by Melinda Gallo

Flashback: End of my first week

I'm happy to be done with my first week of class. To celebrate, I decided to go and buy myself the Italian book that Gianluca told me about. I got off the bus in front of the Duomo and walked down via Cavour to Feltrinelli International bookstore. I slogged home through the heat, so I could take a short nap before going to the palestra (gym).

After I got back from the palestra, Giorgio is in the kitchen cooking. When I sit down, I notice that he has cooked me my favorite dish, spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper). When we had it the other night, he made some remarks to Signora G. that sounded like he didn't think it was that great. I kept telling her that I liked it and even asked for seconds. He whispered to me that he'd make it for me some day and that it'd be better.

Giorgio seems like a different person without his ex-wife around. He's laughing and smiling at the dinner table while we're enjoying dinner. I almost wonder if I'm in the wrong house because I don't recognize him. I can't tell the difference between the dish from the other night and tonight's, but I try to make it clear that his is really good.

He let his son go watch TV in his room right after dinner and he's so happy that he runs out of the kitchen. I decided to help Giorgio clean up by picking up the dishes off the table and putting them next to him at the sink. I was so happy to get this time with him while he's in a better mood. He was very patient with my rough Italian and corrected me when I flubbed up.

I didn't hear the girls cook dinner, so when I saw Rea in the hallway with a bag over her shoulder, I ran to ask her where Claudia and Catherine were. She told me that they went on a weekend trip to Venice. I opened the door for her as she told me that she was running late to catch her train to Rome.

I walked back to my room and wondered if I should call a few friends back in England. I'm sure they're out having fun on a Friday night. Polly is probably having drinks at the bar with everyone at the gym. I wonder if they're thinking about me and wondering what I'm up to.

I turned off my cell phone because I didn't feel like explaining to anyone that I was home alone. It's been a difficult week getting adjusted to my new life in Florence, but I have been feeling better about it. Although now that I'm the only one left in the apartment, I'm not feeling that wonderful.

I walk around my dining room turned bedroom talking to myself in Italian. "Prendo il mio libro," I say to myself as I pick up my new book. I sit down on my bed and mentally tell myself, "Mi siedo sul letto." I think it's the only way for me to drown out my French and become fluent.

I go through a few exercises in the book and quickly become bored. I realize I have so much more to learn. I suddenly feel disappointed with how little progress I've made in a few days. I was feeling great about my progress until I dove into this book. I turn off the light and go to sleep still clutching my book. Maybe if I sleep with it, more Italian will magically seep in.

When I woke up today, the house seemed more quiet than usual. I thought I woke up late and missed breakfast, but as I peeked my head out of my room, I found that the kitchen door was closed and the lights were off. Maybe there is no breakfast on the weekends. Giorgio did tell me that I have to fend for myself for dinner Saturdays and Sundays, but I thought at least I'd get breakfast.

I got dressed, grabbed my purse, and went outside to find something to eat. In the street where our apartment is, there is absolutely nothing except other residential apartment buildings and a city garden where I've never seen anyone walking around except the gardner.

I was alone walking down via Lamarmora toward Piazza San Marco. I was quite surprised that I didn't see anyone, except people in cars, buses, and motorini, outside.

I went into the bar on the corner, walked up to the barman, and said, "Un cappuccino per favore." Before coming to Italy, I never drank much coffee. After living in France for six years, I probably only had a handful of espressos. But it was the only thing I knew how to order. I would've liked a fresh fruit juice, but every time I ask for a juice, it comes out of a bottle.

The barman leaned on the bar, put his hand out to me. I tried to hand him some cash, but he backed away from me. He said something and pointed to the cash register behind me.

I walked over to the cash register and told him, "Un cappuccino per favore." He was talking to another customer as he took my money and then handed me a scontrino (receipt). I went back to the barman who had already prepared my cappuccino and had it waiting for me on the bar. I handed him my scontrino and he tore it in half and placed it under my saucer.

As I stood at the bar, drinking my coffee I looked around at the increasing number of people standing next to me. I felt pressured to finish my cappuccino quickly as more and more people arrived at the bar. I took one last swig of my cappuccino and walked out without saying anything.

I headed toward the Duomo down via Cavour because it's the only other landmark I know in Florence so far. I didn't want to pull out a map, which I left back in my room. The walk seemed quite short while I looked in each shop's window.

When I got to the Duomo, the steps were crowded with people. I saw large groups of people standing in line waiting to get inside. I didn't feel like entering the Duomo as I'd been in there before when I came for a visit. I kept walking past the Duomo so I could have a look around. I felt like I was looking for something, but I didn't know what. All week, I've been going out at around the same time each day to go to class and now I had no where to go, no place to be, and no one to see.

I will be continuing to write about my arrival to Florence back in 1997 and will preface them with "Flashback" in the title.

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