Panties, Panic and Pianos

It’s a funny thing living in the house with Donatella and Enzo because in a lot of ways I feel like they have to get as used to my presence as I do theirs. With Donatella I’m still learning the boundaries – and by that I mean getting used to the fact that there are none. She feels sort of like the crazy aunt that comes over and drinks all the beer. Last night I fell asleep to the sounds of the “Jupiter Space Station” white noise sound track on Youtube because she was up until 2 am watching (and shouting at) the television in the kitchen. I’ve gotten used to the sight of her sitting at the kitchen table in the dark, with her violent red bangs pinned up in a curler with the blue light of the television flashing across her face. I see it every night when I go to the bathroom and, although it might not seem like it from my descriptions, I only have very warm feelings toward her.

Donatella takes about 45 minutes to put her makeup on – if you count standing in the kitchen watching television with the makeup brush in hand as putting makeup on. She has a funny habit of leaving the bathroom light on and then standing in the kitchen in the dark because she obviously doesn’t want to waste electricity and doesn’t want to admit to the fact that she’s actually just watching television. You can go to the bathroom during one of these 45 minute periods, but if you do you’d better expect her to come in when she needs more makeup (spoiler alert: I wasn’t expecting it).

This morning she took off her shirt while I was eating breakfast, which was the most startled I think I’ve ever been while eating cereal. She was getting dressed so she put on another one right afterward but, having just woken up, I missed a few steps and looked up into complete and utter confusion.

Enzo, on the other hand, is clearly not entirely comfortable having me in the house, which I totally get. I wouldn’t be comfortable having a 20 year old girl in my house if I was him either. There seems to just be some inherent weirdness for both of us. Sometimes Donatella goes out and Enzo and I are alone in the house together and it’s always a little uncomfortable – made more so by the mutual knowledge that we’re making the other uneasy.

An unfortunate (and amusing) occurrence happens almost once a day and is a result of the high cost of electricity in Italy. When it’s just the two of us in the house we both try to stay in our default corners – him in his office and me in my room – but, inevitably, we both eventually have to come out. To set the scene, the bathroom is right across from my room and the kitchen a relatively straight line from his office. What’s been happening is that we both attempt to leave our safe rooms at the same time, realizing the other is there a split second before we turn off the lights (like you have to do¬†every time you leave the room). So we’re both standing in the dark, cursing silently to ourselves and too afraid to step out into the main open entrance hall because there’s a strong possibility that we’ll bump into each other.

This has happened about four times since I’ve moved in. There’s always a pause, a moment of internal grimacing on both ends and then, from the darkness I’ll hear him sigh. “Ciao, Becca,” he says, every time, like clock work. And it’s both a greeting and an attempt to find out where I am in the darkness ahead of him like our own form of echolocation. “Ciao,” I return, and then we start to move, carefully inching our way past each other into the rooms opposite us.

There’s a scene in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth comes across a soaking wet Darcy, who’s just taken a swim in a state of relative undress. As a child I used to wonder at their reactions, the horror and the embarrassment on both sides. Tonight, I finally understood. I came home tonight after a dinner out with Owen and a couple friends just as Enzo was coming out of his office in his underwear. We both jumped and tried to bolt, but there was nowhere for either one of us to escape to and we froze again in even greater embarrassment than if we hadn’t tried to move at all. The mutual panic was so great that I burst out laughing. Relief flashed across Enzo’s face, followed by a smile.

“Because I just got home,” he said, gesturing to himself in heavily accented English.

“Right,” I said. “Me too.”

We paused for a moment, both trying to figure out how far this conversation was supposed to take us, and then we sped past each other into our rooms and shut the doors.

On a subject not related to half-naked host parents, Owen and I went to a music store yesterday to try and find him a keyboard to play on. For those of you who don’t know Owen he’s pretty impressive with his ability to play everything completely by ear. Freshman year I used to play him a song on my phone and he could play it back to me on the off tune piano in the Jewett main lounge. Music for Owen is a lot like what running is for me so I offered to go keyboard shopping with him and help him bring back whatever we bought.

Nearly everything worth buying was several hundred euros but Lorenza from the Music Store went into the depths of the basement and came out with a full size keyboard and stand that he said he could rent to Owen for 90 euros over four months. (It should’ve been discouraging to us that Lorenzo grunted when he lifted the keyboard onto the stand, but we were both too stupid to think about that until after Owen had paid for the keyboard and we were struggling to get it out the door). Honestly I don’t know how much it weighed. If I had to guess I’d say it started off weighing about 40 pounds and was somewhere near 200 by the time we made it back to our house. I google mapped it after. The walk was about a mile and a half and was uneven parts miserable and hilarious.

P.S. The keyboard broke the next morning.

Owen (post 1.5 mile walk) next to the black keyboard case for scale

A shot from Fiesole, the town that I run to the top of

Bread and wine at the Grande kitchen table


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