The baby fig tree finally found a home. The scion survived in a flowerpot through the cold and rain of Vancouver’s winter, a remarkable feat for a fico fiorone from sun-drenched Southern Italy. In the summer, it bulked up a bit, sprouting a bunch of new leaves, but her backyard was way too small for it. Fig trees grow very big and can live up to 200 years. This baby was obstinately hanging on to life, but for how long? She wanted to protect it. The sapling held a promise of beauty, prosperity, refreshing shade, and a bounty of luscious green figs, if it could survive and become a majestic tree.
Three years earlier, she had met a man, on social media. He was a retired farmer living in Southern Italy. She lived alone, content with her work and community activism, but that chance encounter infused new energy into her life. Then, he came to Vancouver to meet her and make plans. On one of his trips, he hid the fig scion in his suitcase, despite her warnings about Canada Customs’ penalties. But he was a stubborn Southern Italian man who did not believe in rules and regulations. Many Italians don’t, anyway. He told her: “It’s my gift. I will always take care of it when I come back.” But he did not come back.
Her friend Liliana asked: “So, when is Roberto coming?” They were sitting in the backyard, sipping aranciata.
“He’s not coming. We parted ways. It was a bitter split.”
Her friend gasped. “Wow. What happened?”
“Well, he said that his kids were not happy with our relationship and he couldn’t risk alienating them. His kids are in their mid-thirties, by the way. Shouldn’t they think about their own lives?”
Liliana sighed. “Not necessarily. Italians in Italy have their views. We are Italian-Canadians. It’s a bit different.”
“I told him that we could remain friends. I told him he could call me whenever he felt like. Do you know what he told me? That he is busy. Made me feel like a piece of garbage. Disposable. At my age!”
Liliana muttered: “Bastards. Young or old, men are always bastards.”
She glanced at the baby fig tree.
“Where did you get it?”
“He brought it. I can’t take care of it. Do you like it? You can have it. You have such a huge property. Come on, take it home!”
The phone rang. “The hell. I won’t answer.” The call display showed an old friend’s number. He wanted to take her out to dinner.
“I’m here in North Van, close to your digs. I had some business this side of the Inlet. Come on, let’s go for dinner. Greek? Persian? Italian? Take your pick, but let’s stay close to the SeaBus. I didn’t take the car today.”
Their conversation at the restaurant was pleasantly generic. She was relieved. Better to talk about friends or the happenings at the Italian Centre than getting personal. She noticed that his hair, still thick and wavy, had turned completely white. She wondered if he was noticing her wrinkles.
He said: “I better go. Will you walk me to the SeaBus?”
“Of course. Look, the next sailing is in 15 minutes. I’ll wait here with you.”
They were in front of the SeaBus station. Only a few people were waiting. He looked at her: “Is everything ok, bella ragazza? You look sad.”
“I am fine.”
“Good. But if you need anything, call me. I keep my promises.”
He caressed her hair, lightly. Then he took her face in his hands and kissed her. It was a long, tender, sensual French kiss. She was stunned. She worried about the passersby. This was ridiculous. Two seniors, kissing like that… in public… but it was sweet. And it was, maybe, a promise.
Anna Foschi Ciampolini is a short-story writer, editor, translator, and journalist. She is a cultural and humanitarian activist, and was inducted in Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre’s Hall of Fame. She lives in Vancouver.