The view from the balcony is too much.
I’m the only person out here, three stories into the sky. Below, in the piazza, square marble tablettes, bare at 8.00am, but the ‘rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb’ of waking tourists, brides and waiters, the jingle of dog’s balls, are welcome proof of life. Church bells awaken both the living and the dead. The sacristan pushes open the cathedral doors, but welcomes no-one. Churches here are grand, demanding attention, but remain empty of parishioners. Tourists a-plenty, snap-snap-snapping photos they will look at maybe once.
Bitter espresso and sweet brioche wafts its way up to the balcony.
“Would you like something for breakfast?”
“Brioche and granita. Lemon.”
My eyes are not accustomed to this sun that bounces off whitewashed buildings and the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea.
It’s too much. This beauty belongs on a postcard from 1967, not real life.
I don’t deserve to be here. I am the plain, old, fat, curly-haired woman in her pyjamas, no bra, typing on her laptop on the balcony of a 3rd floor apartment overlooking the Piazza Duomo.
I don’t deserve this.
A pretty, young, thin, straight-haired woman should be on this balcony, scrolling through Instagram, taking selfies in a bikini, knowing from instinct how best to pose. Me, I’m always shiny, double-chinned, at least 10kg heavier. You rarely see me in photos. I’ll cease to exist entirely and people will wonder if I was actually in Sicily at all.
The growing audience below deserves someone instagram-worthy to smile up to on this balcony. They’re on holiday from the nearby Madonie Mountains, whose windy, vertiginous roads lead to Cefalù and Palermo in one direction, Enna and Catania the other.
On holiday, everything should be perfect and stunning, especially the woman on the 3rd floor balcony overlooking the piazza. Especially her. They deserve that, at least.
Every village has one, a Piazza Duomo. It’s like True North, or Mecca. Find the tip of the cathedral in the Piazza Duomo, and you will always know where you are, even when you don’t know the way to True North. All roads lead to God, I suppose, and in Sicily, it’s True.
“I don’t believe in God.”
But I write to be closer to him. To feel his cool, benevolent hand on my hot, plump cheek. I close my eyes against his touch, like a cat when you scratch under her chin.
I am on this balcony (undeservedly) with my back to the cathedral (so as not to offend God and visitors with my fat, old body?). Instead I watch bronzed women, young, straight-haired, in body-con white dresses, and sandals I could never wear because of my plantar fasciitis. I want to tell them that they, too, will someday need shoes with arch supports. But why spoil all that beauty with ugly shoes? Why ruin their youth with threats of the future?
I want to visit ancient things. The Halaesa Arconidea, from the 5th Century BC. Yet, even it, this wonder of the ancient Greeks, is old and beautiful, so I still feel like a blight on the landscape.