Sylvia was amused to find Vittorio learning a martial art.
“Kung fu,” she’d say with a laugh, remembering the exploitative Chinese films she’d seen in Syracusa cinemas. “Can you put your hand through a wall, break bricks with your head?” she asked him. “No,” he said, “but I can throw you out that window, no problem.”
Around the time Vittorio turned 27 he told me about wushu. He called me one night, early morning in Solareno where I was still living but night in America. He wouldn’t normally call when he knew we’d be asleep so I knew there was something important he had to tell us. That night on the phone he had the sudden striking enthusiasm of a boy, a born artist, who’d discovered the concept of painting. He started talking as I sat on a chair, leaning sideways against the wall, my gray-haired mother standing by more awake than myself.
“What?” I said into the phone. “What is that? What did you say?” My eyes half-closed. “Wushu. What is that?”
He said, after a pause, as if he were tal…