Robert Wallace Paolinelli

705 Vallejo St.

San Francisco, Ca 94133






It all seems so fantastical now. Did all of it really happen? Of course it did. I don't know why I bother with rhetorical questions. But as I look at my journal I see how real it was, how beautifully real and, at times, strange, as if the events wove themselves. Are we really just puppets in some great, cosmic puppet show moving at the will of the puppeteer pulling the strings, even forming the words in our mouths? Again the philosopher in me emerges--I'd like to cast that part of me away, hurl it as far as I can.

For too long I lived a narrow life; and that life was challenged, threatened, mocked, tempted and finally slain one serene�night on the beach at San Benedetto.

For three days I had sat in my room in the quaint pensione where I was staying. It was a small, comfortable room which had a balcony with a small table and two chairs and the most spectacular view of the beach, the bay and a far off island that was always in a haze, which made my looking at it send me into flights of fancy I'd not had since I was a boy with a wild imagination full of exotic isles, shipwrecks and castaways. I had to shake my head to bring myself back to reality. Reality? My reality was a humbug, a threadbare coat better left in the trash heap. I was in a deep melancholy.

My journal reads: "In my little room with its unhampered view of the bay, I might as well be a castaway on a remote island. What I see before me is like a colorful mirage, but I am disconnected from this place and the easy-going ways of the local people and the holiday atmosphere of the tourists. Where do I fit into all of this?"

I had left my spontaneity and sense of humor somewhere in the past; I couldn't laugh at anything; food didn't taste good, my pipe was bitter; and the loneliness I had hoped to assuage was not assuaged, but exacerbated. I was disconsolate. In the short span of two years I found myself a widower and unsatisfied in my work at a certain university in California. Classical philology, my field, no longer satisfied me. Words and languages--God, I was sick of them. I wanted to scream! I resigned in a fit of pique at a faculty meeting. It was just another faculty meeting to discuss department policy and the curricula for the next semester. The meeting seemed to go on forever. Points, which to me seemed trivial, were argued over endlessly; and my pompous colleagues delighted in their learned opinions punctuating their remarks with imperious nods, finger shaking and mocking smirks. I was disgusted with the lot of them. On a note pad I wrote a very brief sentence and handed the pad to the chairman of the department. I had written: "I resign from the faculty and from the university--effective immediately."

As I rose out of my chair I proclaimed to the assembly, "Goodbye, gentlemen. I am going to Italy."

Two weeks later, I stood on the deck of the HMS Uganda (which I'd boarded in New York). As the tugs loosed their lines and we were free, it occurred to me suddenly that I had resigned! I astonished myself that I had done such a bold thing! I was giddy. Really. I'd never done a bold thing in my life. The life of a fifty year old classical philologist has little opportunity for boldness except in a very strict, academic sense.

And Italy. Why had I said Italy? Why not Samoa, Crete Patmos or some remote island? But I said Italy and I don't know why. Nonetheless I went to that sunny land

I was yearning for freedom--a freedom--but freedom from what? Financially, I was well-heeled. I even owned a piece of property. I had friends. My health was good and I could converse in half a dozen languages--but I didn't want to talk to anyone--yet I was lonely. I could not, however, break the depression of my melancholy, my loneliness, my dissatisfaction with my life. I disembarked in Naples and immediately entrained for San Benedetto; but the freedom I sought went wanting.

For three days I stayed in my room and had my midday meal, also, in my room. The pensione had a small dinning room where I took my morning coffee and bread, however, very early so I would not have to mingle with the other guests. Back in my room I would read, write in my journal, take cat naps and waited, wanting something drastic to happen.

Even though my spirits were at their nadir, and in spite of what I was going through, I was still able to sit, appreciatively so, out on the balcony, at the table and look down from my spot and watch the early morning sun light up the hill like a golden banner slowly unfurling, until the sunlight changed the silent blue waters below into a blanket of flickering mirrors. I liked that. And I waited for that daily event with great anticipation. On the morning of my third day of wretched (and self-imposed) solitude, I was standing on my balcony per usual. In the cathedral-like quiet of the early morning, I heard footsteps and turned my head.

Coming around the corner and starting down the serpentine road to the beach was a young woman. I could see her clearly; she was dressed in a lavender peasant skirt which had two large pockets; she wore a pastel yellow blouse. She had long, dark hair which reached past her shoulders. I guessed her to be in her early thirties.

She stopped on her way down and pulled a flower to her nose then (I guess) after having savored its redolence, let it go and I saw her wave to the flower and her voice carried up to me in the soft morning, "Grazie, fioretta mia," that is to say, Thank you, my little flower. She was actually thanking the flower--even waving to it. She was like a child, a silly child, I thought. Talking to a flower--indeed!

Around the bends of the serpentine road she went, sometimes skipping, sometimes lifting herself up on tiptoe to peek over a fence. I watched her antics, and I found myself suddenly amused by them; by the time the lower curves hid her from view, I almost envied her her innocence.

I kept my eyes on the beach for I knew in a few minutes she would reach the end of the road and I was sure she was going to walk on the beach. I was right; for soon she reappeared on the strand heading for the water. I went to my bags and took out my small, but powerful binoculars; I was going to "spy" on this naiad who had caught my fancy.

At the water's edge she took off her sandals and, putting them into her skirt's pockets, waded into the water up to the hem of her skirt. Small waves lapped at the hem and she tugged at her skirt and raised it to her knees; and,carrying her skirt, she walked slowly, now looking up to the hill town, then back to the open sea, sometimes lowering her head and looking into the water. I followed her every move. Admittedly, I felt a little guilty. I felt an intruder into a private setting, as if I were spying on her through the window of her house. Nevertheless, I focused in on her as she left the water, and, finding a spot, she sat with her back to me and looked out over the bay. After a while I saw her take dry sand and rub away the wet sand which clung to her feet and calves. Slowly, gently, unhurriedly, she rubbed away the wet sand, revealing well-formed ankles and feet. I was watching a living statue and was enjoying every minute of it.

She seemed to be lost in a daydream. I could tell by the way she was sitting and not moving that she was in some reverie, and for a moment I, too, wanted a reverie, a fantasy, a house made of clouds which I could change at will. I was ashamed of myself for such envy. However, maybe I was wrong. Perhaps she was not having a reverie. Maybe she was just an immature woman with foolish holiday notions; nonetheless, she was bewitching me with her seeming foolishness. But a side of me was pulling me away from that cynical perception. No, I was determined: I would not allow a little brightness to be put into the shadows of my funk. I left the balcony and went to the sink and, throwing some cold water in my face, said to my myself in the mirror: "Wake up to joy and stop feeling so sorry for yourself, Darius."

By the time I returned to my spying and refocused my binoculars on my angelic alter ego, fishing boats were being beached and I could see the fishermen putting out their catch in wicker baskets; some of the fishermen had small scales in hand and now people from San Benedetto were starting to come down to buy fresh fish for the noon meal.

But I was interested in the woman on whom I was spying, and the hustle and bustle of the fish sale was not of interest to me. I saw her approach one of the boats on which a bouquet of fresh flowers hung from its side. I saw her approach (I guess) the owner and for a few moments they engaged in conversation and I could see the unshaven fisherman shake his head (no) several ties, but then he burst into a smile and, taking a flower from the bouquet, handed it to her.

She'd probably asked him if the flowers were for sale and he'd said no, but gallantly offered her one. I was having fun. I was interpreting what was going on with her. I felt the master spy and half smiled to myself.

Eventually I lost her in the sunbathers who were gathering at the beach. I looked frantically for her; but she was gone, vanished like a vapor in the hot Italian sun.

As I put my binoculars down I came to the sudden realization that I was feeling better. How odd? I never thought one could ever feel good about intruding on someone; but I did, and I was so relieved that I dressed for a stroll, took my binoculars--just in case--and with my hat on my head went out into the soft sunny morning and walked about, looking around the old and picturesque town, and ever hoping I would run into my muse.

On a street in the upper reaches of the town, I saw a cafe and decided to stop, rest and refresh myself. I bought a local newspaper, then sat at an outside table and ordered an espresso and a small glass of brandy. I usually don't drink; but I wanted to do something out of my ordinary way of doing things. And even though it wasn't even noon, I took the brandy to my lips, then drank some of the coffee and let the two mingle in my mouth for a while, then slowly let them trickle down my throat in an exquisite blend of flavors. I was pleased that my tastes had re-awakened so I took another sip of both, and spent the better half of my time in the cafe taking small sips and savoring the delightful blend. With a renewed voice, I ordered another round of delicious brandy and espresso, and loading my pipe, smoked tranquilly, browsing through the paper until I saw a small article stating the church of San Benedetto in Alto was sponsoring an evening of madrigals sung by members of the church chorus, to be held that very night in the church at eight p.m. I decided to go. I looked through the want ads out of curiosity. I even saw an ad for an English language teacher at a local school and was tempted to respond to it; after all, I am imminently qualified to teach English--but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I'd come to this bright, sunny land...for...? What was I seeking? Enough! I brushed away these thoughts as the double brandy took effect and a mellow euphoria settled over me and, frankly, I didn't give a damn about anything unfound or profound. I turned the pages of the newspaper until I found the puzzle section, and with a freshman's delight, tackled a rather difficult rebus, answered three riddles, then worked the crossword puzzle--something I rarely did.

By the time the last squares of the crossword were penned, I found myself with an appetite and I was certain that back at the pensione there would be fresh fish on the noon table.

I called for my check, paid and left, leaving the newspaper on the table and made my way to the pensione--ever (now) on the lookout for my muse of contentment.

On my way down, I looked up to the top of the hill and could make out the bell tower of the church of San Benedetto in Alto, and I looked forward to the evening's musical offering.


San Benedetto in Alto was packed with both tourists and locals; the main doors were kept open as well as the side doors, for the press of the people and the smallness of the church made the inside hot and sticky. Everyone waited for a venticello to cool the atmosphere. I kept turning, looking around, hoping I would see the woman I longed to see again. I studied every woman with long hair in my sight. Alas, she was not there. And when I had established that she would not be found there, the stuffy atmosphere made me want to leave. Originally I had come for the music, but knowing my muse was not there, too, I did not want to stay. At last, however, a breeze did blow in, refreshing the stagnant air and a sigh of relief could be heard from the crowd and after that the five madrigalists, taking deep breaths of the refreshing air, continued their performance with renewed vigor.

At the end, the audience called out praises in ten different languages and the applause pleased the singers who sang us a short song as an encore.

We clapped again and the concert was over. I left with the rest of the audience and stepped out into one of the most beautiful nights I'd seen in a long time.

The moon hung like a slender scimitar surrounded by a brilliance of stars; a warm breeze was blowing in from the sea bringing with it the smell of the sea; crickets were chirping a postlude--so it seemed--to the lovely music I'd just finished hearing. As people made their way, they spoke in soft voices almost as if in unconscious agreement to maintain the solemnity of the recent music and the serenity of the night.

Stimulated, I did not want to go back to my room which had confined me like an exile's cell for too many days and nights. I would stroll. By taking the small side streets instead of the main road down the hill, I made my way zigzagging through the narrow lanes of old San Benedetto until I reached the beach.

I strolled to the edge of the water and took in deep draughts of sea air and looked out over the water of the bay hoping to see the lights of a ship far out at sea. Turning, I saw a fire up the beach a ways. Curious, I headed for the fire; but first I rolled up my cuffs to my knees, took off my shoes and socks, and, carrying them in one hand, waded in the water, smoked my pipe and took my time walking. I was in no hurry and did not feel impinged by time.

For once I was beginning to feel equilibrium in my soul and I thought I could kiss my blues goodbye.

At the fire I had a pleasant shock. Around the fire sat about ten people (all, I found out in the course of the evening) foreigners staying at various hotels, who had become acquainted and were having a night picnic. One of the nocturnal picnickers was my naiad of the morning!

"Won't you join us?" asked several friendly voices, one of which I was convinced was the woman I had spied on. I did not have to think too long about my response. "Thank you, I'd like that," I said, making my way into the circle and sitting myself down as close as I could to my naiad, without seeming too forward. I wanted to talk to her; but my habit of social reserve had me at a loss as to how I could break the ice; but I did not have to worry because she spoke to me first.

"I think you're renting a room near mine. Aren't you staying at the Pensione Porta Del Sole? I'm sure I've seen you."

"Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am--room six."

"Exactly!" she said excitedly,"And I'm in number seven. Pleased to meet you, neighbor. Where are you from?"

"California. And you?"

"Ontario, and you can call me Anna," she said as she leaned over the guest who sat between us. I took her hand even though it was rather awkward shaking hands across someone's lap, so when I let go her hand I stood up. "May I join you?"

"Please do," she said, scooting over making room for me.

"And you can call me Darius."

"Ah, Darius, like the ancient Persian emperor."

"Exactly!" I said, trying to copy her use of the word and her excitement as I had heard it.

"You're not an emperor, are you?" she asked with an impish grin, and I had to laugh; it felt good to laugh.

"Hardly. And if I could be an emperor, I wouldn't want to be one. What for? Living every day is difficult enough for one man. Imagine the difficulties of an empire. No thank you."

"Well, I'm glad you're not an emperor, Darius...would you like some wine, something to eat?" she asked.

She got up. When she returned one hand held a paper plate laden with cold cuts, cheese, olives, bread, apricots and in the other, a bottle of red wine.

"No one thought to bring glasses; we'll have to swig it from the bottle, neighbor," she said in her humorous and friendly manner.

I was beginning to like her a lot, for she was satisfying a need in me for company and the freedom to banter; but it was her light-heartedness which endeared me to her. Her spirit was fresh and unpretentious. Being now close to Anna, she was prettier than I had remembered. Her skin was soft, smooth and she wore no makeup.; her eyes were hazel, warm, happy; her lips were the haven of smiles, grins, kind and funny words.

The food was good and plentiful; the wine was strong, rustic and went to my head quickly. Anna and I had passed the bottle many times and I was tipsy. The spirit of Bacchus was upon me. I smiled at myself for the private mirth I was feeling.

Anna and I became fast friends. We laughed together and we joined in when someone started singing. We sang the words when we knew them and hummed along when we didn't. We ate more food, drank more wine. A thermos of hot, sweet coffee was produced; again cups had been forgotten. But who cared? Certainly none of us did. We were having a jolly time and demitasse or no, the coffee was what counted. So the thermos' single cap-cup did service for all of us and was passed around as the common cup.

I was suddenly full of energy and turning to Anna, I suggested a walk.

"What a fine idea, Darius." I put my shoes in my back pockets, and off we went.

The wine was at its peak and I was in a wonderful state of excitement. I was convinced my melancholy was behind me.

As I walked next to Anna, my loneliness was assuaged. I felt as if I didn't need to be lonely anymore. Suddenly this stranger meant more to me than any other living being I knew. How quickly I let my happiness be predicated on the fulfillment of outward wishes, giving over to Anna the reason for my sudden release from loneliness.

And that's what I did with Anna: Used her as my source. She was my salvation from the misery I'd been living. Ever since I saw her she had become the symbol of the joy and spontaneity I lacked in my life.

I was smitten. I was convinced I had fallen in love with her in the brief time since we had left the picnic circle. I even had it in mind to boldly declare this new-found love for her. But I didn't get chance to do that.

I am not a drinker; and all in the same day I had had strong brandy and now, at the picnic, I must have helped drink a bottle or more of wine. The euphoria of Bacchus was replaced by queasiness, a spinning head. My high spirits plummeted; while I tried to fight the gathering physical responses to too much drink, I fell, once again into that wretched pit of melancholy.

Anna held me as I bent to the waves and, much to my chagrin, heaved into the sea, soiling the front of my shirt.

"Take you shirt off, Darius."

I did and she washed the soiled part for me in the surf. The front was wet, so I threw it over my shoulders.

"Your kindness and solicitousness are appreciated, Anna. I rarely drink and today I guess I've overdone it." I was a little ashamed of myself.

"Maybe it was something you needed to do, Darius. If you want, we can sit here until you feel well enough to go back. Ok?"

"Thank you. I really don't feel like walking. Sitting down sounds just fine to me."

We settled into the sand. Neither of us spoke; we just sat side by side listening to the lap of the gentle waves, soothing, healing waves. A breeze cooled me. We heard the cry of an unseen night bird and we both turned at the same time toward the sound.

It took a while, but my body was beginning to calm down; my nausea was over and the spinning in my head stopped. My spirit was quiet, and I gave myself up to the moment and, turning to Anna, I said: "I want to confess something to you, Anna." I spoke in a low, contrite voice.

She turned. "Confess what, Darius?"

"I spied on you."

"Spied? What on earth are you talking about?"

I opened up to her, told her everything about my life for the past couple of years, my loneliness, my dissatisfaction at the university, my spur-of-the-moment resignation and leaving for Italy, and the three miserable days I'd spent in my room. "But when I saw you wave to the flower and say, 'Grazie, fioretta mia,' well--I called you a fool. However, that was the beginning. Your act touched me in such a way that I had to admit I was envious of your happiness. You gave me something precious, Anna. All day I was hoping I'd see you again. I even wanted to leave the madrigal concert when I saw you weren't there. And now look at me: A drunk sobering up and talking like a fool."

"You're not a fool, Darius. Don't say that; it's not being kind to yourself. I'm only sorry you didn't feel free enough to call down to me and wish me a buon giorno yourself. As you can see, I don't bite and I'm rather friendly. Don't you think so?"

Of course she was right. I could have called down to her. I was genuinely embarrassed and I muttered an apology.

"Don't apologize for being who and what you are. Don't be ashamed of yourself, Darius. You've got a gregarious and jolly side to you, only you don't admit to it often enough. You've been positively lovely all evening. Don't you remember singing and laughing?"

"It was the wine," I said in defense.

"Well, if it was the wine, then in vino veritas."

She had me on that point.

The way she spoke to me was direct, but not critical, making me feel comfortable with her soft way of speaking and her gentle manner which allowed me to muster up the courage to tell her: "And, another thing...I think I'm in love with you, Anna."

Her face spread into a broad grin. "That's sweet of you, Darius; it's the perfect thing to hear on such a beautiful night. But I know you really don't mean it because you only say you think you love me--not that you are in love with me. If you really loved me you would say it without conditions. But thank you just the same...yes, a perfect night to say such things..."

"There, I've made a fool of myself again."

"No, you haven't, and stop beating yourself up. I'm not offended and I hope you're not offended for speaking my mind. Don't take yourself so seriously. Count your blessings and enjoy your vacation...and, anyway, I wouldn't want a man to love me unless he was first in love with himself, So, there, professor, put that in your pipe and smoke it," she said, with an impish voice as she poked me with her finger as if to emphasize her point.

I had to laugh. "I surrender!" I shouted jovially, with which I took out my pipe and tobacco pouch. "Ok, here goes, I'm going to put your words in my pipe and smoke them."

"That's the spirit, Darius! Puff away."

We talked until silence came to us again. Unconsciously our hands found eachother's, and I didn't want to be in any part of the world other than where I was, and I didn't want to be with any other person except Anna. I sat with her, our hands joined, enjoying only the moment, the joyous, moment of peace with Anna in San Benedetto, with the waves, the scimitar moon and the brilliance of stars overhead keeping us company.

"Would you put your arm around me, Darius. I feel a bit chilly," she said, breaking the silence. As I scooted closer to her I put my arm across her shoulders. Her left hand reached up and took my hand then she slipped her free arm around my waist.

She snuggled up close to me. "Now it's my turn, Darius: I want to confess something to you."

"What could you have to confess to me?" I asked in a curious voice.

"When you accepted the invitation to join us tonight, I was pleased and I was hoping you would sit next to me."

I was flattered, but, at the same time I said, using her own words: "I'm only sorry you didn't feel free enough to say that after you introduced yourself."

"Ha, you're learning fast, Darius--but at least I made an effort to get to know you, otherwise, I think you would have sat on the other side of me and not said a word--and that's why I took the initiative and introduced myself."

"I'm glad you did; I wanted to talk to you, too, but I didn't know how to break the ice."

"Then I'm glad I did," she said.

"And so am I," I said, squeezing her hand. She turned her face to me. "Darius, do you still think you love me?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because I want to do something crazy, something delightful and wonderful--but only until sunrise. When the sun comes up it's over."

I looked at her quizzically. "What do you have in mind?" I asked with great inquisitiveness

"First of all I want to say a few things--and then we can play a game," she said, with a quick change in her voice from serious to devilish and back to seriousness: "You think you've found some kind of ideal in me; that somehow I've become your healer; that I'm ever so happy and that my happiness has made you happy. One side of that is good. I'm happy that my happiness brought some of your joy of life back--but I'm not forever, and any kind of stimulus I give you--well what are you going to do when the source, of your new-found happiness is gone? Trust yourself, Darius, to be the source. If tonight the wine brought out your truer nature, then learn from that...hold this night as a treasure, then leave San Benedetto. It will never be the same for you. Because if you stay this place will be a continuous source of unhappiness for you. Let San Benedetto always be a beautiful memory. And, one more thing: I'm not perfect, Darius. I have my own moments of grief. I had to go through a few periods of being blue myself--but I think I've got my feet on the ground, and found a niche here, in Italy--I even found a job. But your job is to keep going; and as you travel, leave behind all the vestiges of that miserable self you've been carrying around with you. Travel light, Darius, travel light...Now I come to the game: Let's be in love until dawn. We'll pretend we've been lovers for, for...oh, ever such a long time and tonight is our last night together. In the morning we part company."

"But that's crazy."

"I knew you would say that," she said in a feigned huff. "Don't you ever get tired of denying yourself some fun?" She looked at her watch. "It's just a little after one A.M. We've got at least, four, five hours until dawn. In that time we can give one another his heart. I've never done this before--and I know you haven't. You've nothing to lose."

"But I'd lose you."

"I am not yours. I was never yours to lose."

"What's the point? Why not just spend the rest of our vacation together--get to know each other better?"

"You will never get to know me better than tonight--even if you were to know me for the next twenty years. I am everything I shall ever be to a man the way I am tonight. Don't take my gift lightly, Darius. Don't debate the issue, don't question it--just love me until dawn--then leave."

I found myself almost in a panic. This was no common event; for me it was momentous and frightening. But I didn't want to lose this chance and I didn't want, most of all, to lose Anna. She had challenged me. I was afraid and I told her so.

"Don't be afraid to love me, Darius."

"I'm not afraid of loving you, it's not having you after sunrise."

"But that's the beauty of the game. Eventually we'd have to part. What difference does it make if it's only until dawn?"

"But I want you forever."

"Forever? That's a long time; and, who knows, one day one of us would tire of the other--one of us will even die. So what does that say about your forever? It's now or never; the choice is yours."

I sat a long time in silence--but with not a thought about love in my head. All I could think about was making a driftwood fire. I got up and began collecting pieces of driftwood.

"Dig a hole," I said, "we'll make a fire."

Pieces of burning seaweed left their pungency hovering as the fire found its draft and we sat down watching it burn. As it burned, casting our shadows on the sand, ,we turned to one another embracing and kissing ever so gently for the first time. We covered each other's faces with tender kisses and in soft voices declared our mutual love as if we had been lovers for a long, long time. Unabashedly, we exchanged endearments and meant every syllable.

"I never imagined I could love someone so deeply in such a short time," I said.

"And I never felt so loved by anyone as I feel loved by you, Darius. I'm so glad you love me," she said, tenderly, as she lovingly stared into my eyes.

"That only goes to show we should stay together, my beloved."

"Shh," she said, "don't talk like that. Don't take us away from our moment. Love me now, Darius, as you do. I feel your love, feel it in my heart. Oh, you are so full of love for me and I'm happy for your love. Do you see how easy it is, darling?"

"Yes; but a man wants more."

"But he can't have more. That's the trouble with the world: People always want more. Can't anyone ever be happy with what they've got? I have you now, Darius--I don't want anything else. There's no future, damn it! Don't you see that?" For a moment her voice was throaty, almost harsh.

"Now you sound like a philosopher."

"But I'm not. I'm a woman in love with a fine man and I want him--not more of him."

Her reasoning was more than a match for mine. Anna gazed at me with her soft, loving eyes. The fire had burned low and the soft glow of the coals dimly lit up her face, making it like the light and dark sides of an icon half lit by candlelight; and with that image in my mind, I gave myself over to unconditional release to love her this one night, this one night alone, and whether or not there was a future--for the moment, I didn't care. I was in love. Damn the future!

We lay on the sand, her head resting on my outstretched arm, looking into each other's eyes and stroking each other's face. I moved closer to her and touched her.

The incoming tide, wetting my naked feet, awakened me. The sun was up. I started and jumped up. For a moment I was confused and disoriented. The events of the night, however, came back to me, but Anna was gone and all that was left of her presence was her body's impression on the sand.

I did not linger at our love site, but made my way back to the pensione, packed my bags, paid my bill and walked to the train station.

I took the very next train going to Brindisi. As the train left the station I did not look back, but was trying to decide on whether I should take ship from Brindisi to Athens or Alexandria.