“LN, this is DL. DL this is LN. Fellow Sicilian Poets.”
It was love at first sight. Or would the Italians call it Amore Instantaniosa? In any case, Penelope watched in rapt wonderment. How could two total strangers be simpatico upon first meeting?
The two Sicilians beamed at each other. One gracious and soft. The other shy and warm. “LN wrote that book that I loaned you,” Penelope continued to DL, who barely nodded as she continued to gaze at LN. (The Public Gardens, Linda Norton, Pressed Wafer Press)
“I loved your book,” DL’s eyes shone behind her wire-rimmed glasses, beginning to steam from the hot tub’s warm bubbles?
Or for another reason?
An Italian reason?
“Oh,” LN murmured, genuinely touched, “You don’t know how much that means to me. You made my day.”
The two women gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. Penelope expects Tony Bennett or Maria Callas to start blasting through the intercom system of the Downtown Oakland Y. (And okay, Penelope just googled Maria and found out she's Greek, not Italian, but you get the idea)
“Where are your people from?” LN asks.
“They’re from....” DL sings a beautiful Italian Town name that Penelope has never heard of. But of course, LN knows it and nods.
“Where are your people from?” DL asks LN, who answers with a similarly indecipherable town in Sicily.
Penelope wants to participate and tell how her people are from the suburbs of LA, but knows this isn’t the time or place.
The two women continue to talk about their people, their mothers and grandmothers. The land and the food and the music and the shoes.
Okay Penelope just made that last part up, but you know what she means. Italians. There’s something about Italians that makes Penelope swoon. She doesn’t know exactly why.
But it could be the shoes.
“I want to include you in our conversation,” LN nods toward the Interloper who’s been standing too close in the tub to their situation.
Penelope has been pointedly ignoring her for the 10 minutes that the Sicilian Poets have been sharing.
Because she had been the blob of Penelope’s lap swim this night. A Big Fat Square Blob floating down the middle of the lane, completely blocking Penelope and Graceful Powerful Swimmer.
They’d both just gone around Square Blob. She was so completely clueless from the moment she entered the water. “Can you circle swim?” she’d asked at 9:10 with only 20 minutes left.
Penelope could tell from the get go that she was trouble. Big Trouble. Big Square Trouble. 5 feet tall. 5 feet wide.
Before either Penelope or GPS had a chance to say anything, Big Square Trouble had jumped in, and started floating down the middle of the lane. Penelope would not call it swimming. She was like a lump of molasses in Jell-O. It was unbearable. And with only 20 minutes left.
It was impossible!
So, now, when Big Square Trouble had intruded upon the Sicilian Poet Love fest, well, Penelope was cranky. She oozed her hostility at BST, but to no avail.
She was already telling her story of being a goddamn Russian Immigrant and sharing a similar experience to the Italians except that the Russians thought the Italians were fascists and in fact they were for a time there weren’t they what with Mussolini and all.
Penelope did not want to hear about Mussolini.
She wanted to hear about grandmothers on the shores of Sicily baking bread and crying songs.
But LN and DL didn’t seem to mind. They just continued to beam at each other; once in awhile, LN would nod an encouragement to Square Woman till finally she announced that “We could all stay in the hot tub all night and exchange these marvelous stories, and I’m all for that, but it’s time I said good night.”
And so she did, giving DL one last loving gaze and inviting her to contact her.
“She’s on the Facebook,” Penelope had offered.
“Yes,” LN had laughed softly, “It’s all so easy now.”
And this is exactly what it was all about when in the presence of Italians, isn’t it?
That ease of being. That way of welcoming.
And the shoes. Penelope still thinks those spike heels covered in expensive black leather have a lot to do with it.