On the day that I was walking past the tourist trap DaVinci “museum” in Florence, I did not know that the wooden bike out front was a phony. By phony, I do not mean it is not the original made by Leonardo himself. I mean that the whole concept is fake.
Did DaVinci design a bicycle? Read this and then come back here for a few minutes of soap opera in which an already shaky and fragile relationship that inspired this trip lurches right off a cliff. Or ignore the link and keep on reading. Names may be changed for legal reasons and events elided for continuity, but nothing else.
Our few days enroute to Florence had been difficult. Problems that began in Amsterdam were a red flag. It was a mistake to ignore them. I should have broken off the joint trip right there and gone on alone. Whenever I think about that failure, I am amazed at my stupidity in not recognizing those incidents as serious warnings.
Example? The Italian-operated, overnight train from Paris to Florence, as previously reported, was a mess, old, dirty, poor service, the usual. The walls were thin and the doors poorly fitted. To aggravate matters, for all the privacy they provided, the sleeping compartments may as well been divided by loosely hanging curtains like those in India.
You could clearly hear normal conversations from one compartment in another. The previously reported dispute during which the dining car operator threatened the student travelers took place in the passageway at the far end of the car. Our compartment was at one end. Every word of that dispute was heard even though the doors to our compartment and theirs were closed.
Given that lack of privacy, a private person like me will speak in a soft, quiet voice, even for irrelevant subjects like the weather. Despite my adventurous life, when it comes to the truly intimate, I am very private about my bumpity-bump.
There is no delicate way to say this. Eve was a screamer. When we were in a solid room in upscale hotels in New York and Amsterdam, she was vocal and loud about what she wanted, when she wanted it, how hard she wanted it and how she felt about things in general. I did my priapic best to respond and provide my own part of a good dialog. Explicit, noisy, messy, satisfying communication was had by all.
The trouble in the train began when she said she did not care if anyone might hear us. My problem was, not that anyone might hear us. My problem was I knew that *everyone* would hear us.
I cared about that, both as a matter of privacy and propriety.
The verbal battering I got for saying that was a hard shock. It went on far too long and became increasingly loud. It became as loud as it might have had we actually gone ahead and done it anyway. I thought she was being outrageous and pathetic. It became one of the most unpleasant nights I’d ever spent with a woman.
But, trains being as relentless as they are, even if they are Italian, they eventually arrive, as did we, into the harsh morning of noisy, touristy Florence. I could not help thinking that overnight, literally, this woman had become that most burdensome of all things, an intimate stranger. Similies of being chained to a rabid animal came to mind.
We found our hotel. As soon as we were in the room, we agreed that we would be civil and make the best of what was a bad situation for both of us. We headed out to find breakfast and stop at the local tourist office.
Along the way, walking on one of the main streets, I saw that full-sized copy of the purported Da Vinci bike parked across the street. In the interest of the pretense of harmony and pleasantness I said, “Oh look, there’s a copy of the Da Vinci bike.”
She never turned her head, neither towards the bike nor me. She continued walking and facing straight ahead as she snarled, “If I want a fucking tour guide, I’ll hire one. And if he doesn’t want to fuck, I’ll hire a different one.”
We parted company permanently, as quickly after that as I could. The rest of my trip through Italy was only slightly lonesome, but otherwise, genuinely pleasant.
Fake though it may have been, DaVinci’s wooden bike got me where I needed to be.