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My concentration was broken by the perfume of flower blossoms on sea air as it gently passed through the open doors of my study. Pushing my journal aside, I closed my eyes and arched my back in a long and satisfying stretch. I had been immersed in my work since after breakfast and the arrival of the sea breeze signified it was now well into the afternoon. I leaned back into the soft leather chair and lowered my gaze to the desktop. Little did I know that the events of the next few moments were to forever change my life and the lives of those around me. There, where my hands rested upon the high gloss of the polished oak, were the hands of an old man.

The sight so startled me that I jumped up, nearly knocking over my chair. I looked again, flexing my fingers, nothing changed. I ran through the empty house to my dressing room. I peered long and hard into the mirrored glass. I leaned over the gilded dressing table and wiped the glass with my sleeve, polishing it up. I looked again. I looked at my hands and then back to the mirror. That’s me all right. The broad smile, short-cropped hair, well kept beard. Well, all in all, maybe a bit more saddle worn, but I still cast a mighty good-looking reflection. I leaned against the wall. I looked back down at my hands, turning them over front to back.

How many years has it been? How many trails? My mind started wandering. Each of those lines and crags has some history, living history and dieing history. Each of these hands has caressed the skin of a pure newborn’s bottom and the smooth silky skin of a whore’s breast. They’ve dug gold, graves and dung. Suddenly this has all got me thinking about becoming old.

Damn the independence of my brain! These little thoughts go on somewhere way in the back of my head without me knowing. Then before I can stop it from happening, it’s got me all riled up over something I wasn’t concerned with not two minutes before. When’s my Maria getting home? I keep telling her this house is too big.

Grumpily I stomp back through the house to the balcony off my study. There I let the view of olive trees on the surrounding hills and the fresh sea breeze that climbed the gentle slopes, sooth my thoughts, but my soul would not rest. I told myself I was being foolish. Why, any man alive would be happy to retire as I have in the land of sun and Roman gardens. How many men, I asked myself, have hoped to find the comfort of a woman such as Maria? How many are ever successful in their quest? Damn Few! That’s how many. The outcome of this self-absorbed musing was that I only grew more agitated. Then I heard her footfalls on the centuries old marble.

I turned my eyes from the gardens to an even more beautiful sight – my Maria. How wonderful she is, like a child captured in the body of a woman. Her dark brown eyes sparkle as if she has just unwrapped the most wonderful Christmas gift. Seeing me on the balcony, she rushes through the study into my arms.

“Vernon,” she releases her grip. “I have a letter for you from America. Who could it be?” From the pocket of her favorite ankle length, cotton peasant skirt, she hands me a well traveled envelop.

“I don’t care who it is from. I left America behind me. I know you are excited and I will read the letter to you, but later. Now I need you and not some damned piece of paper.” I took the letter and put it back into her pocket, then held her by the shoulders and looked long into those bottomless eyes.

“What is wrong? What is it my Vernon?”

“Come, walk with me in the garden.”

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