Arno River, Firenze, Italia

Arno River, Firenze, Italia

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It’s a record.

Three I killed a little after midnight (I couldn’t sleep unless).

Another died in the morning, buried on the bathroom floor.

And the fourth lost his life to the end of my Sharpie during Italian tutoring (perfect aim and a priceless look on my tutor’s face—I caught him midsentence; some things just can’t wait).

And then the last two joined their comrades during Italian class.  A couple fists to the table, and when my prof raised her head, I was sitting peacefully in my chair, the intended dead on the table, and my classmates laughing silently into their books.

With mosquitoes, I don’t mess around.

This morning was relaxed, at first.  I left for class with plenty of time.  Picked out a calm soundtrack for the walk, aimed in the direction of Neptune’s Fountain.  I was the third to arrive.  And then it dawned on me.  I forgot my to pick up my museum card.  So I took off running, music ignored, racing down cobblestone, jaywalking across streets, cutting off scooters.  All in the name of ART and HISTORY. 

I took the stairs two at a time up to the front desk of Magliabechi, puffing out the words “museum pass” to the bewildered receptionist.  Her face an emotionless mask, she pointed out the door.  “Corso dei Tintori.”  Oh no.  Wrong building.  Wrong front desk.

Once I retrieved the small precious problem (which gets you into every state museum and garden in Florence for free…and also allows you to cut to the front of lines), I began my fast clip back to our meeting spot.  Four minutes to spare.  I probably could have walked. 

And then we waited around for forty-five minutes.  Apparently I wasn’t the only absentminded student of the day.  At this point, I could have crawled. 

The Ufflizi was magnificient.  The two-hour lecture was bound to three rooms.  My prof, the microphone at her throat, spoke in great detail as the tourists cycled around us.  For the first time, pictures from a textbook came alive, details revealed, gold leaf and gilding sparkled, the intricacy of faces and hands were inspiring.

Did you know that Masaccio is a nickname for Tommaso (Thomas in English)?  The beginning part of his name “Masa” is derived from “Tommaso.”  And “Accio” comes from “Ragazzaccio” which means “bad/dirty boy.”  However, the nickname, along with his paintings, became famous.  And so, we call the great artist Dirty Thomas today.

Eventually I will return to the Uffizi on my own.  To venture beyond those three rooms, my nose perhaps glued to a museum guide, hoping not to miss a single piece. 

The rest of the day seemed to return to that precious pace: relaxed.  I returned home and started studying for my Italian “quiz.”  And then mid-studying, I decided I needed chocolate.  Every since I arrived in Italia, it’s been chocolate cake this and chocolate pudding that (and I’m not even a big fan of pudding).  So Megan and I ventured across the street to the Tabacchi. 

I took five euros.  She took two.  And we grabbed a working key this time (we had learned our lesson).  It was supposed to be a really quick trip and then back to the books. 

On the return, as I neared the front door to our apartment, Megan close behind me, I laughed, and jokingly commented, “Just watch; the door won’t open or something.” 

Or something.  I heard a slight jingle of metal.  And then silence.  There was no return laugh to my joke.  I almost turned around to berate her, encourage her to lighten up.

And she was just standing there, frozen, pale face, eyes wide in horror, gaze flickering down to the curb.  “They fell.”

And then I was laughing uncontrollably.  I didn’t know how else to react.  I collapsed against the side of the building and looked back.  “Tell me that did not just happen.  Please, Megan.”

She was sputtering.  “They just fell.  Slipped from my hand.  Didn’t even hit the side.  Just fell directly down into the rain gutter.  And it’s so small.  I don’t understand how that happened.” 

We crouched there, numb, peering into the gutter.  Megan rolled up her sleeve, and, with a slight grimace, reached her hand down.  “I can feel something.  I just can’t get past my elbow.”

She pulled out her arm.  It was caked with black.  I wrinkled my nose and left her fishing at the side of the road in search of another solution.

There is an auto repair shop across the street.  Unfortunately my Italian vocabulary doesn’t yet cover “keys” and “locked out” and “gutter.”  I knew the word for light (luce), and thought a flashlight might help, so I began to convey my request.  And the game of charades began.  I turned my hand, like opening a door with a key.  Then pointed to the ground as my face displayed the remnants of our initial horror.  I spread my arms wide and demonstrated using a long object to fish forth our keys.  And finally, moved my finger up and down, repeating luce, hoping that the idea of a flashlight was breaking through the language barrier.  And lastly, I pointed to Megan, who from the shop window could be seen bent of the side of the road as the gutter consumed her arm along with our keys.

They handed me a flashlight (success) and followed me out.  And then, with pliers, the nice mechanic man began to loosen the cover of the gutter.  And within a minute, our key was rescued.

An easy solution to a complicated problem.  All in the name of chocolate.

And unfortunately, lesson learned, I’m still craving chocolate cake.

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