In Pompeii, heat encapsulates the city. It stays persistently for days and days, forcing its visitors to hide inside air-conditioned cafés and hotel bars—into the linings of the tourist traps. One thinks the heat draws the tourists. Instead, this heat wants to eliminate them. Just as it once did with its people thousands of years ago. Yet back then, it had a much more gooey texture.
This heat screams for nothing less than an escape. It tries to climb onto sweaty foreheads to cool down. It feeds off the wet pearls of salt on the noses of tourists. Or it might just be another mythological figure of this town, holding the allure that eventually will turn into pain if you move close enough.
Emma imagines the expressions of people immortalised through death by volcano. What their final facial expressions must have looked like. If they saw the heat as pleasure or pain.
Her feet are getting slippery inside her Hermes leather slippers. They don’t really fit her foot. Neither do they fit her neon green pedicure, although her toenails have become all dusty and dirty by now, and you can no longer see the colour. But, I know because I’ve been following her for days.
Pompeii obviously doesn’t suit pedicures, but I wonder if this town really suits any of the crap in my field of vision. Her sandals are generally not made for walking. They don’t like rocky roads.
Not that Pompeii is particularly rocky anymore. All things have become soft and polished from centuries of tourism, walking the same steps, resting on the same spots.
Soon, everything here will probably be pulverised by the rhythm of their touches and gazes. Soon, even the faces looking back with their stoned expressions will give in to the endless eyes, and their careless, overheated looks. In the end, no one really wants to be here at all.
The volcano in the background almost dances to the movement of the heatwaves. Not the best day to come here. I wish she had picked a slightly cooler day. Less warm, is perhaps more accurate to say. Next week is supposed to be better. And why a Saturday? Who even visits tourist attractions on a weekend? She has all the time in the world, but maybe that has made her lose track of time altogether.
The golden watch on her wrist: It only shows the hours of the day and is rather a reminder of her old Italian husband’s attempts to overcome his own age and decline. Or his declining reputation in art circles after he bought loads of NFTs that he now desperately tries to trade off to a fertility doctor in Basel.
Yet in Pompeii time stands still, or so we like to think. Time is stuck, and we come here to watch it remain stuck.
Emma is just finishing the bottle of water she bought less than two minutes ago. She squeezes the crinkly plastic in her tight grip, as if it could pulverise too. The plastic is thin, and the quality is poor, just as the water tastes dull and is probably bad for her. Are there no trash cans here? You’ll guess there are thousands of these blue bottle caps snuck into the cracks of the vulcanised ancient buildings.
At one point there will probably be more plastic bottle caps than rocks left in these constructions, glued together by the pink chewing gum left by the kids who run around screaming, the gum not yet stuck in their hair or melted into the plastic seats of the crammed cafés.
Is there no one to take care of these kids? she thinks. Where are their parents? Why are there so many of them here? Those old grannies over there, they should care. I shouldn’t need to care. I have already done her best to avoid having one of those.
And this dress shouldn’t stick to my back. It’s supposed to be 100% silk. It’s supposed to help me breathe out here. Yet what do I know. It’s just some Cavalli shit from a dead aunt.