by Melinda Gallo

Flashback: Internet Points and Laundromats

I woke up early because I went to sleep without dinner last night. I didn't feel like going back out after my afternoon nap. I didn't hear anyone in the house, but when I opened my door, I found Signora G. in the kitchen alone sipping on her coffee. She looked up at me and invited me to join her.

I assumed she'd be happier since this is the first time I've seen her alone in the kitchen. She sat staring into her coffee and talked to me about her life and her situation. I didn't understand everything she said, but I could get the gist of it. She's unhappy. She kept telling me that Giorgio is always trying to get her to leave, but she can't leave. She doesn't want to leave her child, which is what leaving the house entails.

I feel almost guilty sitting across from her because I am so free. Here I am living in Florence without any ties to anyone. I'm not forced to do anything I don't want to do. I'd hate to be in her situation and I can't help but feel sorry for her. I think about her and figure that she's probably right. "Non c' una soluzione" (There's no solution).

I didn't see her all day yesterday and so before I leave the kitchen, I asked her about washing my clothes. "Dove posso lavare i miei vestiti?" Another sentence I wrote down for myself the other night and practiced only a few times before trying it out on her. Of course, the answer wasn't what I expected. I know that she has a washing machine on the balcony outside the kitchen, but she says that it's only for her. She tells me that I need to find a lavanderia a gettone (Laundromat), but she doesn't know where there might be one.

I know I saw a lavanderia a gettone near the palestra (gym) on via degli Alfani when I was looking for an Internet point the other day. So, I filled up my gym bag with my clothes and grabbed all the coins I had. I walked the only way I knew how to get there, which was toward the palestra.

I was planning on going to the Internet Point across the street while I waited for my clothes to finish, but I'm afraid my clothes won't be here when I get back. Many people told me that things get stolen a lot in Italy and that I have to be careful.

As a backup plan, I brought a book with me so that I could read while I waited. Not many people came in while I was sitting there, but many of them put there clothes in the machine and left. Maybe I too should be more trusting. It's fairly warm outside and probably too early for most people to get up to do laundry. And even a little too early for me.

I feel a little dizzy after breathing in a lot of steamy air coming out of the dryers. I walked across the street to the Internet Point. There were two long rows of computers and only a few people typing away, mesmerized by the screens. The guy who was working behind the counter was kind enough to explain everything to me in Italian. I told him that I wanted to practice my Italian because he started to speak to me in English. I didn't want to be rude, but if everyone speaks to me in English, when will I learn any Italian?

I sat at one of the computers in the next room, logged in, and downloaded my email. It's been a little over a week since I last looked and I mostly had messages from my mom that were written in all capital letters. At first I thought she was screaming at me, but I realized that she just typed that way. We used to not email each other much because we talked quite often on the phone, but without phoning her as much, she has resorted to email.

I don't see many other emails from my friends whom I assume must think I'm busy or that I won't be able to get my computer connected here in Florence. I did get an email from Polly who asked me if I got her letter. She said that she has tried to call the house, but no one ever picks up.

I decide that I need to go back to that little place some time this week and make a few phone calls. Especially to my mom. I can tell from all her messages that she's really worried about me. She's mostly worried because she too has been calling the house and no one has ever answered.

When I get inside the building, I go to the mailboxes near the elevator and put my hand in. There are many letters inside and I pull out a few. I see one for me, so I take it out and put the others back. It's the one that Polly sent me. I feel awful about stealing the mail, but it is my letter so technically it's not stealing.

I fold and place my laundry back in my suitcase, which is where I have to put my clean clothes as I have no drawers in my room, and then sit on my bed to read my letter. Polly wrote me to tell me what's going on back in England. It's funny, but so much has happened in a week. She mentions a few different people and I can't even visualize them any more. I feel bad that I was so engrossed in that world and now I can't remember much from it.

It's almost lunch time, so I go back outside to find myself something to eat. I'd love to go back to the Chinese place as it's so safe, but I need to extend myself a little bit more. Being uncomfortable won't kill me. I venture down a new street and try to find a place to grab a bite to eat.

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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