The church bells didn’t wake me at 7a.m. because I am already up with the large windows open to the street. The pleasure of the crisp breeze coming through the kitchen is as if the shutters did not remember they were kept closed last week to keep out the heat. The street below is calm and almost lifeless until I hear a loud thud as Georgio, the young café owner across the street, empties the garbage from last night. Then woosh goes the big machine behind the bar as he steams milk for his first cappuccino of the day. From my fourth floor vantage point, I see it’s for a young man in a red polo shirt sitting at the window table. A stack of chairs is on the patio of the café and one-by-one, Georgio places them at tables in his small outdoor dining area. There are 20 chairs, each belonging in a certain location. On the mornings I watch him position the chairs, it’s as if they speak to him and say, “No, I go on the end of table number three,” or “thank you Georgio, it’s another beautiful day outside.” Knowing his routine gives me a sense of comfort; a sense of belonging to the neighborhood.
I have no steamed milk, but my espresso is brewed and I pour it into a little yellow espresso cup with matching saucer purchased from the Italian 99 Cent Store. A limp bed pillow overlaps the seat on the straight back wooden chair at the dining table where I work. I fluff it before settling back down to begin sorting yesterday’s photos. “Ciao Marcello,” I hear Georgio say. I fight the urge to run to the window, but it is no use. First I try to act nonchalant, as if just coincidently passing by the window – shoulders back, head erect, attitude aloof. I’ve watched the young Italian girls walking on the street with an air of confidence and I imitate their haughty style. It doesn’t matter. The men don’t look up my way. I pass by the window again, and again nothing. They’re talking loud enough for me to hear and I might be able to decipher the conversation if I listen carefully. I stand with my ear to the street, an outsider trying to be part of their world.
“Pecorino, olio, porcini, tagliatelle,” Georgio says. From Watching David Rocco’s Dolce Vita on the Cooking Channel, I know pecorino is cheese made from sheep milk and that it changes texture as it ages. Olio is olive oil; porcini is a mushroom, and tagliatelle a pasta noodle. “Pomodori, quattro, cinque,” Marcello says. I easily translate to tomato four five, which I guess means four or five tomatoes. I don’t know if they’re discussing a grocery list or a recipe but I’m on a roll and so pleased with my translation abilities that I all but lean the entire top half of my body outside the window and prop myself against the sill as if invited to be part of their conversation.
“Ciao Marcello,” I want to yell out the window remembering Vivien Leigh in the film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone when she threw her apartment keys to her young lover, Warren Beatty, on the street below. “Ciao Marcello,” I’m afraid to yell out the window for fear Sophia, upstairs, will hear me and put a stop to our desire. “Ciao Marcello,” I whisper as he finishes talking with Georgio and turns to walk away.
My eyes are locked on his body. It is solid and rugged.
He looks up at my window, as if expecting to find me there. He meets my stare and smiles wide, revealing a gold capped molar. He winks and looks at me longingly as if to capture a memory to last all day. He waves. I wave. But, my mouth won’t open to utter the greeting I have practiced so many times. The breeze blows over my flushed face, my heart rushes, and I think of how it might be to have our own home with a patio outside the upper floor window and what it will be like to grow old together. I imagine always standing in a window, looking down at him when he leaves and still feeling that rush of life through my blood. He smiles again and tips his head. Today he’s wearing lime green pants. I watch until the color fades out of sight. Ciao Marcello, until tomorrow.