“Miss Callas will see you now,” said the aide.
Sam Baxter’s heart was thumping, he had started sweating just a little. He couldn’t believe he was here. Sitting in a narrow poorly lit corridor back stage at La Scala Milan. Waiting to see the legend, the diva he adored.
Sam was a young reporter with the London newspaper The Times. He was still unsure how he had convinced his editor to send him for a week to Italy. To report on Maria Callas latest role as Violetta in La Traviata.
His first few days in the city were spent knocking on doors and making telephone calls. Finally, he had been told to be at the theatre for 5.30pm when the renowned singer may see him. After an hour, he was still sitting fidgeting making notes with his pencil in a notebook. He was trying his best to start his article before he had even begun the interview, or even seen the night’s performance.
Suddenly an aide arrived and he was whisked down the corridor. Up and down steps heading further into the heart of the theatre. Eventually they reached a door with a simple sign on it saying, ‘Miss Callas’ in large letters.
As they entered the room he paused slightly to take in his surroundings, it had all the trappings he expected of a star’s dressing room. Nothing fancy a wardrobe, settee, chair, mirror and lights. There she was in her opening outfit, putting the finishing touches to her make up. The woman he had travelled to Milan to see. She looked stunning, her long dark hair tied up. Simple make up and a grand strapless dark blue evening gown.
The interview was short he was lucky to be getting one at all. It would be enough, along with his review of the opera, his editor would be happy. The truth was he was transfixed with the woman during the entire interview. As he left she took him by the hand and kissed him gently on the cheek, wishing him well. He left the dressing room having fulfilled a lifelong wish. Simply to be in the same room as her.
Sam made his way to his seat high in the auditorium. He sat in awe in his seat. For the length of the entire performance he was unable to write a single word. Thinking the whole time how lucky he was to be here at this precise moment in time. As the final notes echoed out across the theatre he reached for his notebook and penned the first word of his article that would appear in his newspaper the next day in London. “It is astonishing that in a brutal world there are such incredibly beautiful things as this.” he began.
As the performance ended Sam had tears in his eyes. The man in the seat next to Sam stood up and turned to him and said, “Sam it’s time to go remember we only had until the end of this performance. We have to go right now.”
Sam remembered now, he remembered everything. It was in fact 2017, not 1958. He had been on his way to his job at the call centre when he was hit by the bus. He was though a lover of opera and wished so often that he could have seen his idol perform in her heyday. That had of course been impossible until the accident.
Right afterwards the strangest things had began to happen. He was in an ambulance, then a hospital. People were rushing here and there, such a commotion. It all seemed to be about him. A man in the crowd leaned over Sam and spoke to him. No one else in the room seemed to notice him. He was young and smartly dressed, around Sam’s age.
“Sam you are dying but if we leave quickly there is just time. Yes, there is just time,” said the man.
That was then, now Sam found himself leaving La Scala, Milan. He had just experienced the last thing he would in his life. He was contented and smiling as he left the building.