It’s possible that writing about summertime just might push me over the edge. Currently we are surrounded by the winter wind and snow and there are two different viruses hovering over our weakened bodies like vultures honing in on recent death. Cabin fever has officially arrived. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m obsessed with contrast so it stands to reason that I’ll survive writing about hot summer romance while sitting beside a roaring pellet stove wearing multiple layers.
Just Going With the Flow
When Samuele does something, he does it right. From day one, he made sure that every detail was special...whether I noticed or not. Looking back, I can see that the first weekend we spent together was one, long first date and it was certainly a date to remember. Even though I had just been introduced, I remember how welcome everyone made me feel as I was unceremoniously added to the group of friends. It was as if I’d been a part of their lives forever. I said this about the missionary family in Rome, and it was true about the people in Mantova as well. A small group of us were picked up by Samuele in his black VW and we all went to the concert. I had finally pulled my head out of the clouds and realized that Samuele was paying my pay for everything so far. Of course when I tried to pay him back for my concert ticket, it was pointless. I had a stubborn benefactor and it connected us somehow so I let it go. Even at that point, I had no idea we were on a date. I just thought he was being nice. Naive much? Yep, you bet.
People smiled at us and sort of left a wide berth even though we were part of the group. I bought him a drink and we sat together. But other than a few photos and some chit-chat, the night was about the singers and I was so impressed by the entire performance. There was such a passion in the music for Jesus and a real sense of personality in each individual that I was swept away by the moment. I could be myself because everyone else was too. After the concert, we were dropped off at Lisa’s house where Samuele told us goodnight and left. Our magical day alone had come to an end. From beginning to end, it was unforgettable and I was so happy I’d decided to just go with the flow.
You might remember when I wrote about my tendency to need something to look forward to? I was never satisfied unless there was an occasion or trip coming up. It’s still the same today although these days what I look forward to has become more realistic and mild. Now all I need is the anticipation of writing blog posts for my stomach to curl—in a good way! But fourteen years ago, it seemed like everything was momentous enough to look forward to. I was embracing every unknown for what I thought it was—the next stepping stone.
I didn’t see Samuele until the afternoon of the next day. I got a peak of him at church and we exchanged a few words in a group setting. But then I was whisked off to lunch at Rea’s house where I was charmed by her brother and cousin (who was actually Samuele’s roommate unbeknownst to me). The sun in Mantova can be cruel at midday so after lunch we went to gather the friends and see who wanted to do what. After standing around in the sweltering heat we made the corporate decision to go to the town pool. This is where things started to get interesting. The shift from getting all of Samuele’s attention to being just another pal in the group was somewhat disconcerting. I didn’t have my swimsuit with me so I sat in the shade chatting with the girls and trying to avoid melting. The guys went swimming and then we all got ice cream when the humidity started to settle a summertime madness on us all. It was a completely different heat from the previous afternoon. The romantic simmer between two people had become a platonic haze amongst friends in the space of twenty-four hours.
Everyone Knew the Secret
If ever I felt like the brunt of a joke or out of the loop, I would withdraw and avoid the people giving off those vibes. In Mantova I was a guest and the vibes being given out might have had something to do with my secret crush, so I welcomed the secret smiles and obvious attempts to leave me alone with Samuele. After the pool, Samuele and I found ourselves riding in a car together. We chatted about music and movies and books—all safe topics when you’re testing out the other person’s interest. Someone slyly suggested that Samuele and I should exchange email addresses so I could send the photos I had taken of the group to him later. Uh-huh. Like I couldn’t send them to one of the girls! It was all done so nicely that I couldn’t be mad. Secretly, I was excited to have a way to contact him again.
After we went home to change, an even larger group descended on a local pizzeria for a late-evening meal. Again, I was just swept along in the flow, hardly aware of how the plans were even being made. It was like a nonsensical dream and I loved it. Samuele picked me up along with a couple of teenage boys from church and we went out in the cool evening air to mingle under the Italian sky. Dinner was on an outdoor patio where bright music and laughter set the tone. I was blown away by the easy confidence everyone seemed to have—in themselves and in each other. I felt like I’d finally grown up. My family back home had no idea where I was that night. It was intoxicating.
We left after the pizza had been devoured and everyone had said goodbye to everyone. Samuele dropped off the boys first and then took me home alone. I remember he played The Dave Matthews Band and drove around and around a rotary while I screamed at him to stop. He learned pretty quickly how nauseous I can get just from driving in a straight line. Thankfully nothing embarrassing happened during that car ride. When we got back to Lisa’s house, we got out of the car at her gate. I thanked him for the weekend and shook his hand. He held mine with a little smile which I thought was curious. There was that feeling again of being out of the loop. No matter; he was so nice I didn’t care. I promised to email him the photos and that was that. A completely anti-climactic goodbye.
The next day on the train I thought back to where it all started. I decided to travel five hours by train with no expectation of what awaited me at the invite of two really nice girls. And in true naive-Rachel fashion, that path took me on a whirlwind ride of romance and fun. I had gotten more than I’d bargained for and it was a long time before the haze of summertime madness faded into memory.
If you’re reading this, thanks for getting this far. I’m so thankful for each one of you! If your love story still makes your stomach flip-flop, I’d love to hear about it. It’s no secret that remembering the happy times can take the edge off of real life when the dynamic changes. Keep the romance alive. Remember your youthful madness. Make magic together.
Until next time,