irst there was Veronica. Here’s what Veronica did. When annoyed, which was often (my flattery as ever insufficient), she’d rush me home in her Renault Clio tailgating slower drivers at 100 kph on Rome’s Via Flaminia while proclaiming her enduring love for Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna.
This was fine except that Senna was dead. He crashed into a wall.
“Che mi frega,” said Veronica. “Io lo amo lo stesso.”
When bored, Veronica whispered erotic enticements. “Why can’t you dress better?” was one, or “I can’t take you out looking like that!”
When we did emerge — my wardrobe suitably adjusted to permit such outings — I was forbidden not to focus entirely on Veronica. Glancing at other tables for more than three seconds was apparently a criminal act.
“Che c’è? Ma che cosa stai guardando?…”
Well, darling, that man over there is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
A retired American basketball champion.
“Ah, certo, me l’immaginavo americano, alto così…” Silly me: All Americans are 7-foot-1.
Food was another troublesome matter. “Perché mangi così poco? Non è possible…”
The lack of nourishment, she announced, was the reason I was so “nervoso.”
The worst of it, however, was lovemaking.
Never mind work requisites (my annoying trade was and remains journalism) or issues of mood. Any form of distraction was not an option.
“Come!? Non mi vuoi? Non mi vuoi!” (“What, you don’t want me!”)
Poor Veronica endured me for three months. Then, to her half-delight and all of mine, she entered politics.
Which brings me to Patrizia.
Patrizia adored the outdoors. “Perché non andiamo fuori… facciamo una bella passeggiata, magari…”
But, well, it’s 3:30 a.m.
“Si, ma c’è una bellissima luna!”
The moon, according to Patrizia, required company.
But the sea, oddly, required solitude. Patrizia refused to swim because the water temperature was always too cold and might provoke “un ictus,” a stroke.
But she was 30, I protested.
Happens every day, said Patrizia, adamant. Her father was a surgeon and an expert on the menacing interplay between cold water and brain waves. Anyway, she added, “mi verrebbe un colpo di freddo…”
Patrizia also objected to my taking hot showers that lasted more than 90 seconds. “Esci, amore, perché tant’acqua ti fa male…”
Patrizia informed me that hot-water showers in the early afternoon are a leading cause of sore throats among children. And sore throats can lead to death.
But I was 40, I protested.
Just a minor detail, replied Patrizia. “Sei sempre un bimbo…”
“Sei così… non lo so… Americano…” said Camilla.
Well, I pleaded weakly, I was.
No, that’s not the point, argued Camilla. It’s not so much being American as being “poco Italiano.”
And just how could I be more Italian, especially since I was so defectively American?
“Non lo so,” said Camilla charmingly, “Certo, ci vorrebbe un bel po’ di lavoro…”
What kind of work?
Oh, said Camilla, I could start by dressing better, buying a nice car, changing my eating habits and…