Flashback: First dinner out

I rushed back to school so I could go out to dinner with the people at my Italian school. Some of the students were all dressed up and a few of the girls I almost didn't recognize. A few older-looking Italian guys were talking to Gianluca and when we all seemed to be there, he introduced us to them.

The Italian guys looked quite friendly. I was surprised that there weren't any Italian girls who would like to meet us, but then I realized that the foreign students were mostly females. The guys were quite patient with us as we tried out our Italian on them. I kept pulling my dictionaries out of my purse to make sure that I understood what was said. Gianluca told everyone at the table that I can't go anywhere without my dictionaries. I told him that's why I have a large purse.

Dinner was interesting. I learned that most Italians live with their parents until they get married. When I asked a few of the guys where they lived, I found out that they all still live with their parents.

I asked them what they do when they have girlfriend and they giggled like schoolboys. Gianluca explained that they usually get intimate in the car. "Nella macchina? Ma come?" (In the car? But how?), I asked. I was told that there are a few spots in Florence where they park their cars and put newspaper on the inside of the car windows so no one can see what's going on inside. He said that he'd drive us up to the street some late night where cars are lined up along the street with newspaper hindering our view of what's going on inside. I've seen the tiny cars they have here in Italy, it can't be that comfortable. But, Gianluca told me that it's the only solution when kids live with their parents.

I started fading quickly after I finished my dessert. It's tiring listening to all this Italian and trying to converse. I wish I knew more Italian so that I could talk to someone without saying generalizations and things I do in the present tense. I've learned how to speak in the past tense a little too, but there is a lot to memorize. Maybe when we get to the future tense, things will be cheerier. At least I'll be able to speak of hope.

After dinner, Enzo offered to drive a few of the students home. I sat in the front seat since I was the tallest of the girls. We drove around on different streets that seemed farther away from the center of town. He dropped off the other girls one by one. Enzo dropped me off last because I lived downtown and he lives near the school. He stopped in front of a church on the corner of my street. He leaned back on his door and talked softly to me about how he and I don't get to talk much.

I was too tired to talk. I'd had way too much Italian for one day. "Sono stanca," (I'm tired) I told him. The one thing for sure I could say without any problems. He leaned toward me and held my face in his hands as he kissed me softly on both cheeks. I felt a little awkward because I don't have any feelings for him, but I admit that it felt good to be handled so gently. It has been weeks since P. touched me like this. And I had almost forgotten how wonderful it felt.

I smiled without looking up at him as he released my face. I reached for the door knob without looking and jumped out of the car. "A domani," (See you tomorrow) I said as I shut the door. I walked briskly to the corner and then slowed down when I knew I was not in his view any more.

As I walk down the street, I'm almost excited about being back in my room alone without having to talk to anyone. I had overheard Claudia and Catherine talk about going out after dinner. I snuck out earlier so that I wouldn't bump into them. After I lock the front door, I walk past Giorgio's room. I can tell he's watching TV by the flickering images I see through the frosted glass in the double doors. The mother too, I believe, is home. I can't hear her talking, but I see the light under her bedroom door. Claudia and Catherine aren't home either from what I can tell.

I shut my door and like the sense of closing myself off from the world. I get myself ready for bed so I can lie in bed to read and write. Tonight, I feel like listening to music and doing nothing. I listen to one of my favorite songs, which takes me back to my previous life, to England, to my friends who are now far from me, and to sadness. I realize that I can't hang on to my past and so I let the tears wash it away from me.

I pull out one of my notebooks: a purple one that is for my evening thoughts. I try to write while listening to the same song over and over on my CD player. Writing is the only way for me to climb out of the pit I seem to have fallen into.

"Loneliness is my friend," I write down in my notebook. I want to laugh at such a silly statement that I read in a book somewhere, but it only makes me cry. I have never been friends with loneliness and I don't even know how to begin. I think about writing a letter to P., but I fear that in my lonely state I'll say something I'll regret later, like "come to Italy," "let's live together," or worse, "I'll come back."

Loneliness is a friend. Maybe if I keep writing it, I'll eventually believe it.

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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