Have you ever spent every waking moment thinking about something? To the extent that it became an obsession? When all you could think of were the ways your dreams could potentially become reality? I have to confess; after that weekend in Rimini, I was almost at that point. Meeting Samuele had changed my outlook on my entire raison d'etre—seriously guys, all I could think of was seeing him again.
Romance for me is pure magic. That euphoric feeling that floods your mind when you think of your special person is intoxicating. Right? There is simply no other feeling like it. In May of 2005, I felt as if I had entered an exotic dream. An unrealistic, exotic dream.
Muddling Through and Making Memories
Though my sphere of reality had shifted to an alternate plane of starry-eyed smiles and secret musing, life had to move on somehow. I survived strep throat and thankfully it was a quick recovery as I was anxious to get back out into the Italian sunshine. Branden and I developed a connection and a routine, and I learned how to make things work with his parents. Communication got easier with the housekeeper, Ann, and her son, Filip; I would even give her son rides in my Smart car out of the gated neighborhood so he could catch the bus to the city center or run errands. The two were illegal in Italy at the time and were always so nervous about getting caught on foot by the police. I guess the guards at the gatehouse were really strict about knowing who came and went from the neighborhood. I'm sure they wouldn't have hesitated to report the Romanians. Apparently, there was less risk in the city. One day they took me into the center for the Italian Independence Day celebrations and we wandered the tourist sites together—an American and two Romanians in an Italian city. Good times.
The family's terrier was pregnant which added a bit of excitement to the season as we all anticipated the puppies' arrival. As the weather warmed, the pool was prepared and Branden and I began to enjoy it after school on occasion. Filip maintained the pool and sometimes I would lie out during the day while Branden was in school. I'm sure he didn't mind his job so much while I was out there. *blush-grin-eye roll* Ann taught me how to launder my clothes the European way and even helped me with some minor clothes repairs. She and I rolled our eyes and smirked at each other behind Kate's back whenever she exploited us or was ungrateful and demanding. Neither of us had any leverage.
But the best memories I have are from the times I spent with my missionary friends. We explored Rome's center, the area around Lago di Bracciano, and its famous castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes later married. We went swimming in the lake at all hours, ate ice cream at our favorite gelateria, and generally enjoyed each other's company. I began to teach their son, Lucas, piano lessons in exchange for Italian lessons but I can tell you I learned so much more from the conversation that flowed around me and the services in their church. There was so much laughter, deep talks, encouragement, and excitement in our shared dynamic. Those memories will truly stay with me forever.
A Distracting Invitation
I constantly wondered about Samuele and if our paths would ever cross again, even as I tried hard not to think of him. After all, it wasn't as if the few times we actually spoke made for much to dwell on or dream of. My Rome friends invited me on a trip to eastern Italy where another church was having an event. I remember daydreaming the entire way there that this was Samuele's church and we'd bump into him. But, no such luck. I did see one of the girls I'd roomed with in Rimini and we chatted about a visit to her hometown.
In every single moment, I attempted to cut short my unrealistic dreams of seeing Samuele again. I went through the motions, trying to stymie the thoughts that kept rising and quit the useless wishing. But it was no use. Samuele's face swam in and out of my thoughts, uninvited at times, but always welcome.
An Unexpected Meeting
Lisa and Rea made good on their promise to invite me to their hometown in the north of Italy. I found myself on vacation for a week in June while my host family went on a yacht trip somewhere. I can't remember why I didn't go with them as usually the Au-pair tags along wherever the family goes. I never dwell on this as everything turned out for the better. Far better than I could have imagined.
I went to the travel agency in the village, bought a round-trip ticket, packed a little travel case, and took a commuter train to the Termini Station in Rome. It was an adventure finding the right train at the huge station and learning how to get the ticket stamped, indicating that I had indeed boarded at the correct station. I don't think I did it right because I got a scolding from a ticket collector. He didn't throw me off the train, though. Must have been my blond hair and American accent. Tee-hee.
After a five-hour trip through the center of Italy, changing trains in Bologna and enduring an intensely humid day, I arrived at the station. I was told to expect either Rea or Lisa who had invited me for a two-day weekend. It was around 2 p.m.
I followed the crowd to the end of the train car where we waited for the train to stop so we could disembark. When the doors opened, I looked up and my attention was caught immediately by a pair of bright blue eyes and sandy brown curls. Yep, you guessed it. It was Samuele who stood there, waiting on the platform right where my train car stopped.
My tongue caught and I can assure you, my palms started releasing sweat in great quantities. I will never forget his smile. But then, I said the dumbest thing. "What are you doing here? Are you my ride?" Guys, I honestly had no idea what he was doing there.
"Yes, I am," he replied, his tone casual. His smile was friendly and a little shy. He helped me with my bags and we walked in silence through the train station to where he'd double-parked his black VW Jetta. My mind was a blank. What was this guy doing there? Samuele was explaining that his car window was broken on the passenger side but that he would blast the AC because he knows how much Americans love their AC. I just thanked him and got into the car—still in shock—even though I hadn't talked with him beyond a couple of sentences just five weeks before. If my mother had been able to stop me, I'm sure she would have.
It WAS reckless, but I didn't feel in the least bit worried. My head spun in a flurry of thoughts and my stomach was in knots. The thing I had dreamed of with such unrealistic expectations had come true. My prayers had been answered. Little did I know, that weekend would be just the first of many wherein my heart would become more and more captivated—with a man, with a country, and with an experience.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to tune in for the next episode as the story only builds from this point. I hope I'll be able to share it sooner than I did this one. Thank you all for your patience!