This is my 11th year living in Italy, though several years I was fully immersed in an expat American community which insulated me from feeling most of the discomfort that comes from being a fish out of water. When I arrived in Italy with my husband, I’d not been part of
the decision-making process to move here. We’d met in the US and been living in England where I was hoping to settle down. I will not bore you with the torrid details of how we got from point A to point B, but rather get to the main event. This may be hard to believe, but when he told me he wanted to finish his professional training Italy, I was angry. I loved Italy and had been to visit many times.
I loooooved Italy….For vacationing. For losing myself. For relaxing. For slowing down. For indulging. For disconnecting. But to live my life there? Day-in, day-out? Would I be able to learn the language? What kind of work would I be able to do? How would we live on my husband’s 800 Euro a month stipend? (All very good questions, I would later find out.)
Yes, some of the baggage from that move, I still carry around, especially when it comes to finding (or creating) meaningful work. I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment to unload this day pack from my back.
Yes, I LIKE you, but not like that. Not Like-LIKE. I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time and all, and you were really there for me back in the day.
No…of course I think you’
re sexy. You smell great. You taste amazing. You’re bewitching and complicated. You’re passionate and rustic. You’re totally seductive. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve been attracted to you since I was fifteen and, I know we’ve crossed the line from time to time, but I never meant for it to go this far.
Yes, yes…I remember that time I me
t you after grad school. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I flew across the ocean to see you. I arrived on an overnight train from Amsterdam to the sun rising over Venice. Remember that? My heart filled up to see you like that…naked and fresh. I wanted to get lost in you and never leave. God, you were so hot that summer… Remember when I nursed my hangover on your hidden beach in Cinqueterre, your salty sea holding my browned, naked body close to the surface of the Ligurian? I remember how it felt to be suspended, light as a feather, gently rocking, with the sun on my face, breathing in your briny warmth. This will always be a perfect, never-to-be-forgotten, moment in my life. When I go to my happy place, it’s you, like that, I imagine. The same you I live in day-in and day-out.
You’re still super hot of course, but it’s different now. I resent you. You limit me. (Although, YOU say I limit myself.) Instead of relaxed, I feel increasingly anxious. I feel small. Sometimes worthless. Sometimes unseen. I feel trapped here by you, by the way you are (though you say, it’s the way I am). We still have our moments, I admit, but I wish we could go back to the way it used to be.
When we were lovers, we never talked about language. You accepted me just the way I was: monolingual and satisfied. But now…it seems like that’s ALL we talk about. My English, your Italian. Every. Single. Day. We talk about language. English, Italian, German….Bohr-ring (insert sing-songy tone). And though it is necessary and even fascinating at times, there are other things on my mind, other things I want to explore and skills I want to develop. I’m tired. Stop asking me. There is more to me than my ability to speak Italian or teach English. And I know you’re more than good wine, creamy ice cream, pasta and pizza, Vespas, and beaches . You’re more than a vacation. Can’t we just be friends again?