The One That Got Away!
Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.
– Bertrand Russell, philosopher
Sorrento 2010: Vignette One
As I’ve said before, traveling alone as a woman can be dicey. Traveling alone as a woman who wants to have a Waiting to Exhale-Under the Tuscan Sun moment can be even more precarious. I’ve never been a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-Carmen (the Dorothy Dandridge version, natch) come hither kinda gal. Sadly, most men can take me or leave me, but occasionally I have inspired ardor in the breast of the opposite sex. Again, sadly, the ardor is not usually reciprocated. You know how it goes. The one you want doesn’t want you and vice versa. Normally, in these situations, I keep on my merry way, more than capable of entertaining myself. But occasionally, occasionally, I’ve been known to say fuck it (pun totally intended).
My second night in Sorrento was one of those nights. Dining alone, I found myself under the increasingly flirty attention of a waiter in my hotel’s restaurant. Let’s just say, he was not molded from the same clay as David, but after weeks on my own, still mellow from my rain-drenched swim, a hot bath, and a lot of vino, I decided to let it play out when he offered me a glass of wine as they began to close down. I gave a brief nod and continued to sip my wine when he suggested I stick around and wait for him to break down the restaurant. At first, I was feeling my feminist oats and patting myself on the back for my modern gal bravery, but as I took peeks at him in between reading passages from my book, he intermittently made terrible, verging on cringy sexually charged innuendos to his coworkers, who would then turn to leer in my direction. Bravery, sexual liberation began to feel like a poorly designed trap. Second guessing myself, blaming a lack of sexual experience and profound shyness on my desire to flee to the safety of my room, I forced myself to stick it out. He finally finished up and after procuring two fresh drinks led me through several huge, darkened dining rooms, down into the belly of the building. As one can imagine, this unexpected detour did nothing for my timid libido, but I soldiered on. Ten minutes later, we ended up on a small terrasse behind the hotel. I downed half my drink in one fortifying gulp as he made his move. The kisses were okay, the kisses were fine, but I was anything but burning with desire to light that bitch on fire with carnal knowledge. Instead, I was on heightened alert. I don’t know if it was the sniggers overheard while he cleaned, the long, creepy walk through the shuttered dining rooms, or the seclusion of the spot he had chosen, but I was just not feeling it. I didn’t feel threatened, but neither did I feel sheltered nor especially coveted.
Something about him, the moment, reminded me of the time in the midst of a passionate make-out session with a man I truly desire, said gent, broke off the kiss to proclaim, “I’ve never kissed a Black girl before!” Let me just say, in case you were wondering, nothing dries a girl’s panties faster than pure, unadulterated objectification. My flirty waiter, on the verge of conquest, was giving off serious bedpost notch vibes and I just couldn’t give him the satisfaction. I pulled away with several feigned tipsy scusi, scusi scusi. Making my apologies, I followed self-esteem breadcrumbs back the way I came.
That night, I curled up with a bottle of delicious Italian wine, some Lavern Baker on my iPod, and the certainty that nothing is sexier or more satisfying than knowing what you want and what you don’t.
Sorrento 2010: Vignette Two
Speaking of knowing what you want and what you don’t want…
Italy is rightly famous for many things: food, weather, art, Tuscany, but in the year of our Lord 2010, at least yours truly had been asleep to Italian wine on-the-go shops. What is this, you ask? Well, crazy cute hole-in-the-wall wine shops known as a Vino Sfuso sell wine as cheap as $2.00 a bottle. Locally grown grapes, pressed in the region, are tapped right in the store. One simply cuts out the middleman by bringing your own bottle or container. I had the great fortune of stumbling on a Vino Sfuso my first day in Sorrento and it was a true comfort in helping me shake off the coitus interruptus gloom of the night before.
When I begged off from my lecherous waiter the night before, I used the real excuse of a dawn appointment. I had booked an early morning boat around the coast that would take me to Capri. My Vino Sfuso bottle bedmate had left me none the worse for the wear and I bubbled with delight as my tour bus rounded gorgeous mountain after gorgeous mountain. I thought my heart would burst when we finally arrived. The port could not have been more idyllic with the multicolored buildings clinging to the cliffs, the clear, cloudless sky, and birds swooping overhead. I had come to Italy for the scene that lay before me like a Giovanni Fattori landscape. Or so I thought. In truth, I had come for none of it. Not an iota. What I had really craved, rather who I had really craved was who suddenly appeared from behind the prow of a docked boat. Gone were my loft ideas of art and searching my soul for my life’s purpose in every church and basilica in the country. No, my real raison d'être was a tall, boyishly handsome tour boat guide. I have forgotten his name. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear it if he said it. I was mesmerized. The thin morning air, the cloudless blue sky, the gently swaying water, the way his mouth curled as he smiled, I was in love until…Greece circa 1994.
See, what happened was, in another sun-soaked, gorgeous country, aka Greece, my friends and I showed up at the docks at the crack of dawn for a leisurely boat ride across the Aegean. The day was flawless, nary a cloud in the sky, yet we were informed that our boat had been delayed until further notice due to storms out at sea. Far from town, having checked out of our lodgings, we cooled our jets for hours waiting for salvation. Sixteen years later, looking out across sun-dappled water and blue sky as far as my eye could see, I was devastated when one of the handsomest men I had ever seen in the flesh, jovially announced that we wouldn't be spending the morning together lounging on the high seas and looking deeply into each other's eyes. He was terribly sorry, but due to inclement weather, the tour was canceled. The next scheduled boat tour wasn’t for two days, the day I was leaving Sorrento. There was just enough time for a few quick pictures before the bus took us back to our various hotels. I dutifully pulled out my camera. It hadn't occurred to me and I would have been too chicken to ask if it had, but sensing my desire or simply use to single women of a certain age requesting a photo, my charming almost guide asked if he could be in one of my snaps with me. I barely managed to control myself.
My lovely boat trip on the Aegean with the man of my dreams may have been thwarted, but all was not lost. I ended up taking a glamour-free ferry to Capri the next day and best of all, I got a lasting memory of the one that got away. It was a decent palate cleanser.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back in October when I'm off to Florence!
In the meantime, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!