Before running off to Italy earlier this month, my dear friend Janet asked me to write about the first meal I enjoy in Italy. I thought you might like to read it. While it is from my journal, I have tweaked it a bit for clarity. Buon appetito!
Does Janet know that my first food to be enjoyed is the simplest thing? I come across a man selling roasted chestnuts, after, how many hours since I left home? What time is it? Am I supposed to be hungry now? It's dinner and breakfast and time zones and sleep, and ... and my stomach is telling me that time doesn't matter but that something else does, and I can't stop myself. "Quanto es?" I ask him in Spanish, an Italian accent pulling the vowels deeper in my throat, longer, hoping it is similar to the same question in Italian. "Five Euros" he tells me, the tendrils of steam dancing in the chill night air. Sigh. I wonder if he overcharges me, but I don't know, and I don't really care. It's more than food to me. It is a moment in time.
As he hands me the paper cone, the hotness washes my face, and I breathe deeply the nutty scent that now clings to my hair and skin. I imagine that the cool night air is now filled with magic. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," I hear in my mind. And I hum as I take the first one, peeling the shell away, the soft white flesh pops in my mouth, and I'm sucking cold air in to cool my burning tongue. Roasting, indeed. And then I begin to laugh for the sheer joy of my life - for taking chances, for being surrounded by his language, his people, his motherland.
I walk down the street, the chestnuts melting in my mouth like butter, the cone warming my fingers, and I am content.
*note... He did not overcharge me.
A couple days later:
So I think Janet would want to know about more than just chestnuts...
The cab ride to the club - oh the driver got lost two times, we had to ask several people for directions, even after we were dropped off. But we laughed, arm in arm, and coming around a corner, there it was! Alexander Platz! It's black door open, beckoning us in. We descend into the cavern, neon lights, walls of wood beams with whitewash covered in good wishes and gratitude from musicians, and our wobbly table, requisite checkered tablecloth and all. I look around as he orders in his staccato Italian; the name Diane Schurr has caught my eye. Wow! This is some swanky place!
Dinner - antipasto - three cheese dishes (he ate them, but oh how they smelled!). Full of butter! One I cut but we knew it was fromaggio... which reeks havoc on my tummy. Still the ooey gooey pull of it, hot steam rising, nearly did me in! But there were roasted peppers, the wood flavor skittering across my tongue and grilled zucchini limp on the fork but strong in flavor! The anchovies cut in paper thin slices, shimmering in the candlelight. Enough for both of us, that plate.
And then the risotto with chestnuts e funghi. Butter from here till tomorrow, no cream. Who knew rice could be so wonderful? Why don't Americans cook with chestnuts? We have a Xmas song about them for goodness sakes! And I groan the flavor is so good.
He orders wine, red this time, not bad, not great. Good food, good wine, what else? Ahhh yes, him. My Italian. "You are forbidden to drink anymore wine," he says to me after my second glass, a grin as he whispers in my ear, his beard tickling my skin. "I don't want you to get drunk." He'd been filling my glass, and he scolded me after I poured some in his glass and mine. "I pour," he tells me. "I was just being helpful," I pout. And then with a grin, he pours me another glass, winks, and clinks my glass with his. Saucy man!
It was the food and the freedom that made that evening extraordinary. I was free to touch him, to cuddle, to lay my head upon his shoulder, while the musicians played, the woman sang. Torch songs, English and Italian lazed together with the aroma of his steak and my risotto, the scent of his cologne, and the heat from our eyes.
It was a perfect night in the Eternal City. How could I not at least enjoy my meal?
Monday, January 18, 2010
Five years ago, when hope sprang eternal, and I was nursing a wounded heart. I was encouraged to do some heart searching. Look at love. And I did.
Thirty nine. That's the number of characteristics of my "perfect partner". It included: He is bilingual. He smells great. He has a full range of emotions and manages them. He has work and hobbies he loves. Thirty nine things. Not requirements, but descriptions for who he is if he really exists.
It was just an exercise, a bit of emotional stretching, engaging my desires and my imagination. No man would have these thirty nine points, but it did help me get clear about what I want, what my ideal is. It was hope.
Fast forward to present day. I've given up on romance, commitment, men. They are friend, GOOD friends, but there is no passion, and there hasn't been for years. I've realized the truth. While I may be fun and interesting and intelligent, and charming, what I am is not what men want. In reality, I'm an eccentric spinster.
"Your life is wonderful accept for a partner and love". It comes from out of nowhere. Normally I wouldn't pay a bit of attention to that kind of statement except that this time it came from a a man who is like a father to me. The pure and simple love from this kind man washed over me and opened my heart, and I felt the pain of my aloneness. Taking a page from his book, I sat in his chair,my fingertips rubbing a circle just above my heart, I whisper "I need a miracle." Every day I whisper to the universe. I write a contract for love and go out of my way to open to "love in all its forms." Friendships are built and renewed, children are enjoyed and appreciated, and I am happy again in this area.
He looked at my profile, and I liked his picture. Just as I'd been doing, I sent him a note complimenting his photo and wishing him well in his search. I'm not looking for a European businessman. That'd be foolish since I'm moving to Asia. But new and interesting friends are always nice. With that in mind (HE is not looking for an American, after all), we begin to chat. None of the pretensions and forced similarity that can be common in dating. We don't see each other in that wa... BAM!!!
"This is different." And I am rubbing circles just above my heart again.
"What shall I give you for Christmas," he asks me, and that song prances around in my head "All I Want for Christmas is You." I tell him, and we laugh, and then I take a breath and say, "I want to meet you. There is nothing else I really want." And he takes a breath. And 32 days later I am on a plane, to Rome, to meet my European.
What has happened, might you wonder... Nothing... and Everything. We still talk on the phone every day, laughing and flirting and speaking of mundane things. I look for jobs in Europe, jobs with a lot of vacation, and jobs I can do online. I have my miracle, for I am in love.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I don't, but I do know that I am going to walk in this relationship fearlessly, and I'm not going to quibble about the details of love that G*d has given me. I thought that the details would be occupation, height, age, political leanings.... Turns out, I meant geography.
And that list of 39? He meets 38 of them. The last one, time will tell.
May we all have miracles. If you have one, please share it.