Journals can be a source of embarrassment for those of us who are painfully self-aware. For me, however, they're essentially an historical source from which to gather the details of my Italian adventure. Not that I could ever forget...
Everything Had Changed in an Instant
The instant I made eye contact with the mysterious Italian guy, I felt like a new version of myself. I walked around the place with a brand-new secret. A secret I kept tucked in the deepest compartment of my heart. With every glance in Samuele's direction, I feared someone would find me out. Admittedly, it was very hard to focus on the speaking sessions at the conference; especially because he sat in the front row where he was helping the sound tech group. If I was honest, even I was scared of my secret. My track record in the romance department up to that point had been a complete burn-out, even after several restarts.
The people at the conference talked to me, engaging kindly with me. But all I could think about was the next time I would see Samuele. Or even better yet, talk with him. My friends from Rome kept me busy and every introduction to new people meant more Italian to process. Everything was a blur except for my awareness of the extremely good-looking Italian guy.
At lunchtime, I sat with the same group of young people I'd met that morning. And again, Samuele sat at a different table. It seemed like he was too shy or proud to come and introduce himself. But, it was a small dining hall. I held out hope that I was bound to run into him at some point. Then he'd be forced to speak to me. My thoughts ran the gamut: from maybe he doesn't speak English, to you dummy, he probably already has a girlfriend or a crush on someone else.
Later, I saw him with a little red-haired girl about five or six years old in the hallway. He was bending down so she could reach to pat his curls. I smiled at them and continued on. But inside, I was warmed at the sight of him with a child. Sorry everyone, but the cliche is true. There's just something about a cute guy who is good with kids.
The Inevitable Introduction to the Italian Guy
As I mentioned in the previous post, Rimini is on the Adriatic coast of Italy. After lunch, I went with my friends from Rome and some others to visit the beach. And even though it was covered with rough sand and stones that irritated my feet, I went all the way to the water. I am a New Englander to my core so a little acqua fredda was nothing. Let me tell you, the water of the Atlantic Ocean has a lot in common with that of the Adriatic Sea in springtime. Brr!
When we were coming back, we passed Samuele in a black VW Golf as he drove out of the parking lot with someone in the passenger's seat. A smidgen of worry passed through me at the thought that he was leaving for good. I pasted on a brave smile to mask my fear that I'd never get the chance to properly meet him. Then, after a second speaking session spent moping because of his vacant chair, it was time for dinner.
Twenty-four hours into any conference, camp, or retreat, there is a certain lightness that descends on the people gathered. The dining hall was warm with laughter that evening. The smile on my face was genuine; in case you didn't know, the people of Italy are infectiously spirited and welcoming. At one point, I remember looking over to a table that was diagonal to ours and across the pathway between them. Samuele was looking straight at me and we smiled at each other for a long moment.
The noise from the conversations around me faded to a low hum and all I could hear was the beating of my heart as it burst with our shared smile.
Our paths finally crossed at the buffet table. The one in the center of the room. We were the only two hovering around it when he finally spoke directly to me. "I'm Samuele," he said. I responded with my name...and another delighted smile. We exchanged a little small talk, mostly about the other young people we now had as mutual friends, then went back to our respective tables.
Who knows what I'd taken to eat or what anyone else said the rest of the evening. I'd heard his voice. I'd spoken to Samuele. He had a pleasant, medium timbre and spoke English very well. What a perfect surprise at the end of an exciting day.
The Last Day Was the Worst...And the Best
The next morning, the euphoria of the weekend came to a crushing end. Reality had set in in the form of body aches and a fever that kept me chained to my bed. It was like a dream, really. I woke up to the sun but felt like I had died in my sleep. When I get sick, I crash hard. I didn't make breakfast or the morning session. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I remember someone bringing me some pain pills. My Rome friends became my family that weekend. The mother of the kids (I'll call her Sherri for privacy) became my caring older sister. She reminded me that I'd miss out on the rest of the conference if I didn't try to get out of bed. I listened and obeyed, somehow managing to shower and pack my bag in time for the last session.
Because I missed lunch, I went to the auditorium where I sat high in the stands to get some alone time. A few minutes went by and then Samuele entered the room. I kept my cool as he glanced in my direction. Just when it seemed as if he might come up to where I was, a friend of his came and sat next to him. Ugh. Lost chance.
At the end of that last session, I went to the stage where the young people had gathered to help take down the equipment. Samuele smiled at me. "I didn't see you at lunch."
"Yeah, I randomly got super sick," I replied. My insides were dancing at the realization that he had noticed my absence.
"Oh, I'm sorry." His concern seemed genuine.
After posing for some pictures with my new friends and showing off a little on the keyboard, we started to bring the equipment outside. On one of the trips, Samuele and I walked alone together.
"What brought you to Italy?" Samuele asked, his tone and manner casual. I told him how I'd come as an Au-pair to a family in Rome. "Oh, so how long will you be in Italy?" I'll never forget his words nor his accent when he said "Italy". I told him I'd planned to stay for only three months, but that I was thinking of extending it until the wintertime. "Well, if you're still here in December, you should come skiing with us in Switzerland," he said.
Like I told you, the Italians are extremely welcoming. Perhaps it had something to do with my being young and blond, but I was flattered.
We said nothing more, but it was enough. My secret attraction was solidified. But, I knew I had to be realistic about my feelings and any future meetings as it was unlikely that I'd ever see him again. Rea and Lisa gave me their contact info and we promised to keep in touch. Little did I know how important their friendship was to become.
The drive home was torturous. I got more and more sick as the hours passed. Somehow I ended up in my bed in Olgiata where I lost touch with the world for two days. Strep throat is not a gentle illness, especially when you are emotionally exhausted. I guess the adrenaline of my trans-Atlantic trip, suddenly meeting so many new people, and coming across the handsome Samuele had drained me, destroying my immune system completely. But, it had all been worth it.
Thank you for reading! Can you think back to the time when you first met your lover? Were there fireworks? Or was it a quiet understanding that grew into a bright flame of attraction? Leave me a comment below to share how your story began.