To be honest, I was completely shocked that Sandro cheated on Reno with Talia. I kept thinking about it, however, and realized that maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The text is ripe with clues that Reno and Sandro’s relationship is doomed—I just didn’t see them until it was too late.
When Reno is exploring the mansion, she wanders in to Talia’s room. There she encounters the Borsalino that she gave to Ronnie. Reno goes on to describe how carefree Talia is, and then returns to the room she shares with Sandro. She then says “I looked up at the portrait of the grandfather. He was trapped in a never-ending vigil up on the wall. I felt like we had that in common, somehow. The predicament of being trapped” (257). Because of this series of events, I think Kushner was foreshadowing the situation between Talia, Sandro, and Reno. When Reno describes her feelings of being trapped, I think she is referring to her relationship with Sandro (she is laying on the bed that she shares with Sandro when she has this realization). Although I don’t know if Reno sensed that something was happening between Sandro and Talia, I think by comparing herself to Talia she realized that her relationship with Sandro was less than perfect.
Later, after she has discovered Sandro and Talia, she is in Rome studying the graffiti. “It was the hand’s imperfection that made it menacing, I decided” (272). To me, this hearkens back to when Talia went skinny dipping in front of Sandro and herself. She was surprised to find that Talia’s body was pudgy and saggy. I think Reno felt threatened by Talia’s confidence in her own imperfect body. It’s also possible that these are new feelings to Reno. Returning to the graffiti reference, Reno contrasted New York graffiti to Rome graffiti. “New York graffiti was not desperate communication. It was an exuberance of style, logo, name, the feat of installing jazzy pseudonyms, a burst of swirled color where the commuter had not thought possible. These were plain, stark messages written in black spray paint…” (272). Reno feels inferior to Sandro’s family, including Talia. She feels completely out of her element in Rome, and uncomfortable with the confidence that she sees in imperfection.