DIARY ENTRY – ADVENTURES IN ITALY
The sun is pounding down, and I’m having a fantasy expatriate
morning, starting with a stroll through the beautiful medieval “old
town.” The sun is blindingly bright on the pale gold-tinged
“tufo” stone that the town is build out of.
Brightly painted fishing boats bob in a sea that fades from aqua
to deep blue to a narrow streak of indigo on the horizon. The shutters
are brilliant green, the geraniums explosions of red in the window-boxes
and terraces. Wet sheets dangling from every balcony sway in the
breeze and create hot clouds of sweet smelling humidity over our
heads. Maybe later we’ll go swimming, but right now the most
urgent thing on my mind is coffee.
We head straight to our favorite coffee bar.
As luck would have it, we encounter Ciccio, our travel agent, or
sometime travel agent, I should say. Sometimes he gets bored and
runs away with a touring show of “Evita!” or “Jesus
Christ Superstar” or “Saturday Night Fever” for
a few months. Then he returns and re-opens his agency, regaling
us with tales of his affairs with beautiful dancing girls and a
sheaf of photographs of himself on stage as Herod or a Bee Gee,
or some such.
Ciccio has taken it upon himself to be my image
consultant, as it is patently clear to any who look at me that I
am in desperate need of one. When he heard that I was on the verge
of a website, the solitaire on his pinky glittered and winked with
his gesticulations. “Molto bene, that you registered
the domain. But the site? That you must do like I—“
and he smote his broad chest with a large fist “—like
I say. You have to create a Personage. Do you understand what I
mean by a Personage?”
I know a trick question when I hear one, but
I was momentarily dazzled by his pink-tinted Prada sunglasses and
the white gold serpentine chain around his neck. “Uh, no,”
“Of course you don’t,”
Ciccio said indulgently. “What do your readers know about
“Practically nothing,” I
admitted. “How could they know anything? I’m too new.”
Ciccio grinned his relief. “Excellent,
excellent. So you could tell them anything. Anything at all. What
an opportunity, no? You could be a countess in a castle by the sea.
You could be an international spy.” His eyes swept over my
usual summer uniform; freckles, a crumpled linen skirt, a tank top,
sand-encrusted flip-flops, hair wound back into a scrunchy. He shook
his head sadly. “You don’t want them to know the real
you. You write erotic thrillers, no? You have to be thrilling. Inscrutable.
You have to have . . . mystique!”
I was rescued from the necessity of a reply
by Salvatore, the barista, who presented me with a wedge
of pastiera. It’s a delicious pie made of eggs, ricotta,
wheat-berries, candied fruit and orange-flower water. “Your
espressino is getting cold,” he reproved me. “I
sugared it for you.”
I’m always touched when Salvatore sugars
my espressino. It’s a mark of familiarity, a gesture
that imparts to me, the valued customer, that I’m here so
often that he knows exactly how I take my coffee. I’ve never
had the heart to tell him that he puts in twice as much sugar as
I like. It would spoil the tender moment. Besides, the coffee’s
so wonderful, it would be ignoble to complain. One learns not to
quibble about such details when one lives abroad.
In a matter of moments, I’m flying high
on a caffeine and sugar buzz, and I begin to actually consider Ciccio’s
suggestion. I contemplate putting a fake photo in my website. Some
vampy girl, legs up to her chin, dressed in black leather and spike
heels. Sloe eyes, bee-stung lips, belly button proudly displayed.
It sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy, and in an instant,
I’m writing the synopsis in my head. The hero is played by
Hugh Grant—no, wait. Hugh Jackman, now we’re talking.
He’ll pursue the image in the fake website photo for some
reason, and the real writer behind the website, played by a frumped
up Sandra Bullock in horn-rimmed glasses, will embark upon an escalating
series of misadventures to cover her tracks, which will culminate
in them both learning the Importance of Being True To Yourself,
yada yada, while finding true love and all that good stuff along
the way. Yeah.
Yikes. Maybe I’ll write that story someday,
but I don’t want to live it! Pretending to be something you’re
not is stressful. Besides, my sweetie already knows the truth about
me, and he appears to be handling it.
So if you’re interested, here’s
where you’ll find odd bits and pieces of the Shocking Truth
about living in Italy from time to time, when book deadlines permit.
No countess in a castle by the sea, or international spy. No black
leather, spike heels or belly buttons. Just me, and my adventures
in a foreign land, where truth is always stranger than fiction .
. . and the coffee is simply awesome.
But for now, I’d better get to work on
the next book, so that this website will have a right to exist.
Til later, then, with much love,