Anyway, by now, the middle of November, the shy, studious Giovanni and I are still merely dear buddies. As for Dario, the more razzle-dazzle, swinger brother of the two, I have introduced him to my adorable little Swedish friend Sofie, and how they've been sharing their evenings in Rome is another kind of Tandem Exchange altogether. But Giovanni and I, we only talk and eat. We have been eating and talking for many pleasant weeks now, sharing pizzas and gentle grammatical corrections, and tonight has been no exception. A lovely evening of new idioms and fresh mozzarella.
Now it is midnight and foggy, and Giovanni is walking me home to my apartment through these backstreets of Rome, which meander organically around the ancient buildings like bayou streams snaking around shadowy clumps of cypress groves. Now we are at my door. We face each other. He gives me a warm hug. This is an improvement; for the first few weeks, he would only shake my hand. I think if I were to stay in Italy for another three years, he might actually get up the juice to kiss me. On the other hand, he might just kiss me right now, tonight, right here by my door...maybe...there's still a chance.
He separates himself from the embrace.
"Good night, my dear Liz," he says.
"Buona notte, caro mio," I reply.
I walk up the stairs to my fourth-floor apartment, all alone. I let myself into my tiny little studio, all alone. I shut the door behind me. Another early bedtime in Rome. Another long night's sleep ahead of me, with nobody and nothing in my bed except a pile of Italian phrase books and dictionaries.
I am alone, I am all alone, I am completely alone.
Grasping this reality, I let go of my bag, drop to my knees, and press my forehead against the floor. There I offer up to the universe a fervent prayer of thanks.
First in English.
Then in Italian.
And then—just to get the point across—in Sanskrit.
And since I am already down there in supplication on the floor, let me hold that position as I reach back in time three years earlier to the moment where this entire story began—a moment that also found me in this exact same posture: on my knees, on a floor, praying.
Everything else about the three-years-ago scene was different, though. That time I was not in Rome but in the upstairs bathroom of the big house in the suburbs of New York that I'd recently purchased with my husband. It was a cold November, around 3 o'clock in the morning. My husband was sleeping in our bed. I was hiding in the bathroom for something like the 47th consecutive night, and, just as during all those nights before, I was sobbing. Sobbing so hard, in fact, that a great lake of tears and snot was spreading before me on the bathroom tiles, a veritable Lake Inferior (if you will) of all my shame and fear and confusion and grief.
I don't want to be married anymore.
I was trying so hard not to know this, but the truth kept insisting itself to me. I don't want to be married anymore. I don't want to live in this big house. I don't want to have a baby.
We Hear You!