A few weeks ago, the movie Letters to Juliet popped into my mind and I couldn’t seem to let it go. I’d seen it before, but I decided to rent it.
The movie is based on a non-fiction book about notes posted on the wall outside the house of Juliet of Verona and the “secretaries” who respond to the notes. I have never been to Verona, but apparently there really is a house called Casa di Giulietta—Juliet’s House—at Via Cappello, 23, Verona, with a courtyard where people leave letters.The movie is about an English woman who abandoned her Italian lover fifty years earlier and returns to search for him.
As I watched this movie the other night, I remembered a man I had met more than thirty years ago.
I had gone with a friend to upstate New York to support her at the Seneca Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. I was against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, so I resonated with the anti-nuclear message of this group.But the encampment challenged me in ways I had not expected, and my discomfort intensified throughout that first day. I was too conventional for this kind of demonstration and found myself thinking of how I could get away.
By the end of that first day, my inner voice was saying, Leave now and don’t come back.
My distress continued into that evening, and I went for a run to regain my equilibrium.
We were staying with my friend’s cousin at his farm. The countryside was beautiful—rolling hills, farmlands and forests. The run was somewhat strenuous, but it felt good to exert myself physically as I grappled with my emotional dilemma.And then on a steep hill, something snapped in my back and pain shot down my leg. I stood on the side of the road, bent over in agony, sobbing—and far from where I was staying. Somehow I managed to hobble home and then crumpled to the living room floor. Someone brought me an icepack and aspirin.
For several hours I just lay there, feeling relief from staying still.
At some point, a man came into the living room and introduced himself as Ross, a friend of the people I was staying with; he lived in their renovated chicken coop.
For the rest of that day, Ross kept me company. He was a landscaper by trade, but a poet by temperament. We talked for most of the night.
The next day, my host took me to a chiropractor; one adjustment eased the pain enough that I was able to sit in a car for the ride home.
Ross wrote beautiful, romantic letters to me and even came to visit. He was smitten; I was scared.I said the distance between Ithaca and Philadelphia was too great—and our relationship ended before it really got started.
And yet, there he was in my memory as I watched a movie about love lost and found.