Published: August 19th 2008August 19th 2008
You can stand under my umbrella. (The beach at Gioiosa Marea, Sicily)
Saturday (Sabato) Agosto 16
After a relatively painless two short flights (Venice to Rome, Rome to Catania), I arrived in Catania on a warm sunny day, although my clothes were still a little damp from Venice. I was becoming more nervous as I grew closer to my destination, as I had not been able to get a hold of my friends in Sicily, and the dialect in Sicily was strong, and the amount of people who spoke English was slim indeed.I managed to get out of the airport, get onto a bus, get the train station, and get on a train for Gioiosa Marea. In my exhaustion, it was quite the feat, particularly with that 50lb luggage in tow.
Even though I was hungry, tired, and dirty, the beauty of the train ride did not elude me. The train ran along the coast of Sicily, rich with palm trees, and at times it felt we were so close to the deep ultramarine waters, that I almost believed we were not on a train, but rather a speedboat. I pressed close to the window, and imagined sticking my hand out the window, running the tips of my fingers along
Joey and Chris take an afternoon nap in my bed after a hard morning at the beach.
the water’s surface. The coastline was populated with simple concrete apartment buildings, their walls plainly painted but their balconies peppered with the bright colors of their billowing, dangling laundry.
As the train grew near to Gioiosa Marea (nearly 4 hours later), I was worried about finding the apartment. I asked a gentleman who was also getting off the train at Gioiosa Marea, and he politely offered to help. He escorted me to his car, for I can only explain that the foreignness of it all makes this situation completely benign. He asked around and got me (and my heavy luggage) to the doorstep of the apartment. (For that alone I pray a million blessings come his way…)
As we rang the bell, I was slightly alarmed to find a strange middle-aged man come to the door. I asked nicely if he knew my friends, worried about a mix-up. He nodded yes, and introduced himself as my friend’s uncle, and invited me in. I bid the stranger goodbye, thanked him profusely, and was relieved to be at my destination (and somebody was home!). In the apartment, I quickly met my friend’s aunt and grandmother, all native Sicilians. It was difficult to communicate with them, but I reassured them that I was expected, and asked after my friends. The aunt spoke quickly, although I caught only the most important words. They were gone, and expected back on lunedi.
“Lunedi.” I knew what it meant, but exhaustion was getting the better of me, and I found that word echoing in my head in slow motion. Monday. They would not be back until Monday. It was currently 5:30 pm on Saturday evening. I tried to keep my wits about me, but the three of them spoke quickly to me, and I couldn’t understand them in my daze, particularly with the speed and thickness of their dialect. At first my eyes just welled a little, and I tried to excuse myself to the bathroom. When I returned, I attempted to explain my long journey, how I knew the guys (2 brothers), and they fired questions at me I didn’t understand. I apologized for my poor Italian, but after a few minutes, it was too overwhelming. I started crying.
Now grant it, as most of my friends well know, I’m not a crier. I’m too proud to let people see me cry, and few of my friends have had the privilege, and they know that when it happens, it is no small thing. But there I was, bawling, totally inconsolable and nearly hysterical, at the kitchen table in a small town in Sicily with strangers whom I could not understand. The aunt sprung into action, flying about the kitchen to get me something to drink, putting food in front of me, and a stack of napkins for my tears. She assured me that I would be welcome to stay there tonight, and proceeded to set in front of me juice, water, Sprite, wine, and a pile of pastries. Although I had my head buried in a napkin, expunging myself of the last of my mascara with my heavy flowing tears, I saw her busy about the stove. Embarrassed to be so exposed to total strangers, I excused myself to the bathroom again, and after a few minutes emerged to find two plates of food waiting for me on the table.
“Mange! Mange! Non piangere! Sta tranquilla!” she repeated over and over again (“Eat! Eat! No more crying! Be calm!”). I couldn’t refuse the food, since she had gone to such trouble, and I was very hungry. After eating two pieces of meat, a bowl of sliced tomatoes in oil and vinegar, and three small bits of bread, I tried to nicely refuse the salami, watermelon, and pastries she continued to grab. At any moment I paused in my consumption (usually to cry), I was greeted with a resounding, “Mange! Mange!” and if I wasn’t crying, I would have surely been laughing at the sight of it all.
During my meal, the uncle had been making several calls in order to get a hold of Joey, my friend, his nephew. After a few calls, he smiled to me and reassured me Joey would be calling back. After five minutes, Joey was on the phone with his uncle, who then turned it over to me. The tears came hard again, and we discussed the miscommunication and I begged him to return home a day early. He reassured me he would do his best, and told me to get some rest, feel at home, go the beach, and they would see me shortly.
After eating, I followed the aunt to a back bedroom, simply decorated with large beautiful wooden furniture and a queen size bed with crisp sheets. I made sure this was the right room- it was nice enough to be the master bedroom. She insisted, and then showed me the bathroom, and how to use the shower. (Was it that obvious I was in dire need?)
At 6:30 pm, I took my first hot shower in three weeks. I settled into the large bedroom, and laid down for a quick rest to recover from all of the events. I didn’t walk up until 10:30 the next morning.