e’re arguing about blondes when the Russian boys come barreling in. Each has a moon-face. The oldest wears a “Deck Area Crew Defender” t-shirt. They can’t stay away from a big dead fish that glares at them wide-eyed from the pizzeria’s ice bed. Their mother, the cause of the original conversation, comes to fetch them. She’s platinum pretty. She orders them to leave the fish alone and struts away on high heels.
Oana, the waitress I’m in love with, says the waiters around her only look at the blondes. “You can see them. It’s almost comical, as if they’re programmed.” Oana is Romanian and lives with her childhood sweetheart outside Rome. They moved to Italy seven years ago. She’s a 90-pound brunette waif who smokes whenever she has the chance.
Gina disagrees with Oana. Gina is also stunning. “Hair color makes no difference,” says Gina. “Men are men. Look at him,” she says.
Him is Giuliano, another childhood sweetheart. Gina married Giuliano in their Romanian hometown two summers ago. They made a DVD which they gave me. At the ceremony, they looked like goddess and god.
“Blondes have more fun,” grins Giuliano, who has his eyes trained on another woman, this one an Italian, whose stilettos wobble precariously as she seeks the rest room. She nearly keels into the fish container before recovering. “What a fine fish,” she says, bel pesce, embarrassed.
A grouper, Giuliano explains.
Blondes, says Oana, act privileged. “They know they’re being looked at.”
This leads Olga to intervene. Olga looks like a cross between Kate Moss and Madonna. She is from Moldava but rarely smiles, as if the modeling or recording contract she just received was far too low. “They have too much money,” says Olga, referring, we think, to blondes. But we’re not sure since Olga is prone to cryptic remarks.
Suddenly, the “Deck Area Crew Defender” and his marauding siblings are back to re-examine the fascinating fish. They blow bangs from their faces. When they lose interest in the grouper, which, conveniently dead, is taciturn, they find the pizza oven and Omar. Omar the cook is from Egypt. Oana and Gina watch the Russian boys talk at Omar. “Piazza!” shout the Russian boys. “Pizza!” Omar shouts back. They all sound nine.
Olga is no-plussed and shoos the boys away, only to be stared down by maternal Sylvia. Sylvia looks like a 1980s punk rocker weaned on milk and cookies. She’s Albanian. Sometimes we list the eccentric merits of the Tirana Mayor Eddie Rama, whom she admires. It’s the rest of Albania that gets on her nerves. “In the end,” she says, “a people get what they deserve.”
Now, the Russian boy approaches Oana. “Toilet,” he says in English. “Downstairs,” she replies in English.
I read daily of bad tidings in Italy. It is a nation of cosmic discrimination. Immigrants are mistreated. The Northern League, Italy’s puckering mongrels, have long called for the expulsion of illegal aliens, a parochial perversion in the absence of a more winning platform. Parliament is mulling tougher immigration laws. You’d think Italy had happened on the the apocalypse, if it weren’t for the now, which is considerably different, and often effectively multicultural.
Blondes are a more divisive subject.
“I don’t think it makes any difference,” says Gina, whose eyes have turned their deepest brown. “Blonde, who cares? Black, who cares? It’s not face or color. Everyone is with everyone these days. They just don’t say so.”
“Deck Area Crew Defender’s” mother has returned to again scout out her inquisitive brood. Stefano, another Romanian waiter, spots her. “Mamma mia,” he whispers mischievously. Until his dressed-to-kill Italian girlfriend who works in the bar next doors grins and mock-slaps him for emphasis. He’s a die-hard Roma fan who suffers or exults each Sunday.
“What kind of women do you like?” Oana asks me sheepishly. She’s 5-4, flat chested, and approximately perfect. She wears no makeup. What happened to natural beauty? My question, answered.
“I looked you up,” I tell Oana. I did, on the Internet. “Oana means Ioanna, as in Giovanna, the female form of Gianni or Giovanni.” Could be Johnnie.
Oana reminds me that I haven’t answered her question, which is true.
Then again, I spend days and months intentionally eluding questions. I’m vocationally elusive. I focus instead of life’s great unforced diversity, distracted occasionally by the antics of “Deck Area Crew Defenders,” who like 21st centurions have been dispatched to baby me into old age.
— Christopher P. Winner is editor of The American.