So, it’s been a pretty stressful week. (Couldn’t you tell from my heightened irritation with politics and Facebook?) Today being Saturday, Tony was home, and stayed with the children while I took a much-needed walk alone in the beautiful rainbow autumn of Piemonte. I had been out walking perhaps five minutes when I saw a man on a bicycle up ahead, and instinctively avoided eye contact. There was something just a little creepy about him. He said good morning, and I repeated the greeting tonelessly, still without looking at him. “Hey,” he said (in Italian, obviously), “Aren’t you even going to say hello? Don’t you remember me?” That, of course, is my weak spot. Was I being an inexcusably rude American? Had I actually met him sometime two years ago at some town event? Or was he a relative of someone I knew? Oh, dear. I turned around to where he had stopped his bicycle and tried to think where I knew him from as I was mechanically shaking hands. Only he never let go of my hand. In fact, I had to almost wrench it away as he was about to use it to pull me into the cheek kiss greeting. Nice. Of course I didn’t know him. How naive could I be? It’s just that I’m not used to being out alone without small children in tow. He immediately began a string of rapid compliments, all the time staring me up and down, and ending in asking if I was married. I informed him coldly that I was, and added as I walked quickly away that I also had two children, just in case he was thinking about following me on the bicycle. Which luckily, he didn’t.
Have I mentioned that I want a dog? The biggest dog in the world? So, that man was more rude and repulsive than scary (although I would not have liked to meet him on a lonely forest path, which coincidentally was just where I was headed). But still. It was the last straw for my fragile self-possession. I made it only just under the eaves of the above mentioned lonely forest before bursting into passionate sobs. It is an immense relief to cry as loudly as one wishes because there is nobody around to hear. And I needed a cry. Not over a silly incident with an overly presumptuous Italian man. Over everything that is too overwhelming. Because it’s not just this week that’s been hard. The entire past year and a half have been more or less a nightmare. I’m not exaggerating, although it’s possible I just have bad coping skills.
My fantasy about getting a really big dog first surfaced right after our business failed a year and a half ago, cutting short our dreamy move to Italy. We moved from downtown San Diego out into the country, and all of a sudden we didn’t have an impermeable double-locked door and a tall automatic gate between our cosy second-floor apartment and the outside world. We had a lonely acre yard with a tumbledown fence around a house that felt terrifyingly exposed to me. Even though the children loved the outdoor space, I worried about everything from burglars to coyotes. I just didn’t feel safe. That’s when I decided I wanted a big dog to protect me. Our life was filled with uncertainty, and my confidence in shaping my own destiny had been shattered. I look at the pictures of myself at my brothers’ weddings the month before it all happened, and I see a different person from the one I felt myself become afterward. I was sick and depressed for months. I still grind my teeth every night, to the point that I wake up with a sore jaw and throbbing gums and have to grind my food up in the blender. I’ve been to the dentist for a mouth guard and acupuncturists in two different countries, but the real problem is what’s been happening in my life. And no, I don’t like moving all the time. I’m heartily sick of it, whatever story to the contrary you might have read on my “About Me” page. It just always seems like the only thing to do when things go wrong.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I usually try to be positive and upbeat in my blog, or at least talk about nothing worse than my endless bureaucratic frustrations. After all, I’m constructing a reality for myself here too, not just for you. But here in Italy, when people ask how you are, they don’t just expect you to say “fine.” They really want to know. I pretend too much sometimes, even to myself. Mostly, I guess I’m afraid to believe that things might really be getting better, but at the same time, I can’t help myself. After all, here we are, finally back in Italy.