Back to the daily commute today. It’s not so bad – British drivers are fairly tolerant of each other on the road.
‘After you.’ – ‘No, after you.’ – ‘Why, thank you.’ – ‘It’s my pleasure.’
All done with a gentle hand gesture, a nod, a wave, and a smile through the windscreen. Civilized.
Not so your Italian driver, whose first reaction is to lean on the horn aggressively, followed by a narrowed eye glare, and a gesture, which ranges in meaning from, “Your-a Mama isn’t-a sure-a who-a your-a papa is!” to “Your-a sister gives lousy blow-jobs.”
My first morning back wasn’t too bad; my desk wasn’t piled high with files and there wasn’t a shopping list of calls I needed to make. My secretary just smiled and said, “Nice to have you back. Did you have a good time?”
Within five minutes she was knocking on the door with my first cup of real coffee. As I said, civilised.
All morning I looked forward to coming to the bar; comfortable surroundings and friendly faces.
The handsome barista hasn’t returned, which can mean that he’s become a gigolo, or has joined the ranks of the over-worked legal climbers. He’ll be dressed in a suit and tie and occupying an office somewhere in the city.
Honestly, I did a lot of writing while I was in Italy; half a page here, half a page there; in all it mounted up to over fifteen thousand words. But it proved difficult to finish anything before someone tapped on my door, inviting me to descend for dinner, or go out on a boat around some island or other. So now that I’m back in my usual seat, I’ll try to correct the prose and draw the disparate pieces together into something approaching a readable narrative.
Giovani loaded my cases into the boot, then opened the rear door of the car for me, inviting me to get in, but I’d smiled and said that I prefered to sit in the front.
“Va bene,” he said.
I didn’t miss the way his eyes washed over my body, not blatant or lingering, but just enough to weigh and measure my proportions. His expression didn’t change, but I read the appreciation in his eyes.
It’s always nice to be appreciated.
We drove out of Naples and south along the narrow twisting coast roads toward Sorrento.
Yes this was Italy, vehicular chaos; horns blaring, hand gestures, hair-pin bends; scooters beep beeping, swerving and leaning at dangerous angles and crazy speeds.
It was a fairly long drive, and I noticed that not once did he resort to the car horn; which is very un-Italian of him.
He asked, and I gave a brief run-down about my life and what I’d been doing since I left – leaving out the bits about my extra-marital indiscretions.
“I started studying marine biology at university,” he told me, when I got around to asking him what he was doing, “but after a year I switched to engineering. Now I’ve taken over the family charter business and expanded it to include motorised super-yachts.”
I am familiar with the super-yachts and the kind of people who owned them. They were the type of people who sometimes used my company’s professional services, when they wanted to obscure the ownership of such large, immensely expensive toys.
While he drove I had time to contrast the boy I’d left, with the man next to me. I recalled how he’d looked at me from the pool as I sun bathed, or from behind a tree as I walked through the garden gossiping with his sister.
“You are his first crush,” she’d whispered then. “He’s always staring at you. Poor thing is going to be broken-hearted when you go.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he masturbates in the shower while he thinks of you in your little bikini.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t,” I’d said, making a mental note to be more careful how much of myself I exposed.
There had been tears all round the morning my rucksack was loaded into the back of the family car. In the few short weeks I’d become part of their family. Of course, in all such heat-rending departures there is always a promise to return. I had made that solemn promise.
Now here I am fifteen years later. The same person, but different in so many ways.