Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera

She was thirteen

My first idea was to write something philosophical, poetic or somehow romantic. It would have been boring, and you were not going to read it. So here are just the facts, with no added sugar: pure juice. From concentrate.

I met her — a day of Autumn — in the late ’80s. In a church. It was sunday morning, I was attending the service there for the first time in my life, after moving to that small ugly village. I was sitting on the fifth or seventh raw, more focused on the people around me than on my prayers. When the time came to shake hands (if you have never been Catholic, you should know that at some point, during the service, people are supposed to shake hands with some other fellow worshippers as a sign of “community” and “peace”) — so, when the time came, she turned and smiled to me. That 13 year old girl had long brown hair, green eyes, and a lovely smile. Don’t take me wrong: myself, I was 14 at the time.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Every Sunday morning

Big events — in life — tend to happen without us noticing them. This was not the case. It was love at the first sight: I still remember the touch of her hand, and I (inexplicably) knew that this moment was going to change my life.

Her name was K. — and to see her again, became the only good reason to attend the 10.30 service, every fucking Sunday morning.

It took a couple of months, however, before we could talk again. Or rather for the first time, since “Peace to you” was not a great piece of conversation, and definitively not a great pick-up-line — even when you are fourteen! It happened when the bishop visited our small village, and the priest organised a big event. The service was held on a football field (well, in scale with the village) and there she was: dressed up with some ridiculous farmer-style eighteen century outfit, K. was there, sitting at my side, behind the altar. (Yes, behind the altar: as a seminarian, I started to assist the priest during the celebration!)

Don’t ask me what the bishop said or did, that day. I spent the two hours of the service talking to the girl. C did not say much — but  she smiled all the time, with the sun in her eyes. Was it raining? Yes, maybe it was, but I saw just the sun, that day of November.

I felt, more or less, like this

So it goes: we started to hang out together, at the priest’s house. Soon, K. and I became the most assiduous attendants of each activity of the parish.: we were participating at all the prayers, the visits to other churches, the pilgrimages. We were watering the flowers of the chapel, counting the money from the offers, refurbishing the candles at the Virgin Mary’s altar.

On Valentine day, I gathered my courage, I picked up the telephone, and I called her at home. How are you doing? Fine. And how are you doing? Pretty well, thank you. We did chitchat a little. I love you, I said. Me too, she answered. I felt more or less like this:

Oh, but this I did not know yet

I remember getting a postcard for my 15th birthday, with a big heart on it. And to write a lyric in Latin, for her 14th one. We were meeting every weekend, and talking at the telephone every night. It was a happy time. And then, the Summer came: as you can imagine — things were going to change.

It was a day of July, when we travelled to an amusement park on the Lake of Garda. The activity was organised by the parish, and we sat side by side — on the bus — all the way to our destination. Her mother was sitting few sits away, talking with some other parent, sometimes looking and smiling at us. The bitch. Oh, but this I did not know yet: I liked her mother, till that day. She had been always nice with me. The bitch.

The first part of the day went so well. We run together on all the attractions in the park, we held hands walking around, we also kissed! (Our first kiss, and as you will learn soon, also our last kiss. At least for the next twenty years, or so). That day, I decided: yes, she is going to be the one. I was 15. I made up my mind. I did not know about Florentino Ariza, at the time — if I would have read Love in the Time of Cholera, I would have known better.

Love in the Time of Cholera

And then the rain came

And then the rain came. Oh, it was a sunny day. But it did fucking rain shit, that day. At some point, I believe around three in the afternoon, her mother told her: “K. I have to talk to you.” When she came back, I saw the light gone from her eyes. “My mother — her words — told me that people are talking about us. And that she does not want me and you to hold hands, and be close anymore.”

“Just today?”  — I asked back (oh, you can be so stupid when you are 15 and in love). “No, forever.”

I died.

Once I went back home, that evening, I closed myself in my room. I did not eat, I did not talk. I cried. I cried all the night, and all the day after, and the day after. I cried for three days and three nights.

Happy birthday, I wrote

I met K. again, five years later. I was with another girl, we were living together, and I thought I could be happy. Hey, how are you? Fine, and you? Pretty well, thank you!

I moved to Sweden, some 15 years after. I was dating this new girl that I met at a party in Netherlands, but somewhere in my mind I always remembered K. and how much I cried that day of Summer. So, when the day of K. birthday came, I run a quick search on internet: and I found her email address.

“Happy birthday.” — I wrote — and my name. She answered the day after. “Is it really you?”. We exchanged one message a day, then two, then three, then ten. We started to talk, and to open ourselves, and to dream. K. sent me the photos of her wedding, and some of her honey moon. I sent her some photos of my travels backpacking around the globe.

We met.

We made love.

We met again.

Love in the Time of Cholera


My feelings are now confused about those days. And I should apologize to the girl I was dating at the time. Maybe reading a blog is not the best way to learn that your boyfriend was cheating on you with his sweetheart of 20 years before. But maybe she is not reading my blog. Ex-girlfriends should not read my blog.

What did I feel? It will sound ugly. But you had the patience to read so far, and so — my reader — you deserve to know. It felt like a compensation for my tears. Yes, there she was. The girl who broke my heart more and more painfully than anyone else after. The girl who did not want me anymore when I was 15 (oh, I saw her hanging out with some other guys, where was her mother? Weren’t people talking about those guys too?) — that girl, was now there, in my arms: in my arms despite being married to someone else, despite the good feelings of her religious good-principles. And now it was my turn. Now, it was ὕβϱις. Now, I was in control.

Farewell, I said, farewell.

Love in the Time of Cholera

About these photos

Of love and other demons.
A series by Riccardo Bevilacqua © 2014 for Fried Oranges Photography
The model is young and beautiful Terfa Mazlom (Copenhagen)

One response to “Love in the Time of Cholera

  1. Il post è scritto bene. Il contenuto è vita, cose che capitano, in definitiva. Non apprezzo tuttavia il tono di compiacimento per quanto accaduto, come invece mi pare di leggere. Ma sai, ho fatto la scuola dai preti e forse mi hanno inculcato una morale più rigorosa della tua! 🙂 Più che l’Amore ai Tempi del Colera, forse potevi citare il Kierkegaard con Diario di un Seduttore.

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