Much like my little run-in with the American Secret Service, what happened after the ‘Bell Tower Incident‘ in Venice will remain an untold story — for now. For my memoirs, perhaps. This story begins a few days later. I’ve arrived in Florence, though stories about Caesar’s flourishing city are coming later — this one’s about a journey to Pisa.
The Italians don’t speak much English. Heck, they don’t speak a lot of Italian either — it’s mainly gesticulation: grunting, sighing, shrugging, pointing and prodding — but really, they don’t speak much English at all. It wasn’t a long train journey from Florence to Pisa but I’d already finished my book on the train from Venice — damn, my mum was right about taking more than one book. She’s always right about that kind of thing but don’t tell her. There I sat, looking out of the window at not much at all. The train was almost empty, so you can imagine my surprise when a soft, deep, syrupy Italian voice asked me to move my feet.
No one asks me to move my feet on an empty train. Most people do a kind of funny sidelong-glance-skip-past thing when they see an empty chair next to me. Must be something to do with the way I growl quietly and bare my teeth. It’s not because I’m a mean bastard, it’s simply because I don’t fit in single train or bus seats — I need the extra leg room, thus my perfection of the ‘Sebby Sprawl’, a manoeuvre that allows me to fill a space almost three times my regular volume. Anyway, of course I moved my feet when asked. What does a man have if he doesn’t have his manners? (Clue: the answer isn’t ‘a penis’.)
Until that moment I thought I was pretty manly as far as things go (externally of course, we all know my innards are a little bent). The man — beast – that sat down opposite made me feel positively effeminate. Never before has the squeak of a man’s leather shoes against a plasticky floor made me feel like a castrated manservant — a eunuch. He adjusted the cuffs of his perfectly-tailored shirt and checked his cuff links. I felt my throat begin to dry up and licked my lips before they too became parched. He turned his head and inspected his shoulder, flicking off non-existent lint. I shuffled in my chair nervously. Was that a blush I could feel creeping up along my neck under my ears and across my cheeks? I was face to face with someone — something — that I’d only heard of in books or seen on TV and I hadn’t a clue what to do.
At long last he looked up from his suit and we locked gazes. An uncomfortable moment passed — for me at least. He looked like he was enjoying it. He had a steady, beatific repose. An aura about him that stated simply: every single second of his life was as good as or better than what had come before. Finally I broke off and looked out of the window, that blush consuming the remainder of my face and body.
An involuntary shudder — the good kind that resulted in me crossing my legs. This guy was good, better than me. He imitated and crossed his legs too. His eyes were blue, his hair dark black. My eyes wandered a little — he watched my eyes and grinned with perfect teeth as I followed the contours of his face. Immaculately-pruned stubble leading to a dark-olive, lightly-muscled neck and then down to a pristine, white shirt. “Sorry” I mumble, embarrassed, suddenly remembering that I’m sitting opposite a stranger. I’d just undressed him with my eyes, much like I would a beautiful girl.
He seemed surprisingly unphased by my lingering stare. That was the first sign that I wasn’t sitting opposite a regular, macho, sharply-dressed Italian man.
“Io sono Sebastiano.” I smiled apologetically, acknowledging my awful, accented Italian.
“Marco.” He nodded, smiling, accepting my attempt at his beautiful, romantically-fluid language. “Duecento ragazze.” He looked a little coy, slightly shy, but more than a just a weak undertone of pride.
Two hundred girls…? I blinked, certain I’d misheard. But he nodded again, confirming the rictus of intermingled wonder and doubt plastered all over my face. He’d used simple Italian to make sure I’d understood.
Unfortunately my rudimentary knowledge of the language failed to dig up a suitable response. Bravissimo? Gran? I flicked rapidly through the dusty leaves of my cranial book of phrases wondering how best to congratulate this human stud. I gave up and simply offered him a manly handshake. I guess it was the right thing to do as he quickly grasped it — even his skin was perfectly soft and supple, sheesh — and squeezed, delivering yet another killer, brain-melting smile. It took a while for coherence to re-establish a foothold; it took even longer to reclaim the hand that he was so graciously looking after for me.
The rest of the journey involved the usual nodding and smiling and wild gesturing — quite graphically in his case — I didn’t understand much, but I got the gist. It felt more like he just wanted to talk to someone, any living soul that might appreciate and acknowledge his insane achievement with a gentle pat on the back. Well done, Marco, buono lavoro.
When we finally arrived in Pisa he grinned and extended his hand again, quickly withdrawing it as I reached forward to grasp it. “No.” He wagged his finger and fired some more rapid Italian at me that I failed to understand. Probably something along the lines of ‘the first handshake was nice and all, but if we start that again, we’ll probably not make it off the train before the doors shut…’
“Amor non conosce travaglio” Love never tires. Off he skipped into the crowd at the station, leaving me to orient myself and set off towards the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Ever since, whenever I’ve found myself between the soft-but-firm grasp of a beautiful girl’s legs, I can’t help but find myself magically transported back to that train carriage, listening yet again to his slick, softly-spoken syllables.
Perhaps I’m fantasising about Casanova; perhaps I’m cursing my Italian illiteracy. Either way, I’m wishing I’d learnt some more of the damn language. I could’ve been the world’s second greatest lover.