Flashback: Getting to know the girls

This morning I woke up to find that I'd been bitten at least 20 times by mosquitoes. I learned the word zanzara (mosquito) this morning when I showed Signora G. my arm. She told me to go to the farmacia (pharmacy) to get something. I think she tried to explain what to get, but I didn't understand everything. I also decided this morning that I have to find a palestra (gym) because I can't take all this pasta every day.

At school, I found a palestra in the telephone book. It is fairly close to the apartment that I'm living in. The woman at the reception was very nice to me, but I didn't understand a word she said. I think she explained the facilities to me in Italian with lots of smiles and gestures. She didn't bother to notice that I didn't fully understand what she was saying, but she did it so pleasantly that it didn't upset me. I tried to catch a few words that were similar to French, but just couldn't latch onto anything. In the end, I just looked around: a gym is a gym; they are all quite self-explanatory. All I could manage to say to the woman was, "Grazie." I tried to tell her I'd be back the next day, so I just said, "A domani." (See you tomorrow). I'm sure she understood as she smiled and waved good-bye to me.

The only bad thing about the palestra is that there's no air conditioning and the running machines are across from the reception desk at the entrance, so everyone can see our back sides as we run. The other thing I need to get before I sign up is a lock and I don't know yet where to get one.

I talked to P. and he told me that he wants to come out to visit me in Italy. A part of me would love to see him, but another part just can't. I'm in this weird space now where I just can't imagine my old world and new world together. He, somehow, wouldn't fit here. But, I'm not sure I even fit here.

I went to the farmacia and said, my favorite new word, zanzara. I showed the woman my arm and she picked up a few items for me to take home. One was a Vape, which I'm supposed to plug into the wall at night to keep the zanzare out and a cream for my mosquito bites so they won't itch any more. The cream worked immediately. We'll see how my Vape works tonight.

When I got home and walked into my dark and quiet room, I realized that I needed to make more of an effort with the other girls. I decided to go and knock on Claudia's door after dinner. We talked--I tried to talk--in Italian together. I realized that I wasn't the only one who stumbled a lot. Luckily, we all had Claudia to correct us.

The Japanese girl, Rea, is really cute. She smiles and giggles like a little girl and you just want to hug her. I can't imagine anyone not getting along with her. I love it when she is surprised by something and she opens her eyes really wide.

Catherine, the Swiss girl, is only eighteen. Most of the evening she complained about Italy and said how dirty it was and how she hates it here. I felt bad that her short experience in Italy will be such a bad memory for her. The only time she had a smile on her face was when she talked about her boyfriend. And, I realized that maybe her parents made her go to Italy to get away from her boyfriend.

Claudia seems to be the leader of the girls. First off, she's the oldest of the girls and she knows the most Italian. She's also very amiable and fun to be with. She gave me all the gossip about the people who own the apartment and told me that they are divorced and live in the same apartment because the son, whose name I finally found out was Jacopo, has inherited the apartment from the dad's family. And, neither of the parents wants to move out.

I now understand why our dinners are so tense. I only knew they weren't married when Signora G. told me "Ex-moglie" (ex-wife) a few times in a row pointing to her wedding finger that had no ring. I couldn't understand why they all live under the same roof.

Claudia also told me that the mother and son share a small bedroom, even smaller than mine where the boy sleeps on a twin bed and the mother sleeps on the floor. I never had a chance to look in their bedroom because the door is always shut and generally, she locks it too.

The room that the husband lives in is actually the living room where he says he works, but no one knows what he really does.

The girls wanted to go out tonight, but I wasn't in the mood. They kept pleading with me, but I said that I would on Friday. I'd rather go out when I don't have to get up early. I decided to go back to my room.

I heard Signora G. in her room and realized how alone she must feel being locked up in her room most of the day. My aloneness is temporary while hers seems to be more permanent for now. I didn't feel so alone as I went to bed. I actually was filled with even more hope as I thought about learning more Italian, getting back into my running, and becoming closer with the girls. Also, with my new Vape on, I'm hoping I can sleep through the night without the zanzare buzzing around my ears.

I will be continuing to write about my arrival to Florence back in 1997 and will preface them with "Flashback" in the title.

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