Marlene Reed Wetzel’s ‘‘A Map of Tripoli, 1967’’ is a story of love between two people from very different worlds who are surrounded by portents of war and violence. The story is set in Tripoli, Libya, in the months before the 1967 Six Day War between Israel on one side and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria on the other. Wetzel noted in an interview on the Amazon.com web site that the origins of the story came from her experiences living in Libya in the 1960s and meeting a Jewish crystal salesman named Mantini. The rest of the events in the piece are fiction, according to Wetzel, although she did hear about the final incident in the story after leaving Libya.
‘‘A Map of Tripoli, 1967’’ opens in the city of Tripoli, Libya, in the months before the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Mantini, the Jewish shopkeeper, is opening his crystal store with the help of his shop boy, Mohammed. The American woman Carla has been in town for barely a month and is navigating the narrow streets of Tripoli in her Volkswagen, searching for Mantini’s shop.
While maneuvering through the streets, Carla remembers when her husband, Ben, who works at the United States Embassy, picked her up at the airport a month earlier and then immediately rushed off to an assignment in Egypt, leaving her to settle in by herself. Her husband had changed his way of speaking and his looks since Carla last saw him, and this disoriented her. She also remembers Moham- med coming to her house, on loan from Mantini to iron Ben’s shirts. Mohammed suggested then that Carla look for crystal at Mantini’s shop.
When Carla finally finds Mantini’s shop, he is gracious, and she finds him charming. They talk about what crystal she is interested in buying, and he mentions Lucia. Carla expresses her sympathy for Lucia’s death. Mantini sends Mohammed out for coffee, and when she drinks it Carla becomes faint from its strength. Mantini is tender with her, placing her head in his lap and putting ice cubes wrapped in a cloth on her forehead. He tells her a little about his life, how he has moved from Italy and from place to place, and how he understands how hard that is. Mantini tells her to come to him whenever she needs a friend and arranges to have her driven back to her house.
Mantini returns to his home, Villa Cappellini, and notes that the entire household seems to be waiting for Lucia’s return. Mohammed is also there, cleaning pans.
Mantini reminisces about how Ben flirted shamelessly with Lucia at a dance. At that time, Lucia was just barely pregnant, Mantini remembers. She generously sent Mohammed over to Ben’s house to iron his shirts, since Carla had not yet arrived. Mantini considers Ben a ‘‘barbarian’’ and ‘‘affected.’’ Now, he realizes that Ben’s wife, Carla, has enlivened him after Lucia’s death, and has him wanting to send flowers again.
Ben and Carla are going to dinner at a restaurant. Ben argues with the block watcher, who asks for a few coins to watch the car while they are in the restaurant, and Carla marvels that...
(The entire section is 1025 words.)