il ponte

THE BRIDGE Once again, it has been a very long day. Every second of it was lived to the full. Cell phones have run out of juice, even the phone chargers look tired from having fulfilled their duty countless times. His shirt has long lost its freshly-ironed morning crispness, looks like it has had enough of being tucked in and straightened up for the millionth time.

– I can’t wait to get to the hotel- he tells her. – Me too – replies Romina, his wife. They have just finished speaking to a winemaker: a colleague, in a sense. Or maybe it was a distributor who wanted to become a winemaker, just like them, or dreamed of one day becoming one. Memories have a hard time sticking when you have spent days meeting with and talking to hundreds of people. Faces melt into one another, voices are forgotten. Only a few sentences remain, a few words, words you hope not to forget: you hope that the restaurant-owner from Turin really understood, wasn’t just nodding politely, when you told him about the significance, for the Salento area, of Susumaniello, and you hope not to forget that lady with the silver hair, the one who told you that your wine, Lamiro, brought back to her the memory of the bitter almonds she would eat as a young girl, in the summer. Luigi and Romina know all of this, for many years now they have lived from one wine fair to the next, from one Vinitaly to the next. There are things that they don’t need to tell each other anymore. Not out loud, anyway.

– I’ll sort out the forms in the folder – Romina announces, stealing a glance towards his shoes: comfortable but smart, he had almost decided not to pack them, back in Brindisi. – See? They came in useful – she says, pointing at his feet. Luigi shrugs a little, a halfway gesture meaning both yes and If I didn’t have them, I would have survived, though he knows it to be clearly not the case. As they get ready to leave the stand, they can’t help looking around one last time. What they see resembles the immediate aftermath of a country fete, or maybe even a battle, the smells still linger, and so does the echo of the many voices that made this place alive, real. –Let’s go – says Luigi, resting one hand on his wife’s shoulder and reaching for the briefcase with the other. As they step away from the counter they look ahead, to the long corridor before them, to the exit. There is still a long way to go.

– Excuse me -.

They both turn around at once. What they see is the smiling face of a man. – Are you the people from Tenute Rubino? – he asks, raising a hand to remove his hat, as if he had just stepped inside their home. – Yes, it’s us – says Luigi a second before his wife. – I’m sorry, I don’t want to impose, I know it is late, but my wife told me about some wine she tried here yesterday. I don’t know the name. She said it made her think of a taste from way back, from when we were children. A taste of almonds. Luigi entrusts the briefcase into his wife’s hands. She knows, of course, what is about to happen. She doesn’t need to be told. She knows her husband will walk back to the stand, and that he will welcome the silver-haired gentleman as if he had really just stepped inside their own home. She knows that, once again, he will become a bridge between a human being and the lost taste of his past.