July 19, 2011
Santina was leaning over a wall in Modica yesterday morning, snagging a branch of dewy jasmine with her cane.
“I collect it fresh every day for my ancestors,” she said. “It’s the most refined aroma in the world. It makes them happy.”
She asked me in for coffee.
The espresso was strong and thick. I drizzled it into the red demitasses because, she said, her hands were too shaky.
“I never married; I served my parents until their death,” she said sweeping grains of sugar off the oilcloth. “My married friends told me I was better off single, anyway. But now I’m alone in the world. My sister died. My brother isn’t well. I live in these three rooms–the same place I was born 84 years ago–like a caged bird.” She laughed. “If I find you a man from Modica to marry, will you stay and be my friend?”
She led me into the next room–a small space with a single bed in one corner. The ancestor shrine took up the rest of the room. She put the bowlful of fresh flowers in the middle of her family.
She was still taking care of her parents. The hot room filled with a thick, sweet smell.