The house, being by itself with no near neighbors, at the end of the peninsula in a grove of old eucalyptus, had a considerable plot of flat, sun drenched land connected to it which contained the old sticks and bones of a once prosperous garden.

Considering all its other amenities this seemed almost to be too bountiful a paradise and I felt that with my newly acquired role as "normal", having acquired with it a certain sense of humility and modesty, that it was only by some miracle outside my own undeserved right that I was here and able to enjoy it. But enjoy it I did. With Suzies help I cleared away the scrub and weeds, some taller than I, that filled the undug beds and paths and sorted them into piles, one for burning, the others, in order of their coarseness to use to layer compost piles. I had big plans considering that the closest I had come to gardening was during those days of prehistoric memory. Those days which at times seemed only like parts of a child's fevered dreams, like dreams of flight or of spaceships landing in the corn. The first, when, as a child on the farm where I spent my first years my grandmother would guide me down the rows and bend to caress tomato plants on the neatly tied vines which shaded their rich red fruit from the mid-summer sun.

The next, when, as master with nothing better to do I would order the peasants to prune and dig and plant the vast estate surrounding the palace of the southern capitol of my God-like glory, where I was, unbeknownst a prisoner of obsession, greed and my own relentless boredom.

But now it was different. Now it was my hands that blistered, my arms that ached from hours in the sun with an English garden fork and spade, molding and shaping the raised beds where, finally, like sacraments on fertile tongues, I laid the seeds to sprout.

Suzie worked next to me, singing as she cut and carried and later, in her straw hat with the broad brim and her loose linen dress whose skirts lifted with each breeze, where she walked the rows with a dancing step with her watering can to tenderly feed each budding flower.

I had become obsessed with French intensive gardening and, as was usual with my Mr. Toad-like obsessions, collected arm loads of books with each infrequent visit to the city. I marveled at pictures of the original market gardens on the hilltops of Paris where, beneath glass globes, cabbages, lettuce and the other crops- a bewildering assortment of color and texture too numerous to count grew, tended by bent backed men and women in peasant blue. I came to be an expert in the various cultivation methods and a chemist as well as I tested the soil and measured out the fish and blood meal, the phosphorous rock, the horse manure and compost with which to bring the soil to its optimum state. Suzie called me Farmer Bob.

Each evening we would end our labor with a sauna and a long soak in the hot tub, on the deck as we watched kayaks gliding in the distance and seagulls dive for fish. We drank but not excessively and smoked the huge cigar-like joints that suzie rolled for us from the resin drenched sensillmilla buds she seemed to have and endless supply of until we dragged ourselves to bed where we traversed each others bodies far into the night..

It seemed idyllic but, as always, there were snakes among the flowers.

Suzie started talking about marriage soon after we had settled into our seeming state of boundless bliss. She said it was because of me, because of how what I wrote made her feel when I read to her, as I became accustomed to doing, in the evenings while we lay in bed, sinking into the feather mattress after once more making love.

Why it was that words made her think these thoughts and why my words in particular was another mystery without answer. As I usually did with things that I didn't know how to deal with I agreed with her and then forgot about them, thinking that it was part of the internal dialog of women and that, like much of what women said, was only spoken to externalize some momentary emotion that flitted, like a butterfly, across her vision before dying; like a butterfly without a stomach that lives for a day, that spreads it's wings for one momentary flight of glory and then falls dead like petals from the sky.

Only this butterfly didn't go away. It kept reincarnating itself and gathering strength and soon took on a sturdiness of purpose that far outreached my ability to erase it from memory.

And so it was that I too began to think of what it would be like to be married to Suzie.

"Oh baby," she said, sighing, as she climbed down from her normal perch above me and ran her hand down my chest, causing the hairs to stand up as her fingers passed them on her intent path to the forest between my legs where, as she said, "the big tree grew" that every night she chopped down.

"Yes?" I replied, recognizing the preamble to another longer conversation by the way the words sighed in the air between us, softly like a springtime breeze which, when spent, left behind the smell of narcissus and lily of the valley as harbingers of spring.

"We could move to Italy." She said, after a long pause.

"Yeah?" I replied.

Now it was Italy. In the beginning it was Hawaii that was the site of the paradise that we, the newly minted Adam and Eve, would return to and carry on the work of mankind before the fall. Italy became the destination as a result of something I told her one night, inadvertently, about something I remembered from my childhood. The root of memory was a letter I found in the bottom drawer of my parents dresser during one of my investigations into the origins of the sounds I heard, the sighs and muffled groans in the night, which wafted up from the register in the floor of my bedroom, over theirs in the tiny farm house that seemed so spacious in my memory but, much too tiny for the drama once contained within. Eventually I returned, years later on that doomed excursion into the wilderness of my past, to again fall in love with my childhood sweetheart until I was dragged mindless and without comprehension from her dead body by Dominique. Then the house seemed so small, as if made for midgets.

I didn't find the answer there, in those cedar smelling drawers, to those noises in the night whose origins now seem so obvious but I did find magazines with half naked women in them, and old letters in ribbon bound stacks of brittle envelops bearing stamps from exotic ports and descriptions of the day to day swindles of my father the war time merchant marine purser. One, in particular I discovered among those letters in which I found the phrase I remembered. Although I didn't then understand what it meant, something about it stuck with me until, finally, even that ancient haunt was laid to rest.

"Their father was a count who had large holdings in Ribera."

I remember how, in the years that followed I would turn those lyrical words over and over in my mind, repeating them like a mantra that held within it a promise of mysteries unbounded. It was only with the death of Dominique that I discovered the twisted truth behind her madness and how those words were the key to every mystery.

Strange how even in this incarnation they would return to work their will in a new guise, as if they had some preternatural power over me that nothing could dispel.

And so we spoke of Italy. We read books about the history of the Sicilian people and collected pictures of the landscape around Ribera. In time we knew every road and outcropping of rock and every villa on the narrow roads through the countryside. We planned in detail how the villa would look and what kind of flowers we would plant in the garden. It seemed safe enough, after all it would take some effort to actually do what we conjoured. I should have known better, knowing myself, and how easily fiction transubstantiates into fact. I shouldn't have allowed myself to pretend I was so naive.

All I really wanted was to be left alone- to not be drawn up into another futile hunt for the holy Grail. I wanted to figure out some of the things I had avoided so unscrupulously. I had in mind to write another book, only this time it would be different. I wasn't exactly sure how different or in what way but I knew I didn't want to go over old ground. No more autobiographies of the damned for me or archetypical characters, nothing larger than life. I wanted it to be grounded in real life. I wanted to talk about how the sun smelled at mid day, how pine needles tickled the soles of my feet, what a robins egg looked like cupped blue in the nest.

In a way unfamiliar to me I felt happy to get up in the morning whenever I felt like it- to feel Suzie's hot body curled around me like a spoon, I wanted to sit on the deck in the sun and smell the salt or go for walks that ended only with the sunset along the endless beaches that bordered the village. None of these things contained any great and looming purpose. It didn't matter one way or another whether I did them today, tomarrow or even if I ever did them. No one was clamoring for me, demanding my time, making of me anything other than what I made of myself.

But Suzie kept up her talk of Italy. Sure we could have gone. It would have been easy. It has always been easy to leave. But now it want so easy. I felt connected, attached somehow by some means I didn't fully understand to the spot where I stood, the path that I walked, the trees and plants on either side of the path. I didn't want to be a vagabond. I didn't want to delve into the unknown, not like that, because for me those options were ones which had long ago grown worn with use until the unknown outside of me narrowed down to the borders of my skin- until, suddenly, looking inward for the first time, I discovered the microcosm of all I had looked outward for before.

But that was me. Suzie lived on the surface of life, she flitted from flower to flower gathering no dust and leaving no lasting trace of her passing, only the memory, like that of honeysuckle on the vagrant wind or sunlight on a birds wing on the downstroke. For her, each moment was a universe unconnected except by relativity to any other. There was no reason to draw lines in the dirt connecting all the parts, no need to etch out borders for the sites of buildings that would never need to be built or if built would never be inhabited. There was no need, in other words, to make sense of what was, in her opinion senseless.

So, it was Italy, not as an actual destination but as a symbol for paradise lost that claimed her obsession. For if she had a weakness it was that she was an incurable romantic.