A photo of her hometown, 1945. The castle in the background, standing. The church transparent with boldly missing chunks of stone, but the basic structure is intact. The rest is rubble, ragged stones that no longer look manmade. One five story façade stands tall, facing the market with nothing behind it, no depth, no life, no commerce. All back to nature almost, with grass already growing wild between the tumbled bricks.
However, the market square is filled with striped umbrellas—red and white mostly she remembers, though the picture is black and white. There commerce has resumed with eggs and vegetables and, yes, a few flowers for those whose life continues. Women with shopping bags, men striding with produce or purpose, children quite possibly laughing. One perky umbrella has polka dots.
She used to play in the ruins nearby. Splendid places for hide and seek, always provided there were no longer any not yet detonated bombs.
The rubble patiently sits in the grass awaiting the future. Peace at a cost. The work of the good guys.
Not her favorite photo, perhaps, but one that haunts her with importance and impatience until women and men will have the courage to persuade each other that priceless peace is better than even what the good guys do.
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It was summer. The flavor of Italy was lemon sherbet. She was fifteen, I was thirteen, and both of us were beautiful.
I don’t remember how we met, probably because of a smile. Her family stayed at the opposite end of the camp ground from mine. She only spoke Italian and a few words of French. I only spoke German and a little English. Still, I learned her name, Daniela, and she learned mine.
Each day we walked together on the beach, bent over pretty shells and pebbles and scuttling crabs, murmuring in our languages we couldn’t understand. We also drew pictures in the sand and knew all we needed to know.
She liked braiding my hair. Her own was long and blond, and her eyes were dark brown. She had tiny freckles scattered on her nose.
One night she went out dancing with her Italian teenage friends. I wanted to go, but my parents said I was too young. She stopped by our tent so that I could admire her white dress.
The morning my family left, she came early with three daisies and a smile. I also smiled. Nothing could be saved into the future, not even the logic of shared phrases. I only learned one word of her language that year: “amica.” I could have learned more. It wasn’t necessary. When I think of her I feel as though my eyes are filled with sun.