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  • "Casta Diva"
  • Francesca Scotti (bio)
    Translated from Italian by Jeanne Bonner

When I came out of the elevator, Sumiko was already at the door, wearing a short, red and gold yukata. Her hair was tied back messily. I found her alluring, and I couldn't think about anything else while she showed me around her house, which had Western-style furniture but was built in the traditional Japanese way. The swampy smell, owing to the traditional tatami floor tiles, was strong. Although I followed her distractedly, I couldn't help but notice in every part of the house there was a copy of a Botero painting. Those wide bodies made an impression. And when I returned my glance to Sumiko's slim hips, they seemed even more attractive.

The kitchen was far and away the most-used room in the house, even if everything was made of immaculate steel, including the appliances. Stainless steel, she emphasized, taking me by the wrist and placing my hand on the counter where it left no mark. All of that icy cold metal conjured up something surgical and sensual. On the wall by the fridge, the requisite Botero: a corpulent woman reclining in front of orange slices, shadowless and gazing off into space.

Sumiko told me that the evening we first met in Osaka, she had thought back to Italy, to the vacations she'd spent there as a child. And about the pasta with eggplant and ricotta salata that she ate with her father on a stainless tablecloth in a trattoria. She looked on the Internet and bought all the ingredients so I could make it for her.

"Pasta alla 'Norma,' just like the opera, right?" She smiled at me, and wrapping an arm around my waist, crooned in a low voice, "Caaasta diiivaaaa," the refrain from the Bellini opera's signature aria. Her lips brushed against mine, but then she escaped.

I cut the eggplant while she mixed the aperitivi, and as we went, we chatted about this and that, although she let me do most of the talking. She helped me peel the tomatoes, and our hands were soon covered with the juice from the vegetables we were preparing. She squeezed [End Page 23] a tomato, squirting its tangy juice everywhere. Laughing, she came over to me, and after removing a seed from my beard, she kissed me. I should have been the one to do it. Her mouth had a bitter-like taste, and it seemed as though her tongue was pushing mine away. As if she wanted to drive me away again. It was exciting—a little struggle.

As soon as I put my hands on her shoulders to slide off her robe, which had already fallen open slightly, she pulled away, her face dark. This left me bewildered, and I feared a rebuke. But it never happened. Instead, she smiled, and winking, she began singing the refrain again from the Bellini opera about the Druid priestess.

"Caaasta diiiivaaa," she crooned. Then the doorbell rang: our first dinner guests were arriving.


Our friends enjoyed the meal. When they'd all left, dirty plates and remains of the meal littered the table. Sumiko, however, didn't eat a thing all night. I mentioned it, but she said she didn't like eating and chatting at the same time, and that, in fact, while she cooked, she'd sampled everything.

"Except the pasta," I said, smiling.

"There's some left over. Don't worry—I'll eat it tomorrow."

"What do you mean? You picked the dish, told me it reminded you of Italy, and you're not even going to try it? Have at least a few bites."

While I talked, I began spooning some maccheroni on a plate. She gave me a look as if she might be about to slap me. But maybe it's just that I'd had too much to drink. She sat down, grabbed a fork from the drawer and began eating.

"Buonissima." She said it as though the whole thing bothered her in some way.

I watched as tomato sauce covered her lips, and her tongue emerged to wipe away what I...


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