June 1, 2015


I pull my bag off from the carrier after emotionally wading through an hour without sight of it. I walk towards a standing crowd of many, people in waiting, all of us in waiting, and I see my father immediately. He stands at the front wearing a sky-blue and neatly pressed oxford button down, well-fitted slacks of a mature khaki. He looks better than I expect him to, slimmer and with a handsome grey beard, even with more hair than I've been picturing. He extends a firm hand to shake mine, he shows no emotion. 

"You are an hour late," he blurts with expectation. I mutter an excuse, it rolls off of my tongue and without any consideration - for myself. I boil inside for doing this with such ease, for explaining, a natural at taking something on. As if there is an excuse, as if there is any other explanation than being at the mercy of AerLingus. 

I think about how funny it would be to say "And you are 15 years late" in response, but I don't because I am nervous and smaller than everybody. He insists on rolling the suitcase I've brought with me behind him, but he doesn't want to do this for me, or for anybody. I can tell by the way he drags it without a trace of altruism and he has yet to smile. I pass by women taller than me who wear strappy stilettos, tanned and knobby-kneed. I see how much skin they leave bare, I feel how covered I am, cashmere in June and all black, well-loved Blundstones on the bottom.

His heart is tight like an empty fist and I feel an overwhelming and almost nagging need to see Edoardo, the other, more prominent, Italian father-figure in my narrative. Am I here to see the wrong man? I like to think Edoardo would be happy to see me.

My first night in Rome I sit for dinner at Orietta's house. Orietta is my father's older sister. She is 70 years old with hydrated, almost succulent, olive skin. Her frame is petite, and always she has lived alone in a decadent apartment off of Via Poliziano in the southern corner of the city, down by the Colosseum.

I am so pleased to make her acquaintance. She seats me at the head of the table soon after I arrive and pours us two short glasses of Chardonnay. I know this will be my "place" for the duration of my stay, and I am grateful to have this vantage, to sit beside no one. I feel warm and lulled watching her move about the kitchen, her pace about things mesmerizes me. She is always moving, handling food, pouring wine and water, or lighting up, but you would never know it until the small bowl of pasta appears in front of you, hot with magnificence, and a feast begins. 

Joining us are two friends of my father's, Gigi and his wife Daniela. They are jovial and air flows about them. Gigi is kind, inclusive, he remembers me as a baby, and speaks regularly in a non-predatory manner about how "carina" I am. "Especially the eyes," he says in Italian. I am relieved to sense how well I understand conversational Italian, the bodily delight of getting another language. I find that the only time I have trouble deciphering the constant chatter is when they turn to matters of gossiping about people I don't know. I feel blessed for this inadvertent and contextual deafness. I'm not expected to contribute to the conversation and I take these sporadic time-outs to smoke a cigarette and observe the room while turning inwards.

Also with us is Karly, a young man of 40 who I come to understand as an adopted half-brother, the son of a woman my father was with for many years after my mother. I vaguely remember him, but somewhere in my memory he's there. He is well groomed and meticulous, noticeable immediately. He is wearing a Putin t-shirt and I point "Ha!,' a move that I assume will manifest in shared jest between us. He also reveals little overall emotion, but I figure that he is not joking with the t-shirt when he states "Putin is a traditional man with traditional values. Whats wrong with that?" 

I want badly for somebody who knows me to be with me in solidarity as a witness, a laughing fly on the wall. I couldn't make this up if I tried, excuse me while I take notes for later. Karl and I exist on two separate lines, and yet I am inclined to feel true respect towards him. I still like him alright even after I pull out the extremist and somewhat hateful perspective he holds. He's not after me. And when dinner is over, he is obliged to take me to the B&B where I am staying alone via motorino. He drives fast and wild but not without intention. I know I am safe, I just know his mind is sharp and focused. I like the way it feels to have confidence in someone else and somewhere I least expected it, I like it even more.

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