The Blue Zone
The mystery of the world’s “Blue Zones” had fascinated her since she was an undergraduate studying epidemiology. A Blue Zone was where the local population had an average life expectancy which was way beyond what was considered normal. In these regions, reaching a hundred years of age was considered everyday. There were only five blue zones in the world and ever since she had decided to make them the subject of her doctoral dissertation, she knew that the Barbagia region on the Italian island of Sardinia was the one she most wanted to study on a field trip. Partly because of her own southern european ancestry but also because she loved all things Italian. She’d spent time in the cultural meccas of Rome, Florence and Venice and could speak some some simple italian but this was her first time in the heartland of rural Italy.
She flew to the Sardinian airport of Cagliari-Elmas then transferred to a bus to take her to her final destination which was a village nestled in the hills of the Barbagia region. She’d been in correspondence with the mayor of the village for over six months and felt she had everything planned out so she could gather the data she needed and write up her paper after her return. Apparently the village had had regular visits from scientific researchers like herself and they had a very open attitude to helping anyone understand where the secret of a long life came from. Any visitors, whether they be researchers or tourists, helped the local economy. The mayor had said she had arranged a local guide to assist her and he would meet her when she got off the bus.
It was a long winding journey to the village, but she marvelled at the rugged beauty of the countryside as the bus bumped and groaned over the under-maintained roads. Finally, the vehicle pulled up in small city square surrounded by cafes, shops and a church and the driver called back to her that she had arrived. She clambered off the bus with her bag and there to meet her was Mario. She later discovered he was in his early seventies but despite his advanced age he came towards her with a spring in his step, a beaming smile and a glint in his eye. She held her hand out to shake his, but instead of shaking it, he took it in both his weathered hands and looked seriously into her eyes like she was a long-lost niece he’d never met before. “Eez a pleasure. Sei bellissima! We Barbagians should live longer if such a bootiful young woman comes to see us because of eet.” She smiled back and blushed a little. She wasn’t used to overtly sexist compliments like this from a man fifty years her senior. Maybe Mario wasn’t up to speed with the whole @metoo thing but she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to be.
Mario took her bag and as the bus went on its way, they walked together along a narrow alleyway leading from the square to the apartment the mayor had arranged for her. As they walked she explained some of the things she wanted to do in the week she planned to be there. She’d like to interview some of the older people. Ask them about lifestyle. What did they eat everyday? With their permission, take a small blood sample and a DNA swab from inside their mouth. Both could be couriered to a lab on the mainland and she could get the results later. Mario nodded as she talked and seemed to be taking it all in. When they got to the apartment at the top of stone staircase from the alley, he took out a key which he put in the lock and opened the door for her. “You rest now and I come tomorrow morning at nine. We all want you to have a nice stay in our bootiful village.” As he left he ran his hand down the her upper arm then walked down the staircase, turning back once to say, “Buona notte e sogni d’ oro!” As she watched him go, she could still feel his touch on her arm.
Mario was there the next morning on the stroke of nine and she began her research in earnest. He took her to visit some village residents that were already over hundred and she quizzed them about their daily habits and took some samples with Mario acting as her interpreter. She marveled at their good health and sharp minds. At the end of the day Mario took her back to her apartment and once again wished her good night as he walked back down the stone stairs, turning briefly to wish her goodnight with some other sweet Italian expression. After he left, she realized she was becoming very comfortable with Mario around and in a way she wished he could have stayed a little longer.
After a few more days of meeting centenarians, she asked Mario if she knew of a younger woman she could talk to, maybe someone in their eighties, so she could connect the dots of how the aging process progressed during the later stages of life. That’s when she met Dora.
Dora was in her early-eighties and Mario told her she out had outlived four husbands. She asked about his relationship to Dora and he matter-of-factly explained that Dora had been his first lover. “She was the older woman who stole my innocence when I was just sixteen,” he told her a mischievous smile as they arrived at the front door. Dora opened the door and greeted her with a huge hug then stood back still clasping her arms to contemplate this young woman from the modern world beyond. She didn’t speak any English so Mario translated. “She thinks you are very bootiful,” he said as Dora continued to contemplate her. “And Dora wants you stay a long time in our village.” She replied with a polite thank you in bad Italian and they went inside the house.
Dora chatted a lot with Mario as she gave some blood and had her DNA sample taken. Evidently there was still some kind of strong friendship between Dora and Mario. Dora turned to her several times as she rattled on in Italian to Mario, as though she was talking about her. She asked Mario for a translation but the versions he gave seemed to be out of sync with the smiles she was getting from Dora. Once, she heard Dora say “Voglio mangiare la sua figa,” to Mario followed by a hearty laugh. When she asked Mario for a translation, he unconvincingly said, “Dora says only she eez a leetle hungry.” Then Dora leaned over to her as she took blood from Dora’s arm and whispered conspiratorially, “Super Mario,” followed by yet another conspiratorial wink.
As they walked away from the house after saying their goodbyes, which involved Dora hugging her tightly several times and stroking her face as Dora gazed into her eyes, she tackled Mario again. What exactly had Dora said? She didn’t seem hungry at all. Mario thought for a moment, then gave in. “She said she wanted to eat your pussy.” There was moment’s shock that a woman in her eighties could have sexual feelings towards her, but then she realized this could be another aspect of her research. She asked Mario how sexually active the older people in the village were. “Old people like sex too.” he answered, “and especially with you, bellissima!” She felt her face redden a little when she heard this.
The next day, Mario suggested they visit his older brother Luigi who was in his late seventies and could be another subject for her study. When she heard Luigi was married, she assumed that she’d be meeting a husband and wife who were close together in age. She didn’t expect to meet Lydia. After she entered the house, she was greeted by a man who seemed only slightly older than Mario and with the same spring in his step and glint in his eye. When Luigi’s wife Lydia appeared nursing a recently born infant at her naked breast, the age difference with her husband was startling. Lydia seemed in her late twenties although she later found out that she was actually thirty one years old and the baby she was holding for the second she’d had in two years. Lydia greeted her in Italian but with an accent that suggested it was not her native tongue.
She interviewed Luigi and took samples as she’d done with the others while Lydia sat quietly by breast feeding. After she was finished, Lydia spoke in English for the first time, but with an east european accent. “Would you like to come into the kitchen? You can help me make some pasta for lunch.” In the kitchen, she couldn’t contain her curiosity about where Lydia was from and how she had become involved with Luigi. Lydia laughed as she put down the baby and started to roll out strips of pasta dough before putting them into the cutting machine. “I was like you. I came to do research on these people and… well, I never left.” She could hardly believe what Lydia was telling her. Was she in the Sardinian version of the Bermuda Triangle? She asked Lydia how she could leave everything behind? Lydia looked at her knowingly. “When they love you here. They really love you.” She began to whisper just like Dora. “You know what they call Mario?” She had a strong premonition about what Lydia would say next. “They call him Super Mario.” With that, Lydia giggled like a thirteen year old schoolgirl.
That evening Mario took her up to her apartment door and was about to bid her farewell again when she heard herself say something she didn’t imagine she would have said several days earlier. She asked him to come inside. He hesitated but she took his hand and led him into the apartment. Inside they stood facing each other for a moment before he put up his hand to caress her waist. That hand on her body was so warm and comforting, she instinctively slid her hand up his chest and around his neck as they came together and kissed on the lips. She could tell he wanted her and she slid her other hand down to his crotch where something fat and elongated was pushing against his trousers. She unzipped him, reached inside and looked down at what was throbbing in her hand. It was one of the most wonderful erect cocks she’d ever seen, in the flesh or in a pornographic image. As she stroked it, she looked up into Mario’s eyes and asked a question. “Is this why they call you Super Mario?” He replied, but not to her question. “You want to know why we live so long? It’s because we love to fuck so much.”
A few weeks later she sent an email to her university saying that she was prolonging her stay on Sardinia. A few weeks after that, she sent an email to her family saying that she was fine but she’d fallen in love with the place and the people and didn’t know when she’d return. A few weeks after that, as she lay in Mario’s bed, she felt some mild morning sickness coming on. As he brought her a fresh cup of coffee, as he had done every morning since she moved in with him, she reflected on how she had collected the best DNA sample any researcher could hope for, and it was growing inside her.