Three weeks we had in Italy. Three weeks to save our relationship. Three weeks of romance and adventure, to spice things up.
Three of the longest weeks of my life.
It wasn't that he was always ogling the Italian women. That was understandable, I couldn't stop gawking myself. They danced across cobblestone streets in stiletto heels, impervious to the heat, navigating heart stopping traffic circles with graceful aggression. I fumbled my way around, tripping over my own blistered feet.
I also wasn't surprised by his behavior in the museums. I knew he wouldn't appreciate the treasures of antiquity. He would stand in front of a Botticelli just long enough to read the title, checking it off a mental list of things he had seen, without bothering to actually look.
I knew he would be a jerk to the locals, so I was prepared for his arguments. I hid my face behind my map while he hollered about the fact that the Italian economy depended on tourism and they should value him and his money. It always came back to money.
I expected all of those things. What surprised me, what murdered our dying relationship, was his drinking.
I learned quickly not to suggest guided tours; those all lingered too much for his tastes, delaying his reunion with the bottle. He flew through the Coliseum in a mad dash, suggesting we sit down for a "bevi" the second we made it to the exit. Who the fuck says bevi anyway? He always used cutesy words like that, trying to make it seem like no big deal.
“Time for a drinky-poo babe?” I was in the land of Chianti, Grappa, Sambuca, and it all tasted like vinegar sitting across from an alcoholic. I suffered through the vacation committed to a silent strike of sobriety. I realized that this relationship would end the instant our tires touched tarmac back home.
As the trip drew to a close, we descended on Venice. We had three nights in the city before catching a train back to Rome for our flight home. On our last night, with our bags stowed safely in a locker at the train station, we travelled to the island of Burano. There wasn't much there--handwoven lace and fishing boats against a backdrop of brightly painted buildings. He sat sipping cocktails in the warm August sun while I watched.
“How great has this been, babe?”
“Italy is beautiful.”
“I know how to take care of my girl.”
He said it with such swagger in his voice, forgetting I had paid my own way. The desperate need to distract myself coupled with the lure of the electric orange Campari coaxing me, I leaned full tilt into the bender I knew he wanted.
We eventually stumbled down to a restaurant, ripe with smells of garlic and anchovies. We ate a feast of clams and pasta, port and parmesan, and of course, buckets full of red wine. When we were done the restaurant manager rented us a room upstairs. It wasn't much--an ancient bed, a miniature sink, and a toilet.
In the quiet of our shabby hideaway, our bodies collided. I knew it was our last time together, a pleasure usually reserved for firsts. I put him to work, giving myself over to him with uncommon laziness. I let him smear me across the well-used mattress, his tongue pushed through my petal folds. It stroked, smooth and methodical, like a mother cat cleansing the fur of a kitten. I wanted him to have the tongue of a snake; quick stabs, tasting me, smelling me, and deciding to swallow me whole. When I came, it was without my usual pillow shield, and he followed soon after, before collapsing in a heap on top of me.
We lay like that, in a hot, tangled mess, watching Italian phone sex commercials until we fell asleep. I woke up hours later in the dark room, bile rising thick and bitter in the back of my throat. The darkness was complete, my head was pounding, and the unfamiliar room made my poles spin. Naked and drunk, I stumbled around in a useless panic before suddenly and violently vomiting on the floor.
It was a spectacular puke. A heroic puke. When I had finally purged the contents of my stomach, I searched for a light. I flicked the switch and as my eyes adjusted to the glow, relief gave way to fresh horror. With all the empty floor space in our spartan room, my vomit had landed squarely on my own clothing. I tried, unsuccessfully, to wash them in the tiny sink, peeling red-wine-soaked clams off the fabric, and rinsing the Campari orange noodles down the drain. None of it was salvageable, not my clothing, socks, or underwear. I threw the whole pile in the trash and cried in bed till morning.
In the morning, I remained useless in bed while he scoured the town for supplies, returning hours later with a very tight, very short, green lace gown. Clad in my skimpy lace disaster, we made it to the ferry in time. We sat waiting to leave, when I realized I’d forgotten my passport. If this ferry left without us, we might miss our flight home. The idea that I could be stuck here, for even one extra day in relationship purgatory, horrified me. With the end in sight, I ran through the tourist-clogged streets like I have never run before or since. I cut through carefully posed photo shoots, I knocked over chubby-cheeked German children, I hurdled a man in a wheelchair. I ran in all my puke-breathed, bare-bottomed, green-laced glory and somehow, with passport in hand, I made it back to the ferry and out of Italy.
I've never been back, and likely never will, but if you ever make it to Burano, I recommend you try the fettuccine alla vongole.
Written by: Sarah Scott
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart