Lost and Found

During the first trimester in Italy I lived with a host family deep in the throes of marital strife. I didn't understand the content of their words, could only guess at the meaning. My room was ice cold but I was allowed to smoke in it. Every morning my host mother came in and made my bed whether I wanted her to or not, while I poured hot espresso into boiled milk and slathered apricot jam onto hard, dry Tuscan toast. I usually didn't know where I was going or how to get there- I'd pray to be on the right bus and jump off if I wasn't. As lost as I'd get, as poorly as I could read maps or speak the language, somehow, eventually, I always ended up where I was going. I was desperate for kindness and attention and let middle aged Italian men I couldn't talk to buy me coffee. Every time it rained I found photographs of Italian women in the street or hovering around the gutter, each one different, as if they were postcards addressed to me. Every corner was art, every person I met a mystery, including myself. I had never been a great traveler and I was no longer a good citizen. I stole wine from the gates of a villa the school housed us in. I ran out on bar tabs just to see if I could. At a beautiful botanical garden with sculptures and waterfalls and scenes out of Eden, I picked the flowers, creating the most gorgeous and forbidden bouquet that the guards confiscated before I was allowed out of the gate. I was selfish and hungry and wanted everything and was terrified of missing anything. Drunk on Chianti and Dante, I named all the rooms of my apartment I eventually moved into after each of the rings of hell. My bedroom was "Traitor to Friends and Family." I took a trip to the coast with a man I met on the bus who bought me a two-way ticket and a toothbrush. My new neighbors fought and yelled too, but by this point I had a better idea of what the words meant that they were saying.

Valley HaggardComment