Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Next Day

The next day, Sally and I went to look at properties with a real estate agent named Anne Marie. Over the better part of an afternoon, she showed us a dirt floored garage that reeked of gas and oil, a roofless caved-in grain mill, and a small farm house abandoned by the amateurs who'd recklessly half-restored it. The garage went for $300,000, the farmhouse for $600,000, the mill was claustrophobically attached to occupied apartments. None came with any land, let alone the olive trees and vines essential to the dream. By the time any one of these dismal properties was fixed up it would cost a million dollars or more.

It was depressing and it was clear: "location, location, location" had driven the price of Tuscany well over our budget. That evening over dinner we reluctantly agreed we'd simply have to remain perpetual visitors.

But all that night I lay awake, haunted by the abandoned property Momo had shown us. The rogue peach and grape leaves I'd seen thrust above the smothering vines like the hands of drowning swimmers, they'd been waving at me. They needed a lifeguard. They needed pruning. The next morning I woke with my heart racing, convinced I could heal that broken piece of land, reclaim it from the wilderness and make it our dream retreat.

"Sally," I said over coffee, "we need to go back for a closer look."