by Melinda Gallo

Quale California?

This morning at the gym someone actually talked to me. Usually women will only say hello and goodbye to me in the spogliatoio (locker room) and unless I make a comment about the weather, our conversation starts and stops there. Generally people at the gym take one look at me, realize that I'm not Italian, and pretend that I don't exist. The guy at the reception is friendly now that I've asked about his arm in the gesso (cast) and tell him buona giornata every time I leave.

I've been going to the same gym for almost a year now and I see the same people every time. I don't generally talk to anyone because there really is no occasion to do so. It's quite empty in the morning, so I just go from macchina (machine to lift weights) to macchina without much trouble.

Today, I was on one of the macchine (machines) and I noticed that one of the guys had put a weight on it so he could use it. He walked away from the one I wanted to use and was in another area lifting weights.

When I got up to the macchina, the guy was walking toward me. "Stai usando questa qui?" (Are you using this one?) I asked pointing to it. "Sì. Si può alternare se vuoi." (Yes, we can alternate if you want). "Hai voglia" (Certainly), I happily responded.

After he completed his set, he walked off and I did mine.

He came back to do another set and said, "Di dove sei?" (Where are you from?).

"Sono della California" (I'm from California), I responded.

"Ah...Americana..."

"Sì...non sono l'unica" (Yes...I'm not the only one), I said as I looked around me. Today there weren't many Americans, but there were a few working out.

"No, ma sei l'unica che parla italiano" (No, but you're the only one who speaks Italian). I wanted to explain that I lived in Florence, but I realized it didn't matter. Maybe he should change his judgments about us Americans.

He walked off while I did my set and then came back again.

"Ma...sei della California vicino a Livorno?" (Are you from the California near Livorno), he asked.

"No, l'altra in America." (No, the other one in America), I responded.

"Ma, lo sai che c'è una località che si chiama 'La California' vicino a Livorno?" (But, you do know that there's a place named 'La California' near Livorno), he said.

"Sì, l'ho visto su un cartello una volta." (Yes, I saw it on a sign once) "Grazie ancora di aver alternato con me" (Thanks for alternating with me), I said.

"Niente" (It's nothing), he replied.

I'm pretty sure that the next time I go to the gym, I will probably not even salutarlo (say hi to him). I did ask his friend once to help me change the bar on one of the macchine, but since that day, he has never said hello to me again.

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