She looked at the odd shaped structure. It was covered in moss. Everything else seemed to fade into the background. It reminded her of when she visited the Accademia Gallery and she saw Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Israel’s most beloved king, David. Her eyes were fixated on the figure, moving towards it as if hypnotized. The other works of art faded into insignificance. She spent as long as she reasonably could, just admiring what for her was the masterpiece of masterpieces. So engrossed was she in the art that she failed to notice the stranger who had been observing her.
He stood behind a tree, watching her now. His face was pale–as if he were seeing a ghost. He recalled the first time he saw her. He had decided to visit Florence for the first time since he moved to Paris and was standing in the gallery, observing the other works of art while everyone gravitated to the statue of David. He never could understand people’s fascination with it. There were other greater sculptures and personally, he preferred Bernini’s David. He was contemplating taking the train to Rome the following day and visiting the Galleria Borghese when she walked past him. She didn’t notice him standing there just like now. He felt the color drain from his face. The resemblance was remarkable. She looked so much like Giulia.
Giulia. Twelve years had passed and yet, he still couldn’t come to terms with her death. Every where he went, he imagined that he saw her. His heart ached for her. His life felt empty without her. His mind and dreams were filled with her. She haunted him. His love for her was still strong and no passage of time seemed to quell it or diminish it. Other women were interested in pursing a relationship with him but he put them off. He couldn’t imagine himself being with anyone else. Giulia was the only girl for him. When they met, she was a slip of a girl. Seventeen, with thick black hair that tumbled down her back ending at the small of her back. Her eyes were tawny and framed by thick lashes. Her lips were like pink pomegranates and just as sweet. Everyday after school, she met him on the Ponte Vecchio.
He was much older than her but that didn’t seem to bother her. She was as madly in love with him as he was with her. He would have married her if–if she hadn’t fallen into the Arno River one evening. They were supposed to meet but he was late. When he finally showed up, the place was swarming with police and he learned that a girl had fallen into the river. One witness said that the girl jumped into the river. He refused to believe that it was suicide.
He later discovered that she was pregnant. One of her friends said that she was afraid of what her parents would do if they found out. They were strict Catholics. That was what she was going to tell him that day when he was late. He would have promised to marry her and take care of her and their child. Why did she jump? Was it out of desperation? Did she think he wasn’t going to show up? He never forgave himself for being late and a couple of weeks after her funeral, he packed up and left. And now he was back. And here he was watching a girl who bore a striking resemblance his beloved Giulia.
Suddenly she turned and she saw him. Lips pursed, she marched over to him, her hair flapping about her shoulders. She stopped a short distance from him. “Why are you following me?” she demanded.
For a moment, he was at a loss for words. “I’m not following you,” he denied.
“Then, why are you here?”
“It’s a public place,” he said. “I was just walking through.”
“You were standing behind that tree watching me. Why?”
“Well, you remind me of someone.”
“Do I really or is that one of your pick up lines?”
“You remind me of a girl I used to know.”
“What happened to her?”
“She died twelve years ago. You look so much like her.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be heading home.”
“Don’t go, Giulia.”
“My name isn’t Giulia,” she informed him.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you remind me so much of her. How old are you?”
“She would have been twenty-nine.”
“Look, I really must be going.”
“Please, may I see you again?”
She shook her head. “No. And please don’t follow me any more. I’m not Giulia. She’s dead. You need to move on. Goodbye.” She turned and walked briskly away.
He stood there watching her retreating figure. She was right. It was time to move on. But how could he? He couldn’t get over Giulia. She was in his heart, his mind and in his blood. He just couldn’t go on without her. They say that time heals all wounds but that wasn’t true. His weren’t healing. The pain was as deep now as it was ten years ago.
Sinking to the ground, he buried his face in his hands. “Oh, Giulia,” he whispered brokenly. At the funeral, he had stood far from the mourners, not wanting anyone to see him, especially her parents. After they left, he went to the grave and threw himself on it, sobbing, the pain overwhelming–like it was now.
After several minutes, he got up, dried his eyes in his sleeves and headed in the direction of the Arno River. An hour later, they found his body. The police said that suicide was “likely”.