Today, I am living in Florence:
I know it because I spent two hours tanning on the balcony in my bikini in the hot and dry Mediterranean sun, and then had to put on jeans, fashionable sandals, a classic white t-shirt, and do my hair and make-up, just to leave the apartment, walk down the street, and get a Doner kebab for dinner. I know because as I was walking down the sidewalk, half of the Italians who passed me were still in heavy coats despite the direct sun and 60+ degree temperature, and I found myself catching snippets of conversations as I passed. "Uomo mange troppo..." became "Man (meaning 'humans' in this context) eat too much." "Dove lei?" I understood instantly as "Where is she?" And the construction works who called out "Mamma mia! Caro! Bella! Biancaissimi!" as I passed needed no translation.
Tomorrow marks one-month away from leaving this country. 30 days left. In total, I have now lived here for 80 days. I have been to Roma (twice), and Venezia, and Pisa, and Cinque Terre (twice), and Dublin (for a week), and Northern Ireland(twice). I still have my last hurrah-- 4 days in Sicily with Alli the last weekend I am in Italy. I have spent more money and gained more debt than I care to admit, gained about 5 pounds and lost all my gym-rat-and-runner's muscle mass, and gotten sick of eating pasta while discovering a deep, passionate, and abiding love for Doner kebab. I enjoy wine exponentially more than I did before I came, and can now assess body, bouquet, and balance without a second thought. I have eaten fresh octopus and veal marrow and squid-ink spaghetti, and still need to try a famous Florentine tripe sandwich. I brought back the dying pen-pal tradition with the help of a well-written, verbose friend's assistance and continued correspondence. I have bought 6 pairs of shoes, and mastered the double-orgasm. I have made new friends for life, and managed not to kill any of my roommates yet. I have become a bona-fide, addicted, sometimes chain-smoking smoker. New friends bonded over new food and new clothing every Thursday night. The language became musical as I grew to understand it, in piccola and grande chunks. I became adept at sleeping anywhere-- foreign beds, beaches, and buses. I now parlo un po d'italiano.
But I've missed 21st birthdays, break-ups, new relationships, sex, parties, concerts, good days, bad days, daily life, and even sacrificed pieces of my own life where they intersected with other's lives while being here. I have gained some things, and may have devastatingly lost others. I am down-right guilty that I will be missing graduation, watching it streaming from my hotel room in Sicily instead, as friends I've had for years grasp diplomas and walk out of Champlain College's life, and into their own new ones. I've found that sometimes, you need to leave to get closer, and that you are never truly lost or plan-less as long as one foot is being put in front of the other. I have learned the weight of deeply missing someone, as well as the high heights of making it on your own. No matter what has or what will happen, I never would have traded this experience. The girl who came without much of a plan but a lot of questions is now ready to go home, someone a little wiser and a little different, with a lot of answers. So, now. Take me home. If I click the heels of blue boat shoes three times, will it get me back to Vermont?
I'm ready to be back in my real life; try it again, this time, hopefully for real, and take back everything I've been missing, detailed below:.
The Roof Over My Head:
Is at 311 South Union Street. It faces North, and has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, an enclosed back porch, and a large and bright eat-in kitchen. (Though I have not been in it yet. I am trusting my description on my mother's words.) Until I can move in on June 1st, I'll probably be splitting time bumming around between my extremely sweet and gracious friend's couches in Burlington, and tying My Life As I Know It up in Rutland and packing up and out of there for good. I always thought it would be harder to leave the home I grew up in, but after these three months and the at times physical pain of wanting to be in Burlington so badly, it has been made abundantly clear to me that that is where my life is. That is where my friends are (though my 802 Crew will always, ALWAYS be welcome to visit in Burlington, because you are not friends at this point-- you are FAMILY). That is where my apartments have been. That is where my school is. That is where my jobs are. That's where the sun over the lake blinds my eyes as I look down the hill and the sand at North Beach gets stuck in between my toes and in my hair. That is where I know streets like old friends and can give you a running commentary on who lived where, what infamous party was busted there, and what I've eaten here as we walk through the city. There's where I know what's around me, what I have, and therefore, who I am. In short, that's where my heart is.
So I will pack up. I will take my hand-painted Monet stool and my nightstand and my two floor lamps and my shoe collection and the brown sofa bed that is older than I am, and I will move them, and my life, an hour and a half North to register as a resident, have my voter's details changed, and pay rent like a real, poor, and real poor human being. I will scour Recycle North and the Christmas Tree Shop and IKEA's website and DIY websites and manuals and reupholster and paint and hang (might need some taller help with that,) and decorate with whites and chrome and pops of bright colors and hints of green. I will find my first, and probably only and last, queen size bed. I will buy those dishes at Homeport I have always loved. I will do laundry regularly. I might bring my FatCat up to live with me so I am not alone on nights my roommate is not there. Provided she does not pee outside of her litterbox. (The cat, not the roommate. The roommate is housebroken.) I will go to classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall, and work nearly every other waking hour in between. I will save my money. And I, too, a year from now, will graduate, and will realize that I have moved myself out of my parent's house and out of my hometown, and have already started my life.
An Ode To Food:
I am in ITALY, and all I am planning for my first few days back in Burlington is to eat. First stop, American Flatbread for a Medicine Wheel pizza, NOT like they make them in Italy. Then, for comparison, I will wander over to Mr. Mike's for a slice of Buffalo Bully, because an Italian would never, EVER put ranch dressing on a pie. (This also coincidentally knocks off another item on my American Dining List-- ranch dressing. I want it on my pizza, and I want a huuuge, green, veggie-laden salad absolutely SMOTHERED in it, please.) That night, I will order a half-pound of Wings Over honey barbecue boneless wings at 2 AM. BECAUSE I CAN. I will also get the buttermilk ranch dressing with them. The next day, I will wake up around noon, get my girls together, and go to the Skinny Pancake (affectionately known amongst a select few as the "Spinny Cancake" because THAT pronunciation was the sole braincell that died after a very prodigious night's smoking back sophomore year,) and get the apple and brie crepe. I will go straight from there to City Market, where I will buy Vermont Cheese & Cremery's distinctive, straight-from-the-farm butter, and a baguette, and will eat the whole. damn. thing. Then, I will drive over to the UMall, and treat myself to an Auntie Anne's original pretzel and a small, tart, refreshingly summertime lemonade.
And I will go to Bobcat Cafe and Brewery in Bristol, even though I will have to wait another 28 days once in Burlington for my legal birthday, and bring one of my older accomplices in crime with me, and dine on what is simply THE BEST American comfort food there ever was, and drink what is arguably some of the most unassumingly best beer in the Northeast. Much better than a half-liter 1 Euro Peroni-- vero, vero, vero.
And THEN I will hit the gym with a vengeance, and embrace and cry over my treadmill like a long-lost friend. And hopefully live a little bit longer, if I haven't already damaged my arteries too badly while here and developed smoker's cough.
Lots and lots of you-know-where's-it's-been, you-know-where-it's-come-from, and you-know-what-it's-going-to-be-like sex.
That is all I want out of coming home. The apartment, my friends, good ol' honest American food and brews, and good ol' honest American sex. Life is pretty simple for me. Shelter me, feed me, fuck me. And while you're here, can I please get you to help me put up these curtains? I can't reach. Thanks.