I cannot believe that I somehow lost the working manuscript of my second book, including the first hundred pages of the most recent second revision. It just disappeared from my laptop. I had a paper copy of some of those 100 pages but not enough to easily reconstruct, rewrite really, all over again.
It was very unlike me not to have a backup. I know I wasn't careless about saving the manuscript with these recent edits. I looked in every file and every program for it. I wondered if it was meant for me to give up and move on.
This will be a more difficult book to publish than it is to write. It is often too close to home, and it could/may/will be hurtful to some people I love. I told myself I would not decide what to do until I finished the book.
Then: two nights ago, while playing Words with Friends on my iPhone, the manuscript popped up. I swear this is true. It just appeared. I immediately sent myself an email copy and guess what? When I opened it, the copy I received was an older version. I can't explain any of it. I will only say that from my iphone I managed to copy-paste pages 60-100 and they were the most important. The next day, on my iPhone, the updated copy was no longer there.
Anyway, here is a chapter, where sometimes pathetic Casey Mango and her partner Bee vacation in Italy.
Bee and I and the tour gang are traveling to Pompeii.
Considering that the city was partially destroyed and buried under up to twenty feet feet of ash and pumice when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 what we see is remarkably intact: it is the bones of a mud crusted bombed out city with roads and marked lots and some standing buildings. Pompeii was lost for nearly seventeen hundred years before its accidental rediscovery in 1749 and since then, excavation has provided extraordinary details into the life of an ancient city.
Because the Roman legal system that govenerned Pompeii unified the administration of justice throughout the provinces, the empire was largely free of large-scale power disputes. This alllowed art and architecture to flourish along with commerce and economic prosperity. This is not to say, however, that women and slaves benefitted; not even. From our first step into Pompeii, now one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year, the ‘power over’ male aristocracy is apparent. Bee and I are fascinated and then appalled by the cave like entrance to the sex rooms frequented by the city’s wealthy men. Upon entering we see mud calcified walls creating separate spaces for makeshift straw mattresses and with explicit diagrams of various sexual positions etched on many of the interior walls.
“The merchants and governors visited the sex rooms often, then gorged themselves with food and drink, and then, on their way home to their wives and families, they would stop to relieve their indulgences at one of several vomitoriums.” Our tour guide describes this quite matter of factly. “Then,” she says, “the slaves would clean and maintain the vomitoriums every day. Being a slave was very difficult: their average life expectancy was barely twenty one years.”
“Jesus Christ, Bee, can you imagine being so misused that he would have probably died before he was even an adult?”
Bee looks very serious. “We are so lucky, Casey. Sometimes we don’t know how lucky we are.”
At the time of the eruption, this was a wealthy Roman trading town, famous for its fish sauce and grand villas. Although there was a day’s warning and many residents had time to flee, many did not. The eruption came fast and furious, lasting nineteen hours. Pliny the Younger, circa A.D. 97 to 109, documented the terror:
"You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. There were some so afraid that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one unending night for the world."
Mt. Vesuvius erupted with superheated ash that also rained a fiery death on several Roman cities nearby. But none was hit harder than Pompeii, which was buried in a thick layer of broiling ash in a matter of seconds. The ash killed over a thousand people instantly and buried the town nine feet deep.
Wealthy Pompeians had poured their savings into their houses. The sophisication defied belief: rooms heated by hot air running through cavity walls and spaces under the floors, hydraulic pumps providing running water. From a great reservoir, water flowed invisibly through underground pipelines into drainage systems and into aqueducts supported by arches.
Now, beneath the layers of the muddy ash a snapshot of everyday life emerges, complete with bank receipts, graffiti, "for rent" signs, public mosaics depicting extremely graphic sex, and penis decorations on street corners. Outside one shapely building on a main street in Pompeii, Bee and I see this piece of graffiti: "Hic bene futui," or "Here you'll get a good fuck.”
I motion to Bee to look at our tour mates, Roberta and Ellen, who have also just come across this translation. They are almost doubled over. Ellen winks at me and I know we will have a good laugh at Maria and Eddie’s kitchen later that night.
If you've made it this far, thank you very much.