Archive for July, 2009
Part 12 – Venice, Italy
He presses the length of his thigh tight against my shoulder and runs his fingertips down my bare arm as I sit. The checkered tablecloth is like all the others on the canal front restaurant. Little electric lanterns hang on slack lines between umbrellas poles. The night air still holds the heat of the day. Surely, this waiter did not just do that, I think. Do I wear a sign on my forehead saying, “Newly Divorced?” He smiles as I crank my head ninety degrees to order a half litter of prosecco for Carmen and I. He winks when he brings back the whole bottle. His gold rings flash from his fingers. Evidently we know one another better now as he practically slides into my lap. It occurs to me that this might work well as I’m at least a foot taller then he. Carmen and I exchange soundless laughter. He pops the cork and I flinch. “This is to start out with,” he says.
At the end of our expensive yet average meal, which includes an equally expensive bottle of processo and tip, we rise from the table intending to leave. The waiter rushes over and kisses my check. “Do you stay here tonight?” he asks in a sultry accent. Where else would I go, it’s an island? “Yes, goodnight,” I say and walk away toward the Rialto bridge, the lanterns shimmering off the canal water. I wonder how many times a night he practices this tourist routine. I wonder if he has a wife at home. I wonder if that would have occurred to me at an earlier point in my life. I wonder when I’ll be able to flirt again without being jaded. I remind myself that everyone says it takes time. How much, how long, how many? I wonder. A perfectly good Italian lover – squandered. Or perhaps I’m just getting better at spotting the creeps. I start humming a Lyle Lovett song as we walk into the night. “Look around and you will see. This world is full of creeps like me. You look surprised, you shouldn’t be. This world is full of creeps like me. I wear grandmother’s ring. On my finger, on my finger. She had a tooth of gold.”
Are you Gay or European?
It’s hard to say, especially in Italy where, unlike tonight, I can’t always read the signs. Carmen sings me a song by Legally Blonde – “Gay or European?” In a land where men kiss one another on the cheek in greeting, carry man-bags over their shoulders and wear short Capri pants, I have often wondered. Men buy nice shoes, wear pink shirts, sport stylish haircuts, hold cigarettes between index and middle finger not thumb, and dance in tight tops with arms flung wide. Thoroughly confusing. When men talk to one another here they stand close and often reach across and touch to literally make a connection and communicate. It’s not like in America, where men generally keep a certain amount of personal space, a Zone, around themselves and then punch one other to emphasize a point. American men hug if they are close friends, relatives or Democrats, but they still maintain their Zone. Italian men stand within inches of one another even when there’s no one else crowding them together. There’s another level of connection that would not be acceptable in America except in a gay bar. Italians are wildly expressive compared to Americans. I wonder if this makes the men more intimate partners. If Italian men can use touch as a way to connect with other men, then does that make them more sensitive with women? Do Italian women have the same complaints I often hear from American women, that men can’t just hold them without it leading to sex? Probably.
I’ve made several friends in Trieste and I asked one of them about this recently. “No idea,” he says. This is a very common answer here. “Okay, how do I know if a man is gay?” I think this friend is gay, but then again, I’m not sure. He tells me Trieste is a very ‘friendly’ city. I point out examples. “What if he kisses me on the dance floor.” “Gay,” he says without hesitation. I haven’t been dancing like I was last week in years. The 2AM kind of dancing where the music is too loud and you don’t care who’s watching. “What if he kisses me and then when I tear up because it’s my first post-marriage kiss he tells me he’s also divorced and understands completely.” “Still gay,” he affirms. “Really?” “I mean, really kisses me and wants to see me when I come back from Venice next week.” “Gay, gay, gay.” Then he adds, “We’re all gay.” I wonder if this is just wishful thinking on his part. I’m more confused than ever before, but looking forward to returning from Venice.
It’s now midnight and our last night in Venice. Carmen and I are among the few customers left at our second little outdoor café. I use the Italian words I’ve picked up over the past few weeks with my best fake accent to order sticky-sweet limoncello. It appears before us in small triangular glasses. It’s sugar, vodka and lemon rind, thick as maple syrup. Served ice cold and tart, it’s like drinking a summer night itself. I don’t want Carmen to leave for London tomorrow.