ountries may well differ when it comes to courting customs, the institution of marriage, and just what constitutes infidelity, but when summer rolls around, no matter where you’re from (war-zones excluded), things get hot. Gershwin wrote a song about it; John Travolta and Olivia Newton John dueted on the subject; and millions of movies have the theme at its core. Summer Love is the rule, and Italy is no exception… as if they needed another excuse.
Becky: Video editor, 29
Michele: Stylist and shop owner, 27
What began as nodded salutations in winter and sideways glances in springtime, blossomed in summer with the intensity and brevity of a fireworks display. In fact, it was right around the Fourth of July when Becky wandered into her local bar with the remnants of red, white, and blue iced cupcakes. She explained the American holiday and ordered a ceremoniously red Campari and soda as the usual clients eyed the cupcakes, daring each other to be the first to try one.
Michele’s gel-spiked hair rounded the corner of the doorway a fraction of an inch before he did with his signature swagger and resounding “buona sera!” aimed at the general public. He rolled up to the bar, exchanged a few inside jokes with the bartender, uncapped a beer and took a long, overwrought swig before he noticed Becky a few bar stool down.
He stretched out his sweating beer bottle and clinked a “cheers” at her. “Happy Fourth of July!” he offered, inching just slightly her way, his back against the bar. His accent, part Roman, part East End London was endearing, funny even.
“Thanks for remembering,” she began. “Try a cupcake?” and she plucked a prettier one off the plate and placed it under his nose.
“Don’t mind if I do!” He shot back, flicking his tongue ever so slightly in her direction. He took the cupcake and suggested they finish their drinks outside, where at least the breeze was blowing.
They leaned against the wall as their drinks evaporated and sweat collected behind their knees and collarbones. He refilled their drinks after a few minutes. Her blond hair began to curl, his spikes to droop.
“Buono il cupcake! You Americans are experts at sweetness…”
She excused the comment, and chewing on her last ice cube, offered to refill his glass.
“And you Italians are experts at just such comments.” She grabbed his empty beer bottle and smiled as she glided inside to the bar. She could feel the heat the alcohol going to her head, and it wasn’t altogether unpleasant.
As so often happens at the local bar, drinks bled into dinner. A couple more regular drinkers dragged themselves by the bar to refuel, and the whole band headed across the road for a pizza. Becky and Michele sat across from each other, already heady from their triple aperitifs and gave each other kicks under the table, laughing halfheartedly every so often at jokes on the other end of the table. They picked at their Margherita pizzas and gulped down house wine as the temperature refused to dip below a sweltering 40° C. When the check came and the diners began dispersing, Michele and Becky hung back in the heat.
“Wanna get a cold beer somewhere?” He tossed the idea on the table with a few coins for the server.
“As if we haven’t had enough to drink yet…” Becky responded with just enough sarcasm to mask her joy that the evening wasn’t over yet.
The rounded the corner toward a neighborhood pub, linked arms, and as soon as they’d melted into the shadows, it happened. A kiss. An instant. Body against body against the hood of someone’s parked car. The heat of the still-cooling engine burned Becky’s back as she looked up at the stars and laughed at the full moon, blaming it for everything.
He walked her home and they exchanged numbers. Another kiss, only this time it was shy and almost adolescent.
“See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I’ll probably stop by the bar after work.”
“Me too, unless something comes up.”
“Sure me too, obviously. We’ll see.”
“Can I come up and use your bathroom?”
She giggled and opened the door. They made out in the elevator, mirrored wall and all, and marveled at the gleeful banality of it all.
They made it as far as the living room where curtains billowed in the open windows. Cold tile floors were a welcome refresher, and as they rolled around, kissing and laughing as if they’d never done what they were expertly doing. Becky stole glances of the moon still glowing in the corner of the window and sighed.
They rolled onto their backs and shared a cigarette.
Later, in separate beds they watched the sun come up and didn’t waste a thought on tomorrow.