by Melinda Gallo

A possible lapse in judgment

Yesterday at the mercato, I stopped by to chat a little bit with my macellaio when I saw him standing at the counter by himself. I went yesterday to drop off cookies to the guy at the gastronomia. The macellaio told me that he lives with his ailing mother who is all alone while he's at work. He seemed a little sad about his situation, but told me, "Contentiamoci" (Let's be satisfied with what is). I told him that I'd return the next day to buy some things and he said, "Mi fa sempre piacere vederti" (It's always nice to see you).

Today when I arrived at the mercato, my macellaio wasn't there. I ordered my meat from another guy who chats to me off an on. When, I was done, my macellaio came and asked me, "Vieni con me per prendere un caffè?" (Do you want to come with me to get a coffee). I was surprised by his offer especially since he still doesn't know my name and I heard his name was Paolo, but he's never told me.

I walked past the gastronomia and told them I'd be back. I generally go to the fruttivendolo (green grocer) because she closes first, then the macellaio, then the gastronomia, another gastronomia that sells fresh pasta, the alimentari (grocery shop), and sometimes the forno (bakery).

I waited for my macellaio at the end of his back hall and we walked to the bar inside the mercato. He wasn't as tall as I assumed he was. I always see him behind the counter and have never seen him stand next to me.

He asked me what I wanted and I asked for a caffè macchiato even though I usually only drink one caffè (and usually decaffeinato) per day. He had a spuma al cedro, which is a fizzy lemony drink. He told me that it was cold today and that he had to drive his car. "Come fai per venire qui di solito?" (How do you get here usually), I asked him. "In scooter," he told me. He said that there's no traffic in the morning, so it's easy to get here from Coverciano, which is about 3 kilometers away. He said there's no one on the roads at 5AM, but Saturday mornings are the scariest because people go out drinking and then come home about the same time, so he says he has to be very cautious.

He finished his drink quickly, so I had to finish my caffè in one fell swoop. He plopped down his glass on the counter and I thanked him for the caffè. We walked back toward his back hall and I said, "Grazie di nouvo...buona giornata!" He smiled and we parted.

I got to the gastronomia hoping to find out if the guy liked my oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. He was busy, so his brother waited on me. I ordered what I wanted and paid. The younger brother was hiding behind the eggs and so I looked back at him and said, "Non ti vedo." (I don't see you). He told me that he liked the cookies and that there are only two left. Of course, I only gave him six just in case he didn't like them.

He told me that he likes soft cookies, like mine, and not the hard ones you get at the forno. I agreed with him. "Ci sono tanti tipi di 'cookies' americani," I said. I told him that I'll try to make some others to see if he likes those too. We talked about food, as we always do, and he asked me if I liked melanzane sott'olio (eggplant in oil). When I nodded, he said, "Vieni con me nel deposito e te ne do un barattolo" (Come with me to the storage area and I'll get you a jar).

As we walked down the stairs to the deposito, I felt a bit awkward. Usually, customers don't go downstairs with the merchants, but I know him fairly well, but not that well since I don't even know his name either.

We got to his area and he unlocked the door. I kept asking questions and kept a few paces behind him. He opened the door where there were lots of prosciutti and forme di parmigiano (Parmesan molds, which are the big round whole parmesan cheeses). He explained the branding on the parmigiano, the dates, and why they were still in the deposito.

He asked me to come inside and I felt even more awkward and a little nervous. I knew the door was still unlocked behind me, but I felt odd holding my bags of groceries in one hand and standing in this storage area by myself with him. He walked to another refrigerator where the pecorino is stored and pulled out two barattoli di melanzane. He handed me one and I walked back toward the door. I was beginning to feel almost claustrophobic in there with him. So much so, that I couldn't even look him in the eyes. He too wasn't as tall as I thought he was and was probably only a few inches taller than me.

I kicked the door to get out of the storage area and felt relieved. We walked back up the stairs and I finally asked him what his name was. "Filippo," he told me. I looked at him and thought that maybe I shouldn't have had such distrustful thoughts, but you just never know. I know he knows that I'm married and I try to always mention my husband a lot to men just to be clear, but I can't read thoughts and so my mind jumps around.

When I got home I told Dave about my day at the mercato and he said that if he were me, he would've gone down to the deposito as well, but would have realized that he might have had the same lapse in judgment.

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