It was Evan and my anniversary yesterday. We celebrated on Friday. He gave me that card in the middle… complete with the awesome guitar player. [when i first moved in with evan, i saw a guitar and was convinced he was borrowing it from someone because i was convinced he did not play guitar… he does play, p.s.]
That’s only one part of it, but you get the idea.
So, we spent the whole weekend listening to all the records we have lyin’ around. Thanks to Sarah, for forever ago letting us borrow that Nick Drake album. It’s been perfect… just perfect.
Evan has some ah-mazing friends in town and we’ve been very much enjoying records, whiskey, tea, salads, evan’s breakfasts, laughter, wine, etc.
We thought the whiskey from St. Paddy’s was over until we discovered some left-over Maker’s Mark in Evan’s flask from Dan Long’s visit. It was the perfect way to end a hilarious corned-beef day and a record-filled night.
And we’ve been drinking tea a lot. That’s what that little ceramic teapot is… he says, “I will hold the tea bag.” I love him. He’s from my mother.
Today, when Evan and friends went out to go to the hot springs, I worked… and drank a lot of tea. Here…
And as much as I hate not being at the hot springs: hiking in, sliding in snow, getting naked, soaking it up, drinking beer, laughing lots… As much as I hate missing that, I love this. I love sitting around in the sunlight-filled room, listening to music, This American Life, World Cafe, more music, and working on more projects. Designing. Writing.
I need that time. This time. Creating. Working.
Time like that… Place like there… is where I write. Where I feel like writing. I wrote this short story from an interpretation of a Skype conversation I had with my best friend. It’s not at all truth, but I love how laughing about it and learning about it made me want to write. So, here you go…
“Her husband answered the door slowly, every wrinkle turning into five while he smiled on purpose, not by habit. Mrs. Gallo quickly walked up behind him and quietly scolded him with words I could not understand.
The fact that I had no idea what they were saying made me even more confused about being here. Mrs. Gallo had avidly chosen me, out of many qualified teachers, to help her learn English. The secretary at the English Translation and Education Agency was pretty clear about how I would never get a client because I didn’t know any Italian, but I convinced her to keep my résumé on file. At this point, I was so desperate for work in Como that there was no defeat, only apathetic hope.
I received a call from the secretary wanting me to come down to the office so a client could have a “look at me.” My boyfriend, the one who had a job, the one we moved here for, the one with a plan, the one with logic, insisted that this meant a billionaire was going to try to buy me for sex. Laughing at him, I wasn’t fully convinced that he was wrong. But I needed the money and the job paid 45 euros an hour.
Dressing for the “try-out”, I found myself leaning towards lower cut, higher hemlined outfits, knowing that I was compromising myself. But the fact that I knew it, was owning it, didn’t make me feel scared or vulnerable. It made me feel amazing.
I rushed about, leaving the apartment late, only to take a late bus and then run blocks to the agency. Last in the door, I saw three other girls standing in a line. Then I saw an older woman evaluating, standing next to the anxious and angry (at me) secretary.
Mrs. Gallo stared at me with strong eyes. It was not a look that made me feel ashamed of my tardiness, but a look so strong, so interested, that it did make me uncomfortable. As I took my place in line and she kept staring, I leaned over to the girl next to me to break the awkward silence and whispered,
“Have they started the talent portion of the competition yet?”
Unamused, she inched away from me in the same instant that the secretary started to shake her head. Before the judgments of the room could even come to fruition, Mrs. Gallo firmly said,
I want her. Since her gaze hadn’t unlocked from me, everyone in the room was confused. She wants me? She wanted me.
Getting to know each other, the agency’s policy of “Only English speaking” came in handy. When she tried to communicate with me in Italian, I shut it down.
“Nope! You know the rules. Only English.”
This rule was a godsend, but almost unnecessary. Mrs. Gallo spoke great English. This obviously frustrated her husband. At the beginning of the sessions, he would lurk around, offering me tea and trying to be engaged in conversation. After about six lines of English back and forth between Mrs. Gallo and myself, Mr. Gallo would go from looking like a dog watching a tennis match to an angry gnome. He would grumble away and soon enough, we’d hear the pop of a cork from a wine bottle.
Turns out, Mrs. Gallo traveled to Los Angeles a lot. Mr. Gallo would stay at home. She travels there to produce films, documentaries mostly. She told me she thought she wanted to act as a child, but then (in her words),
“The control wasn’t mine, so I produce. It is less work. Less focus.”
Her presence screamed money: The green leather sofa she sat on in the study, with her perfect posture; Her gold necklace with a dangling ruby; Her old-woman perfume; The way she spoke about film. I didn’t question her motives. I mostly just envied her with every ounce of my being. How could a 25-year-old be so jealous of a gray-haired woman? And how was my posture worse?
It seemed that there was nothing I could teach this woman. She acted bored. Her glances wandered and she asked me cordial questions. She would look at her dainty watch frequently, and twenty minutes before the hour was up, she would walk into the other room, and come out with a yellow envelope.
“You can go now. Thank you.”
She said as she handed me my payment.
“Best job ever.”
I would brag to my boyfriend. He would voice his concern about how fishy the whole situation was and we would start guessing why it was so bizarre…
“Maybe she committed a horrible crime and now has to learn better English to be forgiven.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Your job doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe she’s gonna ask me for a kidney or something.”
“Whoa. Yeah, do you think she knows your blood type?”
“I don’t know, she could. She has a lot of money. People have paid to find out more ridiculous things.”
After her husband answered the door and was shooed away, Mrs. Gallo led the way. I started to put my things down in the study, but she abruptly stopped me, picked up my purse, and said,
“No, different room today.”
Oh, my god, she’s taking me to the rape dungeon. I knew it.
“Uh. What room, Mrs. Gallo?” I asked as I followed.
“New room. Different study.”
The study of pain and torture. I’m screwed.
I looked back constantly at each turn to make sure I knew where I had come from. This was a practice I learned from backpacking. Look back often so you know what the trail looks like when you’re trying to come back.
We took a right, I looked back before I turned, and we went in the first room on the left. It was another study, with a computer. The desk had two chairs pulled up to it and a pitcher of lemonade with two glasses next to the computer. I assumed Mr. Gallo had brought the lemonade.
“Sit, please,” she told me as she gestured to the chair on the right. I sat. She shut the door and sat down as well and then said, “I want to computer today.”
“On the internet.”
“Okay. Do you want to set up email?”
“I have email. I want to meet an American man.”
Oh, dear lord. Of course! Confused, I leaned forward, with the look of shock in my eyes, and whispered,
“Mrs. Gallo! You are married!”
“I know. You know. Okay?”
And that was all that we ever talked about that. A small part of me felt guilty, almost guilty enough to walk away. But, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t acknowledge the bigger part of me that was fascinated by this wild side of a 62-year-old woman putting herself on the market.
“I did match.com.”
“Oh, you did, did you? How did that work out?”
“Did you find American man?”
“I have questions.”
I was in a stupor of trying so hard not to smile and shake my head simultaneously. How is this happening? Suddenly, her choice at the agency made total sense.
I am the choice of least consequence. I know absolutely no one (besides my boyfriend) in Italy and hell, I don’t even know Italian! How would I ever tell anyone about this?
I also couldn’t help but think that she chose me because I seem like the kind of person who would do this sort of thing, which I’m not. But, I am the kind of person who would help someone do this sort of thing, so I don’t know what that says about me.
Mrs. Gallo asked her first question and I was completely unprepared.
“Many men answer my ad. But, why all men want to put their sex on me?”
I let out a long, forced, exhale. Breathe, breathe.
“Put their what on you?”
“Their sex. And I don’t even know if it’s a good sex!” she said as she threw her hands in the air.
“What?! Mrs. Gallo, are you having sex online?”
“No, my sex not on the internet.”
“Okay, I don’t know what ‘sex’ is. Are you using the right word?”
“Their sex! The man sex!” she said pointing to her crotch and then made that horrible jerking off motion I hadn’t seen since high school as she said, “The penis, you know?”
It was like I was in a dream. In hilarious horror, I clasped her hands and put them on her lap. My lips were pressing tight to hold back everything; compose myself as I physically composed her.
“Men want to put their penis on you?”
“Okay. Do you want them to put their penis on you?”
“Yes. But why they talk about it all the time. This is my sex! You want my sex? My sex is this big!”
“First off, don’t call it ‘sex.'”
“Call it penis?” she asked as she wrote something on a tablet next to the lemonade. The drink all the sudden became essential and I poured myself a glass before I answered her.
“Well, I would call it a penis or other words. It depends on how you say it.”
“What other words?”
Oh, what would my mother think? I was about to tell this sweet old Italian woman every name I knew for the male genitalia. All the sudden, I couldn’t get the “Us and Our Bodies” book that our parents had shown us as children, out of my head. None of these words were in that book. Guaranteed.
“Dickcrotch?” She looked up from writing on her notepad to ask.
“No, no. Two words. Dick… Crotch…” I said them slower. She scratched out “dichkrotch” and wrote, carefully, the two separate words and then looked to me for more.
She said the “ck” noise stronger than I had ever heard it. It made me laugh.
“Good one? I like.”
“Yeah, it’s a good one. I like cock,” I said as I gave her a thumbs-up and we both smiled from ear to ear. I shook my head, still smiling.
She wrote “cak” down and underlined it on her notepad.
We went over all the correct jargon for body parts that are interesting during sex. Mrs. Gallo turned a page and started anew for each area. Things became more matter of fact, but we were both so giddy. She was giddy because she had finally found someone to teach her these things that she had obviously been wanting to know for a while. I was giddy because, in between my feeling of disbelief and reaching back to junior high sleepover verbage, I realized this was the most absurd thing I would ever be a part of.
She looked at her tiny watch and jumped.
“Late!” she said as she adjusted in her chair. She flipped her notepad back to the font page and nodded her head as if she was mentally reviewing. She opened the door and walked out.
As if he was waiting outside the door the whole time, Mr. Gallo walked in the room shyly. As I tensed up, I smiled and waved, saying,
“Hi, Mr. Gallo.”
He waved and walked around the room. He looked at the notepad, picked it up. Looked at it with the most confused eyes. In large print, it read,
He set it down, shrugged slightly, and walked out of the room. With timing made for dancers, Mrs. Gallo walked back in and handed me a yellow envelope. She smiled, pressed her finger to her lips, and then said,
I left the room and walked out of the home the same way I had come in, but nothing looked the same.”