61 – The Proof is in the Pictures

Suffering from a bit of post-trip blues, Sara finds respite and a smile in new mementos.

Sequel to “The Incidental Tourists.” Follows “Better Angels” and takes place between episodes 1019 “World’s End” and 1020 “Take My Life Please,”

circa April 2010.

“…der Liebe, die darin besteht, daß zwei Einsamkeiten einander schützen, grenzen und grüßen.”

… Love consists of this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

********

It was time.

She’d put it off as long as she reasonably could.

Not that Sara was all that prone to procrastination as a general rule. In fact, quite the opposite.

And four days was starting to get ridiculous. She knew Grissom had made it back to Paris and was already unpacked by now.

But more and more these days she found herself delaying her post-trip unpacking. Not that there was all that much of it this time. She’d left most of her travel clothes with her husband; European trains being far more baggage friendly than international flights. Mostly there were her just in case clothes: the ones she carried in case her flight was cancelled or unavoidably delayed or she got called straight into work from the airport — the latter having happened more than once.

Work was good for that. And for allowing her to shelve her private life for a bit. For that, it had certainly always proved rather provident.

Although this time Sara had no one to blame but herself. She’d actually volunteered to stay late to complete the final evidence catalog on Sean Becker’s effects; then lingered as long as she reasonably could at the office before heading home.

Truth was she hadn’t been half as keen on putting her holiday with Grissom to bed as she had that case.

Despite the frequently problematic nature of their vacation, they’d had a great time. Which had made it all the harder rather than easier for her to return to that empty condo of theirs back in Vegas.

Hence why it was late Sunday afternoon before she’d reluctantly set to empty her carryon.

Her post-visit blues were normal. Sara knew this, having had more than her fair share of experience with the phenomena over the past seven months. But as normal and inevitable as they might be, that didn’t make them any more fun to deal with.

At least the unpacking process didn’t take long.

What little clothes she had, she unceremoniously deposited in the laundry, making a mental note to remember to load a wash before she went back into work that night. She didn’t bother to remove her usual assortment of TSA approved 3-ounce or less sized toiletries in their clear zip-top bag. They’d be ready for the next time, whenever that might be. And having had no need for it in Vegas, she’d left her camera with Grissom, though she’d made sure to take the memory card with her. This she put aside so she could upload her photos to her laptop later. Which only left her small stash of souvenirs.

She always brought something back. Sometimes little gifts for her friends and colleagues — or as they playfully liked to term them: bribes.

This time, there’d been a pot of last year’s miel de lavande from Riez. The shawl her husband had given her already hung in pride of place in her closet. Then lastly, a motley collection of postcards, of which Sara had begun to collect with such frequency and avidity that her husband teased her about having become quite the deltiologist.

Not that these were postcards of the ordinary high-glossy stock photography sort. She didn’t bother with those, being perfectly capable of capturing the same images with her own camera. Rather, she preferred les cartes postales and le cartoline of the vintage variety. The more primitive photography and old-style lithographic processes appealed to her artistic tendencies. And used as most of these postcards tended to be, their stamps proved oft to be exotic and the cards themselves presented the additional challenge of puzzling out frequently rather cryptic messages in any number of languages.

As she thumbed through the slim stack she’d brought back from Rome and the south of France, Sara found her mood brightening a bit.

A reaction her husband would have found unsurprising, she reckoned, readily recalling as she did having once been enlightened by said equally etymology as entomology loving husband as to the origin of the word souvenir. They had been out and about in Paris one afternoon. Her stopping to sort through a box of old daguerréotypes and lithographies at one of the many little green bouquiniste stalls near Notre Dame had led him to intone, in that knowing sort of way he so frequently employed:

“Souvenir. A token of remembrance or memento. From the late 18th Century. Taken directly from the French se souvenir, to remember, which has its origins in the Latin subvenir meaning to come up or come to mind. As travel and tourism became more common, so did the need for there to be something to take home to commemorate those travels,” he’d continued. “The whole point of a souvenir is that it is able to invoke the memory of a place the way a memento does of a memory or a keepsake a person.”

“No matter how kitschy?” she’d laughed.

“No matter how kitschy. Sociologically speaking,” he’d hurriedly amended.

And while it hadn’t been during that particular outing, eventually Grissom had had to concede that there were far stranger, more curious, more cumbersome or extravagant things his wife could have taken to collecting than antique postcards.

Ultimately of course they both knew that any other position would have come off as hypocritical, particularly considering his own peculiar taste in la collection; his bugs under glass, assorted specimens in jars, Darwin desk set a case in point.

That didn’t mean he didn’t continue to tease her about her purchases.

And Sara had to admit her husband did have a point — when it came to the effects of souvenirs at least.

They were good reminders and reminders were good things.

For part of her wouldn’t have believed the events of the last week if she hadn’t actually been there herself. After all, when was the last time Gil Grissom had taken a vacation, apart from their brief honeymoon in Costa Rica?

Perhaps that was why she hadn’t spoken to her friends about her trip. Her – and Grissom’s – tendency to be rather tight lipped about their relationship notwithstanding, she doubted any of them would have believed her in any case.

She couldn’t blame them. Even having been there, done all of that, for her, that near week in Provence and Rome still had that otherworldly aura of a dream.

That she had proof plenty and positive and even better than postcards made little difference. But it never hurt to try, she thought as she retrieved the memory card she had so hastily discarded earlier and set off to boot up her laptop.

*******

Comfortably ensconced in what was now their home office, Sara scrolled through her photos, looking for one set in particular, the very last ones from their time in Rome, the ones she hadn’t had a chance to review before she left. Her smile broadened into a grin as she took them in, reminded as she was with much fondness their taking.

*******

They’d been rather reluctant that morning, neither in any hurry to go. Both been a little blue then, too; tried to hide it, and failed miserably, so it had been a rather subdued stroll that morning.

Until Grissom came to an abrupt stop just after they had passed Il Vittoriano, the vast, glaring white marbled wedding cake like monstrosity (or so most Romans regarded it) erected to honor unified Italy’s first king, Victor Emmanuel.

Confused by this, Sara asked, “More bees?”

But Grissom made no reply. He didn’t need to. His Eureka! look said it all.

Having been privy to that particular look quite a few times over the years, Sara knew better than to protest or question further, even as he took her hand and tugged her down a series of narrow streets which may or may not have looked vaguely familiar from their postprandial ramblings the night before, but in which she was certain was in the exact opposite direction to la Stazione Termini. To have done so was by its very definition a lost cause.

Besides, a quick glance down at her watch told her that technically they still had plenty of time to get to the train station before eleven.

She was puzzling out where he might be taking her when she heard it: that low, deep rush of water which first murmured like a far off whisper then soon subsumed the sounds of the city around them.

And while it may have taken her a moment to get her bearings, there was no confusing that din. Only one place in all of Rome rumbled and thundered like that.

Perched at the junction of tre vie — three streets — and with as its backdrop the grand Palazzo Poli, la Fontana di Trevi loomed in all its Baroque glory. Completed in 1762 and built for the glory of not one, but three popes, Nicola Salvi’s masterpiece of a fiercely majestic Oceanus holding court over the taming of the waters has stood supreme spectacle ever since. But it wasn’t until Anita Ekeberg’s predawn drunken romp in its sweeping pool was forever immortalized in Frederico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita that the site became a tourist Mecca of epic proportions.

When she and Grissom had visited it the night before, all gilt gold in that quintessential Roman night light, the square had been virtually deserted. That morning however flocks of sightseers fanned several people deep about its edges.

Living as they had so long in Vegas, clambering hordes of foreign visitors were nothing new to either of them, so Sara was unsurprisingly perplexed as to why her husband had not only so fervently insisted on bringing her back then and there, but was equally adamant that they thread their way up to the fountain’s edge.

“This will have to do,” he said as they slipped into the slim void recently vacated by a trio of American university students who haled from New York if their accents were any indication.

“For?” she asked as she watched him dig through his pockets.

Apparently for loose change, for he counted out three gold and silver €1 coins into Sara’s palm.

“Roman custom,” he supplied. “Can’t leave the city without it.”

“So toss them in and make a wish?” said Sara, recalling the American tradition of pitching pennies into fountains and wishing wells.

“It’s this or drink the water. A parting draught to ensure a traveler’s return.”

While Sara knew that most of the fountains in Rome had doubled as sources of drinking water for centuries, if not millennia, and had refilled her own water bottle at several of them the day before, knew also that the Trevi Fountain capped the terminus of the ancient aqua virgo, one of the cities oldest and longest running aqueducts, in one of her rather odd bouts of squeamishness she said, “I think I’ll pass,” on having a farewell drink and went with the coin option instead.

She was about to casually toss them into the gaping pool when he reached out a hand to stop her.

“You’re supposed to face away from the fountain,” he corrected. “And toss them over your left shoulder. One for charity. One to bring you back to Rome. And the third so you’ll marry a Roman.”

Sara promptly handed him back one Euro saying, “One husband is more than plenty, thank you very much,” then drew a coin from out of her own pocket to give to him. “You didn’t think I’d want to come back without you,” she said simply and they shared a smile.

“Besides,” she added, “we never did make it back to the Forum or the Coliseum and you did promise to take me there. And I’ve never known you not to keep your promises, Gil.”

“Next time,” he nodded and for a moment they both savored the possibilities of such a return before tossing their due monete into la fontana.

Even after more than a year of marriage, next times still took a bit of getting used to.

“I just have one question,” said Sara after a while. “We didn’t do this last night because?”

“It slipped my mind.”

“That’s not like you.”

“I was…”

“Preoccupied?”

“Distracted,” he said, then with a slight shrug added, “Some things don’t change.”

They were about to go when they caught sight of one of those omnipresent bands of Japanese tourists, their ubiquitous cameras as ever in tow, attempting to arrange themselves for a rather spirited group photo. Knowing the rarity and therefore the value of such pics, Sara went up to their designated photographer and offered to take the picture and was unsurprised to end up with several cameras being placed into her hands. This was followed by broad grins, flashed peace signs, several loud choruses of chiizu and much effusive appreciation in carefully practiced English. As well as an offer to take her and Grissom’s picture in return.

Why not, they both thought, not having had a lot of opportunity to have one taken together this trip.

This readily done, she accepted her camera back with an Arigato goziamasu so fluid her husband turned to her and said, “Since when did you start speaking Japanese?”

She gave him a knowing sort of grin and said, “San Francisco,” by way of reply.  “What?” she asked to his bemusement. “I pay attention.”

Grissom sighed, though smiling, “And what was it you called me yesterday, dear? An insufferable know-it-all, wasn’t it?”

Sara shrugged. “Takes one to know one I guess,” then added utterly nonchalant, “It is one of your more endearing traits.”

*******

As she flipped between that last pair of pics, Sara beamed, marveling on how each one communicated something different.

Worth a thousand words, indeed.

The first, she treasured for all its accident, capturing as it did them in an instance of unaffected intimacy. Windy as it had been that morning in the piazza, Grissom had reached over to tuck an errant strand back behind her ear. It was such a simple, loving gesture and yet was so open and expressive, it said so much about how much things had changed between them. True, he was still very much quietly, even occasionally shyly affectionate, but there was no more having to keep it all at a distance anymore.

The second caught them smiling more at each other than the camera, the laughter yet alight and alive in their faces.  For each had realized it in that same instance just how pleasantly familiar this all was.

Not unlike that February afternoon more than twelve years ago and 6000 miles away when they’d stood together in Golden Gate Park having their picture taken in almost precisely the same way.

But then history always did have the tendency to repeat itself when least expected.

That picture.

The thought of it still made Sara smile. She’d never really regarded Gil Grissom as a sentimental sort of guy. He was romantic of course in his own way, but she’d long thought him immune to the sway of sensibility until she’d seen that apparently well-thumbed and well-loved photo of the two of them on his fridge. She’d forgotten all about it – that it had even been taken – hadn’t even known he’d kept it and then there it was in a place where he would be able to see it everyday.

Grissom and his surprises. Sometimes it really did feel like the more she thought she had him figured out, the more she had to learn. But rather than frustrate, the prospect fascinated her instead.

Yes, there in Rome, life had come full circle.

At least this time they hadn’t needed any encouragement to stand closer and she supposed they even looked married. Sara wasn’t so sure that was a bad thing.

Some things changed, while some never did.

This last week she never would have imagined just two years ago — an impossibility — not even that. Something not even to be dreamt of.

And yet it had happened. Sara had the pictures — memento vitae as they were — to prove it.

She lingered a little longer over the latter one, taking in just how much of that fresh-faced youthfulness from that old photo had returned to them both. But particularly to her husband. There was no trace of that half-dead look which had haunted his eyes for so long after Warrick had been killed. And the fatigue and weariness he’d brought with him to Costa Rica was long replaced by warmth and life, a genuine joie de vive. He looked so relaxed, at ease. Alive and vibrant. Like a man who finally seemed at home in his own skin, able to live his own life, to love and just be at last.

Sara might not be a particularly religious person, but that didn’t keep her from recognizing miracles when she saw them. And she couldn’t help but treasure them in her heart, the memories of watching the man she loved fall in love with life and living again, with his beloved science and the greater world around him. To relish in the fact that he no longer seemed hesitant or afraid to love her openly and utterly.

They were fortunate, she knew. So fortunate.

The rest of the pictures could wait. But these two she wanted to send on now, even with it as late as it was in the afternoon in Vegas that it meant it was nearly the middle of the night in Paris. She knew better than to expect a reply anytime soon, but they would be there waiting in her husband’s inbox when he woke.

Still smiling Sara typed next to the subject prompt:

For the Fridge

*******

To read more about the origins of that San Francisco snapshot see “On the Meaning behind Mementos,” the third chapter in Going with the Living.

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