7 am (some italian village undecided)
The streets are beginning to rise out of the deathlike coma they go into every night, not too much longer after dark. It is almost as if the streets need to loosen their stiffened ligaments after a night of bed pans and bed sore preventive measures. The 5 am sponge bath forces them awake unwillingly.
It is a small village of only about 5,000 people, so any kind of nightlife occurs within the confines of people’s property. There is only one bar in town owned by some Egyptians. We jokingly quip that if you end up drinking too much there, your liver will somehow wind up in a canopic jar and put in the vault in the back room. There are a few remaining decorations still suspended from the storefronts from yesterday’s parade, but other than that, the village is void of any kind of humanity. I walk quickly, gradually ascending the slight hill. The air is chilled, and I had forgotten my sweater when i left. It had been a long night filled with restless sleep and lack of ability to get comfortable in the flat Italian bed. You just never get used to these beds if you have originally come from America. Sleep last night stayed as far away as my childhood home.
I stop at the bakery to purchase some bread before I make my way homeward. I notice upon leaving, a young man languidly leaning against the side of one of the shops. The look on his face was one of a sort of innocent petulant aggression. Like someone putting on a good show of fortitude and irritation, yet not quite coming close to the mark. Instead of coming across imposing, he comes across as more captivating, giving a sort of mystique to his persona. As I am walking past, he says “Scusi” in a lower voice than expected. His clothes are crisp and freshly laundered. He wears stunning black boots, a white dress shirt, and a thin black tie. His hair is shorn down into a punk-like spiked style, bleached blonde but with darker regrowth catching up with him. He has a lighter complexion and almost grey eyes that are set off by the paleness of his skin. He wears a long, dangly earring from his left ear with a shape at the bottom that I can’t make out. I notice his hands are large and rather strong and masculine, which stand in striking contrast to the rest of his physicality--he is androgynous. It was actually difficult to tell from afar what his sex is, but clearly “he” walks a fine line between the genders. He wears an obviously deliberate pout on his lips in order to appear lackadaisical. He does succeed while adding in a bit of sexiness and a lot of gaunt charm.
“May I ask you where you live?” he says in heavily accented italian.
I respond in my own awkward italian making me sound like a stuttering American fool, compared to the speed and finesse of which he started the conversation. In English he returns my awkwardness right back to me:
“Then I will escort you home, madam.”
He puts his arm through my own and leads me quickly towards the end of the street.
“Carlo”, he says and holds out his hand.
“Clarissa,” I respond and shake it gently.
His boots click and clack against the concrete of the road, making a high pitched sound that reverberates and echoes against the surrounding buildings.
“Don’t be angry with my italian. It knows not what it does.” I giggle, sounding a little childlike.
There is at best a 20 year difference between us, so perhaps, I was subconsciously attempting to narrow the gap. There is something about the Italian male though. Not just this one, but in fact, all of them have this bond that hold them together. I analyze him as a reflection of “them” and wonder why I am so drawn to them. He is different though, but I can’t quite place why just yet.
“I appreciate your chivalry, Carlo.”
“Chivalry is not dead, bellissima.” He grins and laughs; his grin a little lopsided and demure.
“I am new here. Freshly moved from Roma. I am living in the apartment of my aunt on Via Vardi. So this right here is in fact a true attempt to make friendship with you, Clarissa.”
“Well, it is nice to be part of your welcoming committee then, Carlo!” I respond warmly.
“I have been living here in this village for….well, I guess it has been almost 8 years now! It doesn’t seem that long at all. I live at the villa on the top of this hill. You can kind of see it through these trees if you look closely.”
“Most definitely beautiful. And the views?”
“Amazing! It is why we bought it. You will have to come visit with us some time. For tea maybe or a glass of wine in the evening. I would love to show you my home. I am a little too proud of my garden too, so you will have to suffer through that.” haha.
“And I am sure my husband would love to meet you as well. He’s an artist. Fairly well known and I am...well, I can know definitely that he will show you his sculptures. Our home is full of them. Both inside and outside. He is eccentric though. I do warn you ahead of time.” I smile.
“Aren’t all artists though?” Carlo responds coyly.
“Yes. That they are! I don’t think one trait can exist without the other.”
He smooths his tie down as we stop to cross the street. He turns to face me.
“Clarissa, it has been a pleasure to meet you and to talk with you.”
I notice he looks me directly in the eyes without shame or self consciousness.
“I know that we will come to be great friends.”
He grabs my arm again as we cross. The cars pass by as he hands me off through my gate.
“Safe and sound.” he confidently announces, turns, and tip taps his way back down the hill. He turns and tips his pretend hat. “Ciao, Clarissa.”
I tap in the security code and enter my lair.
“Goodbye, Carlo,” but he is already gone.
It was a cat at the end of his earring, dangling there. I just noticed that I had noticed it. Curious.