along the front. Pushed out to the very edge of the city. High class men of a certain fashion with strong jaws and designer stubbles. They sit outside looking like they're doing nothing but must be doing something. The weak lira smells strong. We climb now. The lira climbs with us. Up sea side inclines. Fantastic slanted houses and shops drunk on the hills. Transvestites and leather and sexual perversions in the safe damp of unfindable places. House whores. A Clandestine class. Studded motorbikes, piercings, industrial metal, open windows, reclusive artists working away in dark interiors. Paintings out in the street to dry. Streets getting so narrow now. Buildings trying to kiss as they lean forward. Mediterranean air. The roads wind up higher and become narrower. Little expensive cafés and bistros tucked away. A bar owner slops out a bucket of floor water for the sun to suck up. So hot. Humid. Condensation dripping from window sills. People in just shorts and sandals and sun glasses and cream. This is where they sigh all day and curse the world and heat. Where the evening arrives like a jewelled oasis. Up so high now and in front of me I can see the city, a steaming shit of ghettos and waste, of noise and pollution and history as as it eats itself up. Squalor, poverty, death, disease. It's all down there, rotting away in the streets and doorways. And Pedro exists. And he's running. His laugh is dreamy and it seems like he's in one of those tragic videos that I'll watch my entire life. And I watch him and he calls me, in Italian, soft contours. And this could be love and it should be love. I watch out from myself, drunk on the romance of a city of sadness and trash. And he's in the cool now, past the last bar on the highest point of the city. He's staring off over a wall and the air is rushing through his hair and I can smell the soap off his skin and something magic too. I climb the last step of hill and the shade and cool hits me like all of Italy is loving me at once. And for a moment the world goes quiet and the city behind me drifts silent and only the smell of the sun and of Pedro's image remains. I join him. And he says nothing, just stands there like a ships head looking out and full of breeze and something more than joy. Out in front of us is the Bay of Naples, an expanse of deep green sea with Vesuvius smoking away to the left. On the water is a single fishing boat and we can see the shadows of fish from here. And I say nothing to Pedro's silence. It's all feeling. And it's a great beautiful sad moment in our lives and our death talk of yesterday figures none. And we know, we both know, there is hope in this godforsaken world.... and in that moment, while the sea sat still and the city lay mute behind, we really and honestly had escaped the trappings of men.