“And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
— Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene II, William Shakespeare
In the center of Verona is a Roman amphitheater. It is the third largest amphitheater in the world, after the Colosseum in Rome and the one in Capua. Operas are performed there on summer nights. I took a bus from the train station, and it let me off by this amphitheater in the town square. It was late morning and the streets were empty. I had come from Venice, from thick summer crowds and the feeling of a big, important party where the guests are already drunk when you arrive. The emptiness of Verona had an expectant quality after Venice. It was an anticipation that was somehow uncomfortable.
From Verona, I was to take a train to Munich. It didn’t leave until one in the morning. I bought a tourist map and sat down at an outdoor café, facing the amphitheater. I ordered an espresso and opened the map. There was an “Artistic Itinerary” listing thirty-five places of interest—Roman walls, bridges, churches, piazzas—in English, French, German, and Italian.
4. THE HOUSE OF JULIET — With the famous balcony.
There is a feeling I get when I travel alone for any real length of time. A sort of homesickness without a locus to a particular home. It is an emptiness that is nothing so much as the sense of being very young and very lost. The feeling seems to rest in the ringing silence of my head after hours, sometimes days, spent without exchanging more than the cursory words involved, for example, in ordering my coffee. Sounds become inarticulate, jagged cries from the shadows of your loneliness. Or perhaps it would be better to say your aloneness, since the feeling is not one of sorrow, although it is the sense of an emptiness waiting to be filled.
I had been sitting with my espresso and that feeling when I heard footsteps. I looked up to see a boy in his late teens walking slowly away from me, his feet ringing off the stones of the empty street. He had long, greasy hair and a dirty Levi’s jacket. A dog barked in an alley somewhere and, somewhere else, a TV played loud and full of static. The day was already warm. The amphitheater looked new and fake. It was impossible to feel the hands of its builders. The Artistic Itinerary said that the operas performed here were a popular tourist attraction. Perhaps too many summering Germans had sat there through warm evenings of Carmen. There were no ghosts, only the artificial-looking stone.
15. ROMAN AMPHITHEATER CALLED “ARENA” — It is the highest Roman monument, measuring at its axes 152 meters per 123; actual height 30 meters. Built during the 1st century after Christ. Three corridors with barrel-vault; it is divided into 4 zones: 73 sectors of wall, or rows of pillar cross it radically. The time has submerged it a little, earthquakes and robberies have dethroned it and deprived it of its precinctions of which only one sector, the highest “Ala” remains. Its acoustic is perfect. Opera is performed here on many evenings for the delight of both residents and visitors. Its plan is a unique geometric figure which is near to the ellipse.
I put the map away and got up quickly, thinking to escape the empty feeling by moving out of its way, as if it were a dark cloud or a man with a knife coming up behind me.
I walked along Via Mazzini, one of the shopping streets. The stores were all closed. In Venice, at my hotel, the desk clerk had told me that Verona would be crowded.
“It is the bank holiday,” he had explained. “August fifteen. Today, you should go to Rome. There is nobody there.”
But there was no one here either. Just groups of old men in twos and threes and the occasional couple, walking slowly. It was too early for the riposo, but the streets had that feeling—of a quiet that would end in a sudden flood.
I had been seeing something as I walked along the street, and now I stopped, realizing what it was. The wall in front of me was gray and had been painted with a huge red Swastika. The paint had dripped down before it dried. In English, below the Swastika, in the same red paint, were scrawled the words KILL, BLEED, DIE. It was this graffiti that I had been seeing as I walked. A trail of intended violence that seemed to be pointing my way down the street.
From a distance came the sound of children laughing and singing. There was also a man’s voice, amplified through a distorted loudspeaker.
I continued walking until I reached the Piazza delle Erbe.
1. PIAZZA DELLE ERBE — For over two thousand years, it has always been a lively centre. In the background, the magnificent Maffei Palace (1668), the side of which faces the Gardello Tower (1370); beside it, the historical town houses, the Magazzini’s and the Scaligeri’s houses with frescoes on the facades and wide flowery terraces; the quadrangular tower of the prisons at the side of the medieval City-Hall, clothed by the neoclassical facade; the house of the Merchants built by Alberto della Scala in 1301. In the square, the Gothic niche of the viscount’s insignias, the Capital (improperly called also Berlin), (16th century), the St. Mark’s column (1523), and more characteristic than the other monuments, a fountain called Madonna Verona, built by Cansignoria della Scala in 1368.
The Piazza was filled with closed vendors’ stalls and pigeons. I walked among the stalls towards what I took to be the medieval City Hall. It was an overgrown building fallen into ruin. I walked into the courtyard. A radio played from a room somewhere on one of the upper floors. Laundry hung on lines strung between windows.
Past the stalls were several closed cafés and what I assumed was St. Mark’s Column. A group of ragged teenagers sat around the column on steps covered with pigeon droppings. They were all in worn jeans and flannel shirts. Their faces were streaked with dirt and their eyes were hollow. One or two of them looked up at me without interest. I thought that I recognized the boy I’d seen in the square by the amphitheater.
I walked past them and turned down one side street and then another. A tour bus was parked across from a church. I walked into the church. It was cool and dark. Some tourists who must have been on the bus were there. I joined them. The tour was in German, which I didn’t understand. I walked back out into the bright, empty day.
After a while on the narrow streets I came into another piazza. Two cafés faced each other here, a huge statue of Dante between them in the center of the square. On the far side, the low steps of an old building disappeared into shade. I was hot from the walk and the sun so I sat down facing Dante and ordered a mineral water and another coffee.
It was an angry statue, glaring up at the building where the poet had once stayed. The waiter brought my water and coffee, and I studied my Artistic Itinerary.
2. PIAZZA DEI SIGNORI — We recognize in it the sign of a lordship and at the center, the guest who honored it: Dante. The Palazzo della Ragione, or the City Hall is from 1193. Inside, the puissant quadrature of the massive structure harmonizes with the deep arcade; in an angle, the light indentation of the Venetian steps called Scala della Ragione. The massive structure of the municipal Tower called Lambert (89 meters), which was built in the 11th century, rises high. Entering the Piazza again, we can see the Loggia del Consiglio work of Fra Giocondo, among the most important of our renaissance, and the New House of the City-Hall (1659). On the opposite side, the crenelated Scaligero Palace, present seat of the Prefecture.
There were only a few other people in the café. Several Italians reading the paper. A German couple arguing. Past the statue of Dante was a large, modern sculpture not mentioned in the Itinerary. It was an aimless piece, forms jutting out from each other in a ruined geometry.
A girl was walking past the sculpture. She was thin and she walked as if she were moving against a strong wind. She had short, cropped hair that shone, reflecting the sun.
I watched her as she moved towards the low steps of the building where Dante had stayed. She joined a group of teenagers sitting there in the cool shadows. I hadn’t seen them when I sat down.
They were like the group I’d seen in the last piazza. In fact, some of the same ones seemed to be there. This was a larger group, perhaps twenty or more. All of them dirty and young and vacant. Someone began to play a guitar. One of the boys stood up and walked into the sun. He had on jeans so worn that they hung like flesh from rotting bones. He had no shirt on. His chest was pale under its layers of dirt. He threw his head back and began to turn, slowly, looking up at the sun. It was like some sort of ritual dance, but performed without feeling. It was like watching a sleepwalker.
The dance only lasted a few moments. Then, still moving with that slow, dull gracelessness, the boy went back to the steps and sat down.
There are junkies all over Europe. They roam in packs like dogs, following the warmth of the sun. Perhaps this little dance had been a gesture of thanks for the brief, warm respite from the shadows.
You see the junkies everywhere. There is an atmosphere of despair that surrounds them like a fog. It is a diseased feeling, a sore infecting the land, turning it into a fever zone that promises awful and terrifying changes. You see them everywhere until you are so used to seeing them that you no longer wonder about them or care where they came from. You are left with that feeling of disease without knowing why.
Here in Verona with the empty, graffiti-lined streets and the sounds of life echoing, distorted and far away, it was as though I had come to the center of the infection, and the slow eyes that rolled up at me from nodding heads were markers—the writing on the wall left just for me.
I didn’t like sitting in the Piazza with the junkies across the way and the great poet of Hell gazing angrily into a distance somewhere inside the sky. Since I had come back out of the church the sun had been painfully bright, and now it seemed too hot, as if the entire square might disappear into its light.
I began to walk. The graffiti was everywhere. Violent and red. Markers. Street signs. Breadcrumbs leading towards, not away, from the witch’s house.
Ahead of me I could hear the children singing. The man’s voice boomed through the crackling loudspeaker, distorted and jolly. I was on an even narrower street. A bakery had put out tables and chairs, setting them on the stones in front of their door. Two old women sat eating cookies. Next to them, a large, brightly colored parrot sat on the sort of dowel perch sold in pet shops. The bird’s eyes followed me as I walked past. It leaned its leather face towards me, opened its mouth, and let out two sharp, staccato screeches that startled the old women. Then one of them laughed and held out her cookie for the bird. The parrot ate the cookie greedily.
I had meant to walk towards the river but had lost my way. Ahead of me on the side of an old house the graffiti read, CHAOS FREAKS PASS IN SILENT SQUALOR.
I turned a corner and walked into a crowd of children who must have been the ones I had heard singing. They had their hands joined in some game. They didn’t notice me. The street was decorated for a carnival. Sad streamers of faded paper, sagging under their own weight, hung from strings tied to the window bonds.
A fat man with sweat on his face and in his mustache stood below one of these streamers. He held a microphone in his hand. The microphone was plugged into a very old portable record player. A recording of accordion music played, small and tinny, through its speaker. The record was scratched and it skipped. The man shouted over the music into his microphone, apparently giving instructions to the children that had something to do with the game they were playing. He would shout and laugh and the children, laughing too, would change the pattern of their game, switching direction or hopping on one foot.
I made my way through the children to the other side of the street. There were in fact a few people here. Adults who stood there watching with an unexcited pleasure. I smelled meat on a grill. I hadn’t eaten, and the smell made me realize that I was very hungry.
At a booth on my side of the street a woman was cooking small hamburgers, little gray patties of meat that she put onto tiny buns. I pointed and held up two fingers. The woman turned back to the grill without smiling and put down two new patties of meat. I watched them dripping fat down through the grill as they cooked.
I was still watching when a cold hand touched my arm. I turned to see the girl whom I had seen in the Piazza dei Signori.
“Will you buy me some of those?” she asked. She spoke English with an accent that I had never heard.
I nodded and then she said something in Italian to the woman. The woman placed two more patties on the grill without looking at the girl.
The girl had turned away from me. She was looking at the ground, nodding her head in time with the dance music playing on the old record player.
I watched her. The moment that she had turned away from me I couldn’t remember her face, but I knew what she would look like naked. How her skin would feel cool and damp under her shirt. I knew how her breasts would glow, translucent, with the blue of the veins underneath. She had a quality that might have been in the translucence of her skin or the junkie blood flowing slow and dreamlike beneath it. It was as if she had cut across this world at an angle. As if I were only seeing the beauty of an after-image, an accidental trail of light.
“I saw you in the Piazza dei Signori,” she said. “I was with my friends.”
“I was looking for the river.”
“I can show it to you now.”
We took our hamburgers and we walked through the adults who were watching the children. Behind us, the man screamed into his microphone and the children all laughed at once.
We were soon there, at the river. It was cooler near the water. The river that flows through Verona is the Adige. It is slow and wide and shallow. The banks taper gently down to the water, weedy and unattended.
We crossed the river at an old bridge. We had finished our hamburgers. On the bridge, a middle-aged man stood, alone, shouting into a cell phone. “Hallo, hallo.” His accent, the flatted “a” sound of his greeting, he sounded Eastern European. He continued to shout his “hallos” as we crossed to the other side of the river.
It was even more deserted here. It was like a painted backdrop to the real city back on the other side of the river. There was a small park with a stand where an old woman sold slices of watermelon. She had no customers. She might have been painted too.
The girl left me and moved up quickly behind the woman. When she was close, she grabbed two slices of melon and then ran back towards me. The woman came alive then, screaming, and left her stand to come at us. We ran down the embankment and along the overgrown path that followed the river. The woman knew that she couldn’t catch us, but she stayed behind us, yelling, for a long time.
“She won’t go too far from her stand, “the girl said. “We can stop here.”
We had come far enough down the river so that we were close to another bridge. We sat and she leaned back against the cement slope of a piling. She took a bite of her melon.
“My name is Sam,” she told me.
I told her my name. Juice ran down the side of her mouth. I moved my hand to wipe it away. Her skin was damp and cool, just as I’d known that it would be.
I lay back next to her on the cement slope. It was cracked, and little dry weeds had pushed their way up through these cracks to die in the sun. I turned to pull at one that was digging into my back. The girl, Sam, was lying, I saw now, at the center of a spray-painted Iron Cross. Across the river and under the bridge I could see the words DEATH TO TYRANTS.
“Why is it always in English?” I asked, pointing over the water at the graffiti.
“Because more people can read English.”
“There’s a lot of that here. Wall writing.”
“The summer is hot. Besides, we are close to Germany.”
“Are you German?”
“When did you leave Poland?”
“I’m from Milwaukee. I’ve never been to Poland.”
“I’ve been here a long time. In Europe, I mean. You’re from the States?”
“You haven’t been here long enough to have an accent.”
“It would take a long time.”
“Not so very. You’re traveling alone?”
“I’m on my way to Munich. A friend is loaning me his apartment.”
“And you came to see the romantic city of Verona.”
“You’re a funny kind of tourist.”
“You strike me,” she said then, “more as a trespasser.”
She lay back against the cement. I looked at her. I didn’t believe that she was from Milwaukee or that she was Polish. I didn’t care. I felt feverish and hot in the sun and I wanted to unbutton her blouse and lean my hot face down against her cool flesh. I watched the river and the shadows under the bridge.
Then I studied her face. I hadn’t seen it before. I had seen her scruffy hair and her dirty junkie uniform and then later I’d seen her body and its secret glow. Now, it was as if I could only see her face. The pale, gently freckled cheeks, the large girl mouth and ancient eyes. She was talking, but I was thinking about her gentle freckles and I only heard her voice from far away, a sound like the river or the bees that now buzzed around us as they drank the sugar from the discarded watermelon rinds.
“You should meet Klaus,” she said. “He’s German. He’s interested in Americans. He saw Elvis Presley once when he was a boy. His grandmother was one of those big fans. She was the president of the Elvis Society in Munich, where you are going. She tried to kill herself when he died. One time, she had brain cancer or something. She was dying. Elvis came to her in a dream and told her that she had to live, that there were things for her to do. And she recovered. Her tumor vanished and she is still alive today. Ninety-two years old. Klaus has a shirt that belonged to Elvis when he was in the army. His grandmother gave it to him. It says ‘Presley’ here, above the pocket.”
She showed me where the name would have been above the pocket of an army shirt. We were quiet for a while after that. CHAOS FREAKS, I thought, PASS IN SILENT SQUALOR.
She sat up abruptly. She shivered. “I will show you Juliet’s tomb,” she said.
I put my hand on her back and didn’t get up.
“Come on,” she said. “We’ll have to hurry.”
We walked up the embankment and crossed back over the river using the bridge we’d been resting under. The buildings here, overlooking the water, were modern apartments. Squat and ugly, the kind that stand as monuments to half the bombs that fell during the Second World War. We followed them along the river and then turned back into the city. We walked along a Roman wall and then turned down a side street.
A wooden marker indicated Juliet’s Tomb — Tombeau de Juliette — Julias Grab — Tomba di Guilietta.
26. JULIET’S TOMB — It is the sacred place of the most noble and humane story of love.
Sam led me up a pathway to a vine-covered wall. There was a locked gate. A gift shop stood to one side. The gift shop was open, its counter facing the closed gate. Sam turned to the man behind the counter and said something in Italian. The man was old and tired. One of his eyes was glass. He was reading a German magazine. He looked up at us, mumbled something to Sam, and shrugged.
“It’s closed,” Sam said to me. “For the holiday. Do you want to see the balcony instead?”
Following the Roman wall again, we came out back into the town square where the bus had left me that morning. We came into the square so that we were facing the amphitheater.
“Its acoustic is perfect. Opera is performed here on many evenings for the delight of both residents and visitors.”
It was crowded here now. Families lining up to buy tickets for the evening’s opera. They sat down to picnic suppers in the square or to meals at the cafés.
We pushed through the crowd and made our way to the Via Mazzini. It was crowded here too. Couples window-shopped. The restaurants were full.
These were strange crowds, uncertain. It was as if they had been brought in to fill the space, the hollowness of the afternoon, without any other concern. The effect was just the opposite—the city felt even more empty with them here. The people moved listlessly through the streets, looking into the windows of the shops without seeing the displays. They sat at tables at the outdoor restaurants and ate burnt tomato pizzas without interest. Later, they would move in a slow wave to the opera and then, at the orchestra’s last note, they would vanish, leaving Verona empty and silent with the red-painted hate of the Chaos Freaks on its walls and a few stray cats sniffing in the dark garbage for something to eat.
At the Piazza delle Erbe we turned right, away from the square. There was a gateway on our left. I followed Sam into a courtyard.
5. HOUSE OF JULIET CAPULET — With the famous balcony.
The courtyard was small and unkempt. Against one wall was a line of old telephone receivers, each affixed with a faded photograph of the Hopeless Couple from the Zeffirelli film that you could listen, in French, English, German, and Italian, to the story of the “star-crossed lovers” by lifting the receiver to your ear. Jutting out slightly from the far wall was a stupid little balcony.
There were several people in the courtyard. All of them looked reverently up at the balcony, as if they expected Juliet to come out at any minute. It seemed to me that, when she did appear, she would be tired and fat like the woman who sold hamburgers at the carnival.
Sam was not standing next to me. I turned and saw that she was standing by the receivers. She was bent over, holding herself as if she were cold.
She saw me looking at her and came back over to me. She took my arm. She was very white and her eyes were black and anxious.
“It took so much longer than I thought,” she said. “We should try to find Klaus.”
We left the courtyard and walked down more narrow streets, already dark in the late afternoon. We came out of the shadows by the steps of the Piazza dei Signori. I stared past them to the statue of Dante, stared across the Plaza at myself, at where I’d been sitting that morning.
There were several junkies sprawled, nodding on the cool cement of the steps. One of them looked up at Sam and smiled. She didn’t smile back at him. She kept her voice low and even.
“Wo ist Klaus?”
The junkie smiled a little more, looked at me without seeing me, then closed his eyes.
“Klaus,” she shook him a little, “Wo ist Klaus?”
Another junkie looked up and said something in German, pointing back into the city. Without looking to see if I was still with her, Sam hurried across the Piazza and back into the shadows. I followed.
We were in the empty streets again. The noises of evening were inside houses. Radios, televisions, crying children, banging dishes—all without location. Sounds that were noise, that meant nothing.
We walked past the street where the carnival had been. It was deserted now and littered with paper.
Three or four times we came on the junkies, always in groups, always in the shadows, always high. Sam spoke to them in German, in Italian, in a language that sounded Scandinavian. We would stop and she would speak and then we’d start off again in silence.
“He’s back at the Mansion,” she said finally. “It’s just up the way, across the river.”
16. STONE BRIDGE — Roman bridge constructed during the lordship of the Scalas and Venetian age, destroyed in April 1945. An arch of the Scalas’ lordship and the tower (1298) remain.
The Mansion was across the stone bridge, back on the painted side of the Adige. It was a small, medieval structure, cylindrical, about twelve feet in diameter and six feet high. It stood just past a bend in the river and, when the town had been smaller, had undoubtedly provided a perfect look-out against invasion. Slats had been cut near the roof on the river side, and two or three men armed with crossbows could have inflicted quite a bit of damage on any attacker. Now, the building was overgrown and sagging and looked more like a child’s mud castle than a real fortress. It looked as if it were melting back into the riverbank. The door had been kicked in a long time ago and weeds now anchored it, slightly ajar, to the floor. We went inside. The sun struggled in through the slats, but the room stayed dark. It would always be dark there, dark and damp and cool. There was a musty smell and that of burnt matches.
There were several mattresses against the far wall. A man lay on one of these. He turned slowly towards us as we came in. He must have been in his sixties. He had long, silver hair and deep-set eyes with a look of what seemed to be permanent suspicion.
“Klaus,” Sam said.
He said something in German and Sam answered. He stared at me for a moment and then he nodded. He turned and took a leather pouch from beneath one of the other mattresses. He took a spoon and a syringe from the pouch. Sam crossed the room and knelt down, facing him.
He took a pink balloon out of the pouch and emptied white powder from it into the spoon. He and Sam spoke quietly in German while he heated the spoon over a match. Sam tied herself off expertly using her rope belt while Klaus sucked the dissolved mixture up into the syringe. He found her vein and placed the needle there. In the cool stillness of the room I could hear the sound of the needle breaking her skin.
When he had emptied the syringe into Sam’s vein, Klaus pulled the needle from her arm, wiped it off on his pants leg, lit another match and sterilized the needle in its flame, then put both the syringe and the spoon back in the pouch. He put the pouch back under its mattress.
Sam lay back with her head on his lap. She was humming now without a tune. Klaus stroked her hair.
Klaus looked up at me and smiled. “You are from America?” he asked.
“It is your first time in Verona?”
“Here it is not so good. It is more alive in Firenze, in Florence. Florence is good for travelers.”
“He’s going to Munich,” Sam said without moving. “He has a friend there with an apartment.”
“Munich is awful,” Klaus said. “You will not like it.”
We were quiet. Sam hummed and Klaus stroked her hair. I ran my fingers along the dirt floor. I was cold now. Finally, Klaus lifted Sam’s head carefully and slid his legs out from under her. He set her head back on the mattress and stood up.
As he crossed the room I could see him clearly for the first time. He had large, wet eyes and a nose that had clearly been broken several times. He was tall and thin and his blond hair was combed straight back. He seemed, in spite of his broken nose, gentle.
“I am glad to have met you,” he said, offering his hand. “I hope the rest of your trip is fine.” He let go of my hand and went out the door.
On the mattress, Sam was still humming. I crossed the room and sat down beside her. She looked up as my weight moved the mattress. I reached out and touched her cheek.
She moved closer to me, touching my arm slightly with her hand. I unbuttoned her flannel shirt and then my own shirt and held her against me. I felt her cool skin. Her skin would always be cool and damp, like this room.
She kissed me and pressed herself even more tightly against me. It was a different fever. We were nowhere else. Time was dead and I would save her from her life and from mine and we would dance together through the doors of that secret.
(We lie, holding each other as if that meant more. Then falling back on the cool Italian dirt beside the mattress, and a girl who will not remember my face or my name or the most important of my kisses. We lean away from each other, and all the truths that could rearrange history and sense are dissolved.)
It was evening now. Beside me, Sam slept. Her breathing was calm and even. I got up and walked out of the Mansion and found my way back across the river. Here, the voices of the evening’s opera echoed in the streets, lost to the wind and then suddenly loud. I walked again through the Piazza dei Signori. The café where I’d sat earlier was closing. A waiter silently folded chairs. Dante’s statue seemed bigger in the darkness. In the shadows of the modern sculpture a solitary junkie nodded, his head resting between his knees.
The opera grew louder as I neared the Via Mazzini. There was no one in the street. For a moment, I felt Sam’s cool, damp skin and it was as if I had remembered something that had happened a long time ago.
I would go back to the café across from the amphitheater. I would have a coffee and listen to the rest of the opera. Then, as the crowd came out of the amphitheater, I would take a taxi back to the station and try to find a seat on the train to Munich. It would probably be very crowded and I would have to sleep in the hall, using my bag as a pillow.
Les Bohem was part of the great Los Angeles music scare of the early 1980s. His band, Gleaming Spires, had a cult-adjacent hit with their single, “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls.” (If you ever saw Revenge of the Nerds, you know). At the same time, he was holding down a day job as the bass player with the band, Sparks (you can catch a glimpse of him in Edgar Wright’s documentary, The Sparks Brothers). After this burgeoning career in rock and roll stopped burgeoning, Les started writing, mostly about musicians whose careers had stopped burgeoning. One thing led to another and Les has written a lot of movies and TV shows including: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Twenty Bucks, Daylight, Dante’s Peak, and the miniseries, Taken, which he wrote and executive produced with Steven Spielberg and for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Writers Guild award and for which he won an Emmy award, a Television Critics’ Award, and a Saturn Award. He has had songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Freddy Fender, Steve Gillette, Johnette Napolitano, and Alvin (of the Chipmunks). He created the show Shut Eye for Hulu, but everybody makes mistakes. His first solo album, Moved to Duarte, was released last year to rave reviews and absolutely no sales or downloads. His Audible Original novel, Junk, narrated by John Waters was an NYT Notable and the best-selling Audible Original of 2019. The sort-of sequel, Jive, was just released on Audible. He is currently at work on an as-yet-untitled, Spaghetti western limited series for Fox Television. He’ll give it all up if you’re looking for a bass player.
Les has opted out of all social media. He refuses to pretend that anyone gives a shit. In case anyone does give a shit, he has a website: lesbohemswonderfulworldoflesbohem.com, which he keeps forgetting to update.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Romeo and Juliet”:
This is Les Bohem’s second appearance in our magazine. This piece amazed us because, while on the surface it seems like a travelogue, it is far more. It ventures into the emotions of the main character and at the same time takes us into the emotions of the setting being watched over by the silent statue of Dante.
The first-person narrator here is not just a simple observer. He takes the reader beneath the surface and makes the setting a character in the story. It takes a very skilled writer to pull that off. And did you notice that the narrator himself is never identified?
We found the title interesting because the story is not at all what one expects from that title.