Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Park Bench Clench

In an earlier post, I alluded to kissing someone other than Paolo on a park bench at Lake Bolsena. So, lest anyone think I've been recently kissing someone other than my husband, let the record show that a) the kiss occurred BP (Before Paolo), and, b) as the following will recount, I was an unwilling participant.

But first, some background. In Italy, it is quite normal for unmarried people to live at home with their parents, well into their adult decades. Single Italian men and women with their own domiciles are still a rarity here. And while most parents are content to have their grown children living at home (though no doubt worried that they've not met a nice girl or boy and gotten married), at least one Italian couple sued to evict their 41-year-old, gainfully employed son, citing the mother's exhaustion at having to cook, clean and iron for her bamboccione or "big baby."

Sunset at Lake Bolsena, prime make-out time
The upshot of this cultural norm is that when two unmarried, adult Italians want some romantic time together, they get busy on park benches, or they get really busy in parked cars, since they obviously can't get busy at home. So, if you stroll around the ruins of the Roman Forum after dark, enjoying the moody solitude of the dramatically lit columns and arches and imagining yourself a slave or a Caesar, just don't wander too near any benches or parked cars or you're likely to get an eyeful.

But I realize this doesn't explain how I wound up on a park bench at Lago di Bolsena. In my first couple of weeks in Orvieto (remember we are still BP), as happy as I was to be there, I was a little bit lonely. I took a lot of walks, exploring the narrow streets and alleys of the medieval centro, and when I needed to communicate with colleagues and friends in the States, I went to a very elegant cafe that sold Internet access for €5 per half hour (and that summer the euro peaked at $1.65 - ouch!). When I complained to the barrista, Ricardo (names have been changed to protect the lecherous) that the clock counting down my 30 precious minutes ticked too fast, that seemed to pique his interest. I got a free half hour and a cappuccino on the house. A few visits and several €5 later, I decided that the remedy for my loneliness was to make some Italian friends, so I handed Ricardo my business card. I wasn't terribly attracted to him in a romantic way, but he spoke a little English and seemed to know everyone in town, so I thought he'd be a good person to befriend.

At Lake Bolsena with my friend Barb, who did not try to kiss me.
On our first outing, I met him at the cafe, and we walked (no, trotted, really) briskly to his car. As we drove out of Orvieto, it occurred to me that I didn't really know this man and had no idea where he was taking me. We soon wound up at Lake Bolsena (Lago di Bolsena), a pristine lake formed by a volcanic crater, the former contents of which make up the tufa bluffs on which Orvieto and the surrounding hill towns are built. The lake is deep, cold, clear, ringed by picturesque little towns, and lined with bars restaurants and, you guessed it, park benches.

So Ricardo led me to a park bench, presumably to take in the sunset views. Before I had a chance to say, "how pretty", he turned to me and asked, "You like me, si?" I think I answered something like, "Um, okay," and on that, he descended with full on aggressive machismo. I was pinned against the park bench in a surprisingly toothy and tongue-y liplock, one hand clutching the back of my neck and the other moving with lightning speed to my right breast. I wrestled his hand away, he came up for air, and thank goodness I knew how to say, in Italian, "Troppo presto!" (I thought that meant "too fast" but it actually means "too soon." However, my point was made.)

Ricardo retreated to his side of the bench, dejected. Given that I hadn't planned on kissing him or anyone else that day, I'd worn a goodly helping of bright red lipstick for our appointment. Most of that lipstick was now smeared across his thin lips, making him look something like a drag performer in mid-preparation for the stage. That I stifled a laugh probably didn't do much for his ego. I told him he had lipstick on this mouth and began searching my purse for a tissue. He told me not to bother, but I told him he really, really needed to clean it off. No tissues to be found, I pulled out a cash register receipt (hmm, maybe it was for €5 worth of Internet access) and he dabbed with that.

Worried that he might descend for another big grope, I initiated a discussion about Italian politics, of which I knew next to nothing. I think Ricardo realized that his chances were now nil, and he spoke half-heartedly about the political left and right in Italy, as I gazed intently at his lipstick stained mouth, which now took on the appearance of a sad clown mouth. Our conversation was brief. He announced that he had somewhere to be and that we had to return at once to Orvieto. On the way back, I asked him the names of various of trees and crops we saw on the drive, but I'm pretty sure he was just making up his answers.

I soon found another cafe with WiFi service. There, the cost of Internet is neither €5 per half hour nor a copped feel. You just have to buy a drink or a snack and the Internet is free, no park benches attached. A month or so later, I met Paolo, a grown man with his own apartment (though his mother still did his laundry).

A swan at Bolsena. He too was a bit agressive.

No comments:

Post a Comment