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Image taken by Tyler Forest-Hauser, who captures stunning scenery in his native Canada. You can find more of Tyler’s work here.

“Whatever happened to the Italian girl you were with?”
“What Italian girl?”
“In Milan. After you broke up with Monica and left Paris – you told me about a girl you were seeing in Milan. Not for long, if I recall correctly.”
“Oh you mean Sofía. I met her in Milan but she was Colombian actually, and had lived in the South of France most of her life.”
“Oh I see. Did I meet her? I think I did. She had big brown eyes right?”
“She had brown eyes, but they weren’t particularly big. And you never visited me in Milan. You couldn’t get time off work. Or that’s the excuse you gave me. We last met briefly in New York before I came back here. Left or right?”
“Take a left. I swear I had been in Milan to see you. Must have been to see someone else, or for business. But then how did I know she had brown eyes?”
“I would have told you about her on the phone. Maybe I even sent you a photograph. I was pretty hot on her. I would have sent you something.”
“Maybe. Yes, I remember, you sent me a letter and there was a picture of her. She was hot, sure. So how long were you together for?”
“I don’t know. We were never really ‘together’ I guess. She was difficult to pin down. We spent a lot of time together, but she was still seeing other men.”
“And you weren’t seeing other women?”
“Well sure, I knew a couple of other girls out there, but with my writing I never had much time for the others. But I would always make time for Sofía.”
“So for how long?”
“It’s funny you thought she was Italian. Sofía was nothing like the Italian girls I spoke to. The Italian girls always seemed preoccupied with something else, whenever I tried to speak to them. They never kept eye contact.”
“Maybe they found you boring?”
“I thought that. I really did. But I’m not so sure.”
“Easy, I was joking man. Keep your eyes on the road.”
“No but I found something different about the Italian girls. And some of the other girls in Europe. Even with Monica, I never felt that close to her. Sofía was different. After knowing her I became aware of the stagnancy and decay in the city, and the misery of the people living there, whereas she, she was fresh. Sofía wasn’t afraid to stare at me.”
“So how long were you seeing her?”
“I guess two months. A little longer I suppose. I met her in my first week in the city. She was at a bar where I was reading some of my poetry. It was a Thursday night and there weren’t many people around. She came with a friend who had heard of me, had read my work.”
“And Sofía, was she a fan of yours? Is that how it started?”
“Not exactly. She approached me at the end of the night and said she wasn’t a big reader and she certainly didn’t know much about poetry, but she enjoyed what I had read and would like to hear more. I never really found out if she was really interested in my poetry or was just flirting.”
“Did you mind?”
“About what?”
“Keep your eyes on the road, man. About whether she was interested in your poetry or not.”
“No. Maybe she did like my work on that night, or maybe she just used it to start a conversation. I never asked – after a few dates I did not care.”
“Did she put out straight away?”
“She invited me back to her apartment after our second date. But I wasn’t chasing sex with her. I just wanted to spend more time with her. I wanted to know more about her. She had a knack of captivating me, of holding my attention, without really saying much. She would tell me about her work, her friends, her thoughts on films and music, and to anybody listening in on our conversations they might think them normal discussions – normal questions and normal answers. But it was what she chose not to say – what she chose to leave out – that fascinated me. Like there was something going on behind the scenes. Do you know what I mean?”
“Not really. You thought she was hiding something from you?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. Or perhaps a little.”
“You were in love with this girl weren’t you?”
“I don’t know. Can you fall in love with someone you don’t fully understand? The more I tried the more distant she would get. She didn’t sleep much and sometimes I would wake up in the night and the glare of the television would be flickering in the living room, and I would get up and she would be sat there watching late night shows with the sound off. I never asked her why she did that. I decided I didn’t want to know.”
“You haven’t changed. You just ramble. This is why I don’t read your poetry.”
“You can’t read any poetry.”
“Fuck off. So? What happened between the two of you?”
“She went cold. Or missing. Just disappeared. She wasn’t at her apartment anymore, she had moved out when I asked her neighbour, and she wouldn’t answer her phone. I used to try every day, then I tried every week, then every other week. Then I just kind of gave up.”
“Strange. Sorry, man. ”
“Don’t be. It was easier that way. She arrived in a fog and she left in a fog. Any other exit would not have suited her. And besides, we barely knew each other, so what do I have to moan about? This place looks familiar. Are we close?”
“Oh yeah. we’re pretty much here. Slow down, it’s just around this bend.”

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2017.

 

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Photography by Andrea Di Giola, an Italian photographer who achieves a wonderful sense of scale in his work. Find more of his work on his Facebook page, and his Flickr page

“I write for a new age spiritual magazine. Spiritual”, I emphasised, “not religious. Although honestly there isn’t a great deal of difference anymore. Change through positive thinking and all that bullshit. We cover similar themes, probably target the same demographic.”
“Is there still appeal for that kind of thing?” She spoke with interest but her eyes were looking elsewhere.
“I don’t really care. I get paid either way.”

The fog in the town was bizarre. It arrived the day before I did. There was no wind to shift it and no temperature change to dissipate it, but to linger for the time it did was puzzling. When I recall that first week, I remember uncertainty and a vague apprehension; all life muffled and still, a vacuum. There was nothing to talk about but there was nothing else to talk about. I held a few token, informal interviews with locals at bars, in shops, but they gave me little – all amicable, all distracted – I could get nothing out of them. Studying maps of the town and reading articles on the internet I put together a file. But after a few days I grew bored and began walking the town, unable to see further than three feet in front of me. Cars rolled past slowly with full beams gliding through. In the mist it could have been anywhere in the world.

“I can’t make an objective judgement of this place while it is covered. I’ll stay until the fog clears. They say it can’t stick around for much longer; it’s a meteorological anomaly.”
“Your article. Will it be ready?” Far away the editor spoke.
“It’ll be done when it’s done. Besides no one is waiting for it.” But the call cut out and I’m not sure he heard me.

The days grew long or the nights short, under dull illumination of street lights that appeared miles above the sidewalks like uninterested stationary spacecraft. A disillusioned creator observing a malfunctioning purgatory. I saw little to suggest there was anything wrong with this town, but looking back, the fog was the only thing I and the people of the town spoke about in those initial weeks. It’s all we saw. Looking out of every window would yield the exact same view. A grey wall in slow but constant motion, motives unknown.

Nothing rose above the blanket of fog but for the tallest fir trees, and the spire of the Catholic church on the hill. The spire invisible to those on the ground, those on the ground invisible to the spire. Forgotten or otherwise gone. The fog had simply masked the problems of the town, because nothing could continue until it left. The usual problems with the drugs, the unemployment, the high crime, the social tensions, all of these things were put on hold. As if for a time they were all the same, the townsfolk, all in the same standing, one of shared uncertainty.

One night in the spire at the top of the church I stood with the reverend and we conversed about religion and the fading influence of the church in present times. He was tired and spoke with little enthusiasm and told me that it was not so much that the church was weaker, but that the faith of the people, in these trying times, was at an all time low. Lacking faith in the economy, faith in justice, faith in political manifestos. Faith in one another.

We looked out across a grey sea and I saw the stars for the first time in months. Beneath the veil, headlights from speeding cars outlined the routes in and out of the town. Sometimes it looked like all the cars were travelling in the same direction, out and away, escaping from the town as the centre around us became darker.
I asked him when he believed the fog would clear.
“What makes you think it ever will?”

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016