Hemmingway’s Guide To Make Love to a Beautiful Woman
BY: Dylan Lenz
Adelina was still soft though she had hardened since the war had made its way through Palermo and her father had died and her brother had gone off to join the Americans as they made their way north. There had been many offers from many soldiers and there were many nights when she had grown lonesome. Since her husband had died early on in the war, she was inclined to dismiss her upbringing because the idea of God and sovereignty seemed too hard to believe at this time in this place with these people who did not care for her and only cared for her beauty. She had resolved to have no man. She had resolved it though the American’s were persistent in the hospital although most of them were in no shape to make love, especially to Adelina.
McGregor had come to Palermo to help with the reconstruction effort and his shoulders were strong and broad and his back was straight and he stood taller than the other men though there were a few that were greater than his height. His skin was dark from the sun and his hair had lightened since he arrived. He had been wounded while transporting supplies to the front and was taken to the hospital with shrapnel in his left knee and torso. The surgeon could not remove it all so he walked with a limp but was recovering well.
McGregor spoke seldomly but was always surrounded by the other men because they respected him and he sat straight up in his bed, which gave the men a confidence, and Adelina knew they needed confidence. When McGregor spoke he talked at length and was well versed in many topics, but never spoke about the war or about the efforts or the politics of his country. When asked for his opinion he gave it but refused to warrant it further. He smoked cigars and drank scotch that one of the men he had hired from Palermo had brought him. He shared it with the men. He slept with his rifle next to his bed, loaded, and though it made the nurses uneasy they trusted McGregor who would occasionally smile at them and look deep into their eyes when they passed with a bravery the other men had lost.
Adelina was the best of the nurses. She was thin and attractive in a way that was only seen as such in the city, being replaced with fuller cheeks and wider hips the further you went. McGregor loved her when he first saw her, though he never mentioned it and never let himself actually believe it.
The first time they touched McGregor was attempting to change his own dressings but he couldn’t reach far enough around his back and Billings a GI from Chicago was asleep and only Adelina was on call. Her skin was soft and her touch was delicate and she moved with ease and precision. McGregor held her hand firmly. He kissed her. Adelina did not move.
McGregor led her to the rooftop so they could lookout over the city and see what was left and so they could make love or talk more at length so that he could know Adelina. They did not talk and they did not look out upon the city but instead they held one another like they had not been held in a long time. They kissed and McGregor found that though Adeline had hardened during the war her skin was still soft.
Despite his injuries McGregor was strong and he made love with a skill that he had adapted from summers spent at a lake in Minnesota when he was a younger man. His grip was firm and was confident and he let Adelina know what to do and they were happy for a while.
In the weeks that followed they made love a number of times on the rooftop until Billings made mentioned it to the other men and they called after Adelina as she made her rounds. McGregor put an end to it when he broke Billing’s teeth. A couple days later Billings forgave him because McGregor was brave and handsome and because he was well liked with the other men. The apology was public and Billings shook McGregor’s hand while he stood at a window that looked over the main entrance to the hospital where the freshly wounded would come to be treated and saved.
It was later that week that McGregor’s rifle sounded in the night and Adelina came from one of the other wards with a few of the night nurses to see McGregor shot. Sanderson pointed at Billings who was in his bed. Billings looked at the ceiling.
In the early morning hours the other men of the ward woke quietly and the ones with the strength stood up. They held Billings down and beat him while a towel was stuffed in his mouth and Billings cried out but only Adelina could hear him and she simply turned to look out at the city. When the guards came to take Billings he was dead but they asked no questions and the men said nothing. Adelina left the hospital and made her way to the cathedral and she remembered McGregor.