I am disappointed that I didn’t bring one of the others; that I didn’t fully-charge my phone; that I didn’t bring something to write with and on. I think, “I’ll write this down when I get back.” But, even as I think this, I know that I won’t. There’s too much ‘worry’. It is, of course, all made-up worry and, therefore, not real. It’s just in my head.
Later, as I’m walking out, I think that, if it wasn’t for my ‘worries’, my indecisiveness, my (and let me honest here) fears, I could be great. Maybe. It holds me back. It stops me from doing things or, rather, sometimes it stops me and I am annoyed with myself for being such a wuss.
My fears are my greatest obstacle. But they are not fears of normal people. Or, maybe they are? Maybe everyone has these fears? I just don’t think they do.
I think they come from my childhood. Or, perhaps, this is the way I am and so those ‘happenings’ that reinforce and prove my fears are correct are the only things that stick in my mind. They were huge happenings. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me or that I should die. They have a reoccurring theme, of course. It is not a fear of failure or a fear of disaster or a fear of danger or risk. No, it is a fear of embarrassment. I mean, FFS, just embarrassment!
These were things from as young as 5. They are the only things I remember from that age. Not good things but terrible things. Or, rather, terrible things for me. Things that make me squirm even as I think about them.
Every thing I do is a challenge. There is a fear attached which has to be overcome. Well, not every thing but a lot of things.
There was the drive. Less of a challenge now than it was, say, even a couple of years ago. Now I know the route and I’ve been driving enough to recognise the driving and the road signs. Once I was in the house though, I was ‘safe’. Then, the next day there was the beach. Again, not like it was last year and this year we have our own (shared) umbrella. Still, there’s all the other people. Too many people. And, yet, on Saturday, it wasn’t too bad as it was quite cloudy and there was a strong wind. But then there’s the water. But I decided not to do the water yet. That will have to wait until F is with me. Then there was (in random order) the ‘leaving’, the ‘smoking too many cigarettes’, the ‘getting a sandwich’, the ‘running out of things to immerse myself in’, the ‘putting on of sunscreen’. It’s almost comic – as long as you’re not me.
I look at the people around. All shapes, sizes and ages. No one looks at me, I tell myself. I have to believe that. As if I should be just see-through.
I think about the sunshine and wonder if I am burning. I can’t tell yet. It will come later, after I am away from the beach. I’ve rubbed suncream where I can – even over the lower part of my back and my shoulders. I notice that my left arm is peeling slightly. Well, I think, I can’t stop it now.
I think about the fact that sunbathing is so dangerous now. It’s not that it wasn’t dangerous before, it’s just that we didn’t know. I think about the fact that it’s unlikely to ‘get me’ since there are many other things that will, probably, ‘get me’ first. Like the smoking. It’s OK. It’s not like I was ever destined to live forever. It’s not that I ever wanted to live forever in the first place. And, in any case, what’s the point if you just live within safety. Safety is for wusses. I spot some brown moles on my arm and think “were they here before?” I worry that I would be a hypochondriac. Maybe that’s too much of my Father’s side in me? I would be a hypochondriac but I never voice the fears of that and say the opposite thing since people don’t really know what I’m thinking and so I can say anything I like. But I’m sure I would be a hypochondriac if I let it take control. Which I mustn’t. Which I won’t. Damn my head!
The book was ‘The Blind Assassin’. And not because they were discussing it on Twitter (#1book140) but because I hadn’t finished it from last year’s holiday. And, really, apart from being my favourite book of all time, I can read bits of it and leave it for ages. Well, obviously, almost a year, before finishing it. I toy with starting it again but I don’t. That will mean I won’t read the new one that I bought also by Margaret Attwood (Year of the Flood) or my other, 2nd favourite one – ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.
I order a cheese and lettuce sandwich because that’s a summer sandwich. They don’t have any black pepper though. Damn Italians with their limited taste buds! Maybe I should buy some and put some on myself. Also the cheese is not cheddar so not so tasty. But it’s OK.
I have promised to go to F’s Mum and Dad’s for dinner. He ‘set it up’ as a means (I am sure) of making me go down there without him. I leave the beach about 4 since I have to take the dogs out and, anyway, it feels like it might rain soon.
My Navigator is worth its weight in gold. Especially as the things were programmed in last time. F insisted so that I wouldn’t ‘lose my way’. I have the casina, the dog walk, the beach and F’s Mum. The man’s voice says the names in an English fashion, which is funny.
There’s no one at the dog area, the same as this morning. I play with Dino a bit but he gets a dirty beard and he will insist on shaking near me, spotting my shorts with mud from said beard. Bloody dog.
F has telephoned already. “Are you going to my Mum and Dad’s?”, he asks. But even I’m not stupid enough to think this is actually a question
I go back. I take a bath. Timing is everything. I had noticed on the beach that my nails were just a little long. I cut them. After all, I am going round to the parents-in-all-but-law’s place.
As I am cleaning the bath, I hear a voice outside. I grab the towel and go to see the uncle from upstairs. The uncle is in his eighties and doing very well, even for a man years younger than him. I go to the door, excusing myself for being dressed (undressed?) like this. He speaks to me. I understand some of it but he lacks some teeth and so it is more difficult for me. F’s Mum. Bicycle. Move. Somewhere at his house. The rain.
But, am I supposed to take it round? He repeats everything. It’s doesn’t make more sense than the last time. He is slightly frustrated. However, finally, I think that it must be him going to take it round and not me. He was just being polite. Later I learn that he didn’t even know I was there and didn’t see the dogs. Of course, that would be because, even if I went outside, the dogs tended to stay in the house. They are strange sometimes.
I get ready. I take many deep breaths. This will be difficult. There will be no English. The conversation will be limited. Or, worse still, non-existant.
I drive there with trepidation. On the way, I stop in the centre of the town. Well, not the town in which I am residing but the next one. The Marina. Where the dog walk and the beach are. I go to the tobacco shop to buy a certain type of cigar for his Dad. Then, next door for a tub of ice-cream for his Mum. I would feel guilty not taking anything now that, this time, I’m not taking them the best present of all – their son! F understands my need for wanting to take something and doesn’t tell me that it’s not necessary.
I arrive at the house and they welcome me as normal. They are sweet, as always, with me. We sit down for dinner. This is early. 7.30 p.m. but since his operation, F’s father has to eat earlier than they used to.
I give the ice-cream to his Mum. She makes all the things like ‘You shouldn’t have’ as all people do, even the English. But I think she is pleased. I give the packet of cigars to his Dad who is definitely surprised and pleased. Bless him.
Of course, they have made too much. They have bought some bresaola for me. None of them eat it but they must have asked F. There is a whole plate full. F’s Dad got up at 6 a.m. that morning to make frittata – for me, since neither of them eat any. There is tuna, tomato and potato salad. There is bread. There are the prawns that they did last time – cooked and in oil with parsley. There is a beer for me but I request wine (don’t forget my wine diet even if, as I suspected, ‘diet’ is not possible with F’s parents). It’s a ‘local’ ‘known’ wine without a label. And it’s red (my favourite) which is cold. I like the Italians approach to wine. No snobby breathing or room temperature crap. This is summer. Keep your red wine in the fridge!
Then there is some cheese. Soft pecorino. It’s very good. Again, not something bought in the supermarket. Then there’s fruit salad with an over-ripe banana. Then, of course, the ice-cream. His Dad doesn’t want any but she forces him to have a small cone (the cone being the size of a thumb and came with the ice-cream). He takes it because he is polite. But afterwards, he has another – this is not for politeness. I have some and his Mum has some. She gets out some special plastic dishes made to look like fat, squat, ice-cream cones. They came from S. I have realised that they loved S. I only hope I’m not compared. S is mentioned several times. “S bought us these”. “S, even if he was thin, used to have such heavy footsteps”. It’s OK. I am English. He is English. I am F’s boyfriend. S was F’s boyfriend. Obviously, we have a lot in common.
I text F during the meal saying there is a lot of stuff. He phones his Mum. She hands the phone to me. We talk. We say we’ll speak later. I miss him but it’s not been so bad. Not nearly as bad as it could have been. I say that everything is ‘buono’, which it is. She says ‘Mangia, mangia’ and I say no, stop, rubbing my full belly. She laughs.
His Dad goes off to smoke a cigar. Outside because it’s too smelly in the house. Conspiratorially, his Mum, whilst making me a coffee, tells me that she is going to bingo but that I should stay for a bit to be with F’s Dad. I say I have to go soon to be with the dogs. I have texted R (according to my instructions for what to do at the weekend) to ask if he is at the bar-for-this-season but he has not replied. F’s Dad and I watch a bit of telly. His Mum has gone. I know that B, F’s sister, is worried that this bingo lark is like some sort of drug for his Mum. But I know it’s a social event for her. I’m sure she isn’t spending a lot of money.
I go. R has not texted back. I drive past the bar but go home. I settle down with the new MA book. R texts me. ‘Yes I am here. Come’ it says. I briefly toy with saying that I am already at home with the dogs. But this is another fear. I don’t know these people. They’re not my friends. But I am under instruction. And like a good boy, I must do as I’m told. I go.
R speaks English. He is sitting with the couple that, last week, had brought their new puppy to the bar. This time they haven’t got the puppy. I’m asked if I understand Italian. I say it depends. Which it does. Then someone talks about me or asks me something and I say something back in Italian. After a few minutes the woman of the couple realise that I am speaking Italian and exclaims that I speak Italian perfectly. Of course, this is not true but it is, kind of, nice of her to say.
Eventually I leave and go back home, citing the dogs. I speak to F at home. He asks if I have been out with R. He would have been disappointed if I hadn’t gone, I think.
The next day I get up about half an hour later so miss the two lesbians with their dog. I am also later at the beach. F’s Dad said, the night before, that I should not park in the usual place as there was some fly-past or sir show happening and the roads would be closed. I briefly thought about not going to the beach at all. But now I’m getting the hang of the place so found somewhere to park, nearby. I go to the beach.
The place is heaving although nearly all the umbrellas immediately next to ours are empty. I half-expect B to come but she doesn’t. Or, rather, doesn’t before I leave.
I leave early. I have to have lunch at F’s Mum (because I can’t say no – saying no involves explanation – in Italian. It’s easier to say ‘yes’). Most of the stuff is as last night. She has also done some eggs. Kind of like egg and cheese on toast but without the toast. And with the cheese under the eggs. I have one. It’s nice but with runny yolks it would be nicer. I do like my runny yolks. The eggs are not supermarket eggs either. I’m beginning to understand where F gets some of his strangeness from. Whilst it’s not strange if you live there and have lived there all your life and know lots of people, etc., it’s more strange when you live in Milan and don’t. His Mum pulls a face when she compares these eggs to supermarket eggs. I can see F.
I leave soon after. I don’t have wine or beer, saying I have to drive.
Of course, I have another worry that evening. I get home quite reasonably. I check the address of the dinner. I wish F were coming with me but he’s working.
In the end it was lovely. New (or nearly new) people all. Wine, good food and all only ten minutes from my house. Very enjoyable.
And I realised on my second walk back from the beach that although it is a fear, it’s more a thing of self-confidence. And, it seems, I have none!