I need to get away. To hide. A disguise! I need to breathe. Breathe. Remember to breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I slip into the first store I think I’ll be safe in. An Asian-Italian mom and her son stand behind the sales counter, and this doesn’t mean anything — it shouldn’t mean anything, but to my snow-addled brain, it means everything: “You’ll be safe here. Safe from Italian men and men’s gazes, from unsolicited threesomes, from desire and from being desired.”
How did it come to this? I’m ending my time in Venice hiding between shelves of purses, a rainbow of local leather, as the storekeeper eyes me every few minutes, wary about the foreigner with the glazed eyes lurking in the back of her store. Without Eric, friend extraordinaire and dedicated traveling companion (currently on a train to Lyon), I had become, yet again, a lone female traveler in a passionate country in a city filled with passionate men, young and old. They stop me in the street to tell me I am bella and by the 12th time, well, it still hasn’t gotten old. By the 12th time, in fact, I am bewitched, floating on a cloud of flattery. I forget to be cautious.
I hear Michele’s beautiful, booming voice outside, loud and louder still, then fading down the alley, correcting Manuel — “Lei Taiwanese, non Cinese.” He is talking about me, and I realize I’m crouching and holding my breathe in the back of this poor lady’s store. This is not normal shopper behavior. Neither is this normal shoplifter behavior. I should probably pretend to be one … or the other.
Michele, proud proprietor of his own restaurant, is in the business of gratification and gustatory satisfaction. Of oral pleasure. Like all people who do food for a living (and like all Italians), he is well-acquainted with what he likes and well-versed in how to enjoy himself. I am, mostly, running from him.
Image source: Sophie Lee