Citta della Pieve, Umbria.
“Call me. I can do anything for you. AN-knee-theeng.”
This strange man had just thrust his card in front of my face, so close that even with my reading glasses on, I had not a prayer of reading it. He had followed me through the piazza on my way to buying sfuso wine, asking me if I worked here, and seemed delighted to hear my American Itanglish. I was brushing him off as best I could, and thought I had shook him off when I settled in to a nice cappucino with my British friend Ingrid, at Stefanini’s Bar. But here he was, literally in my face.
I did not understand his Italian–the accent was more Sicilian than my ear was used to, so Ingrid translated for me. Signore Stefanini appeared in the doorway of his cafe, overseeing this interaction. He had his arms crossed over his chest, and was shaking his head decidedly and vigorously “no” indicating that this interloper and would-be “anything” man was… bad news. Signore Stefanini’s ancestors I am certain were the original Roman models for the comedy and tragedy masks, so classic are his facial lines. And a nonverbal “no” from him holds ominous overtones.
I put the card firmly on the table, pushing it away from me. Ingrid and I debated leaving it there or throwing it in the trash, and opted for leaving it, knowing that Signore Stefanini would properly dispose of it.
Ingrid’s well honed British social sensibilities were incensed on my behalf. She was quite put out, and upset that this town which she so loved would harbor such a rude would-be Lothario.
“You must come to dinner with me tomorrow night,” Ingrid declared emphatically, as if this somehow ended this situation. “We will meet here at 8 o’clock and go to Serenella’s.” Of course I was delighted to accept. Ingrid is wonderful company.
I arrived at the appointed time, surprised to find Ingrid accompanied by two men: Haki, a gentle Kuwait man and Antonio, a dapper and courtly Italian–both married to friends of Ingrid’s, both English women (who happened to be traveling out of the country–and Ingrid was leaving shortly as well).
Ingrid introduced us with “Jill, these gentlemen will be your husbands. They will give you their phone numbers, and should you need to produce a husband at any point, to deal with that Lothario, they will be happy to stand in. I assure you they will act quite appropriately and protect you. You need only to ask. We are all going to dinner now, and we will take our evening walk around town so that you are seen with them, should that man be lurking about.”
We had a delightful dinner together, just like married folks. The men chatted away with each other, and Ingrid and I chatted away together too. I never saw the card holder in question again, and I had my two Italian husbands to call upon at any time, for appropriate protection.