Pushcart XLII: Louisa Ermelino, “The Ménage” from Sarabande Books

I didn’t know Rosie then, when she lived on the beach in Calangute with her old man and the English couple. I could see her from my house when she would come out in the mornings to sweep. They were all four of them tall and beautiful, I remember, both the English girl and Rosie with wild red hair. They kept to themselves and I wasn’t interested in new friends. I was too busy licking my wounds.

Think of this as Eat, Pray, Love for the dysfunctional.

It starts out the same way: our narrator travels the world to heal her broken heart. In India, she notices the intriguing group, but never meets them. After a while she tires of sex and drugs – “I was done with the East” – and moves on to Australia, where she crosses paths again with Rosie. At this point she becomes an observer-narrator, someone Rosie can tell her stories to.

And Rosie has lots of stories.

I didn’t know the Ians and Rosies and Cynthias of the world, with their fearlessness, their disregard for consequences. They both attracted and repelled me.

I kind of feel bad for our narrator; given Rosie’s steadfast self-interest and lack of conscience, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen after the story ends. But I suppose that’s another story, isn’t it. I like a story that ends with me imagining what happens next, not in an unfinished sense, but in a further-adventures way. And, as Rosie herself says, “Oh darling, have you not learned anything?”

The story is from Ermelino’s 2016 collection Malafemmena, “Cruel Woman”, which is also the title of a popular Neapolitan song from the 50s (thanks for the consult, Silvia!). For those of us intrigued by bad girls, or bad boys, stories are a far safer option.

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