by Melinda Gallo

Flashback: Catherine's last evening

When I got home, Claudia came to my room and said, "Catherine va via domani." (Catherine is leaving tomorrow). I knew they had become quite close because they had been living together and going to the same school for the past few months. "Quando torno in Cile, non ci rivedremo più," (When I go back to Chile, we won't see each other any more) she said plucking another tissue from the box she placed on her lap.

Claudia made a reservation for dinner for us all to a place she had heard about. I was happy to have been included since we hadn't talked much over the last few days. We brought a map with us when we left the house, but we still got a little lost behind Santo Spirito. We stood at a stop sign looking at the map when two guys stopped on their motorini (scooters). I went up to one of the guys and asked him if he knew how to get to the restaurant that I pointed to on the map.

The guy responded with many gestures and street names I didn't understand. "Ci potreste portare?" (Could you take us there) I asked him. The girls looked at me in disbelief, but I was a little frustrated at not figuring out what he was saying.

He looked back at his friend and nodded, so we hopped on. I got on the back of his motorino while Catherine and Claudia got on the back of his friend's motorino. I held on to my driver around his waist and finally asked him his name. "Piacere," (Nice to meet you) I said as he tilted the motorino to take a corner.

The road twisted and turned so I held on to the driver quite tightly especially since I didn't have a helmet on. Actually, none of us did. In a few short minutes, we arrived in front of the restaurant, opposite Piazza Tasso. My guy stopped right in front of the restaurant's door and I hopped off. I thanked him profusely and waited for the two other girls to get off the other motorino. We said good-bye to them and laughed hysterically as they drove off.

We enjoyed our first dinner out together. We spoke together in our broken Italian. Catherine and I made tons of mistakes, but we understood each other quite well. Afterwards, we asked the restaurant to call a taxi for us. We took it to Parterre since it's on the other side of town. Claudia decided that we should have as much fun as possible before Catherine's departure in the morning.

When we arrived at Parterre, I knew full well that we'd see Luca. Claudia didn't have to tell me; I knew he would somehow show up. We sat down upstairs again and within minutes of getting our drinks, Luca along with a friend of his arrived. An empty chair appeared out of nowhere next to me and Luca kissed me on both cheeks and sat down.

I tried to get a better assessment of him without staring too much. His deep voice and Florentine accent are quite attractive and his smiling eyes make me feel comfortable. I love listening to him talk because no matter what he says, it sounds good.

I must not have been following the conversation well enough when all at once everyone got up from the table. It felt a little early to me, but Claudia told me that Luca wanted to take us to another bar.

I saw a lot of nicely dressed people walking down the street and entering a large doorway. The place, Luca told me, was called "Le Murate." He explained that it was an ancient prison that got renovated. His hot breath tickled my ear, but the smell of smoke on his breath made me quickly pull away. The music was loud and there were people everywhere; sitting at white tables and standing at the bar.

Catherine and Claudia were so excited by the music that they ran to the small dance floor in the far right corner. I found myself standing alone with Luca. I felt a little trapped. He got me a drink, a succo di pesca (peach juice), at the bar and we sipped on drinks looking at the people around us.

I found it difficult to talk with Luca because it was so noisy and it was hard for me to yell in Italian. Luckily, he talked more than I did. I learned that he had a toy store in a residential area in Florence.

The girls tired themselves out dancing and came back with drinks in their hands. Luca was a little tired and we found out that he had to work in the morning. Luca drove us all home and wished us a good night. He handed me his phone number and told me to call him. "Festeggiamo i nostri compleanni insieme!" (Let's celebrate our birthdays together), he yelled back to me as he opened the door to his car.

The girls laughed and told me that I had a date. "Così non sei sola per il tuo compleanno," (That way, you're not alone for your birthday), Claudia told me. I agreed with her, but I didn't really want to be with Luca either. I'd rather just be alone. I guess no one can understand that, so I just let them all believe otherwise.

I didn't wake up early for Catherine's departure, but when I walked past her empty room I was a little sad. Claudia wasn't home either because she was accompanying Catherine to the train station. As usual for a Saturday, the house was quiet. I realized that I should get used to it because Claudia will be the next one to leave.

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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