They weren’t the first words I spoke to Stephen, but they were the first marinated in mustering up the courage to ask him out and bump uglies already. We were seated in the back of Mr. Duffy’s classroom, me having just royally failed my senior AP History midterm, due largely in part to already being accepted into art school and also because I was distracted by my first real, bawling-in-my-car-outside-Kenny’s-house teenage breakup. I had turned 180 in my seat to face him and breathily proposition an afternoon date: You. Me. Voracious ripping of meat from bone. Red hot smacking of lips. Guys like girls who can eat, I read in a Cosmopolitan once and had inferred from those “didn’t age well” mid-2000’s burger & beer commercials starring chesty bottle blondes and a firehose, inexplicably.
“That was the fun of the unknown, after all, the anticipatory ‘What if?'”
The name of the store was “Possibilities,” which I frequented with my friend at the time, Kara, the only Pisces in my life I’ve ever befriended. It sat next to a therapist’s office right off Pittston Avenue in Scranton, a therapist I visited only once at my mother’s urging after my parents divorced, but that’s not what this is about (although the timing of traumatic childhood event and thinking I was a witch pairs nicely, like spicy red wine and a good cut of meat.)
“No judgment, no frills, no body shaming. Just a welcome mat on which to plant my barking dogs.”
It was October of 2019 and I was reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, the first installment of the All Souls Trilogy. There’s a particular scene in the book when Matthew (vampire) invites Diana (witch), a yoga aficionado (and professional rower and alchemical historian and skinny blonde…groan) to a late night yoga session with a room full of other witches, vampires and daemons. It was a bit tedious, with a lot of subtextual dialogue in between descriptions of yoga poses with far too much detail. After the class, Matthew steamily tells Diana something about her being able to “twist your body into all sorts of shapes.” I don’t know why, but that stuck with me. I was suddenly jealous of this character (not super dimensional, I might add) in this just okay fantasy series. Why does Diana Bishop get to have it all? She has looks, smarts, witty comebacks to Matthew’s advances, AND can seamlessly align herself into a sideways fucking headstand? What CAN’T this bitch do, really? (I promise, I’m going somewhere with this.)
“You’ll never reach the center of an only child’s Tootsie Pop, the layers of narcissism run so deep.”
The hankering for fame like no other started as early as I can remember. I was an only child, so the center of attention simply by default, and I thrived most in climates where I was the focal point of the room. By four or five, I was already destined to be a Rockette at best, a groupie at worst, always discovered by my parents moving wildly in the center of some dance floor filled with drunk adults.
“Naples is just like New York City, in that it offers no grace period to adjust…”
Ask anyone and they would tell you that cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are, hands down, bucket list items. You gotta see the canals! The Sistine Chapel! The statue of David! they would echo like that nasally woman in Seinfeld (“You gotta see the baby!”) For me, it’s Naples.
“…even birds skittering for morsels on the ground are moving too fast for the slumbering pace of Atrani’s daily agenda.”
At the foot of Piazza Umberto lies a scallop shell white church dating back to the 10th century, unassuming curb appeal compared to the other gaudy, baroque-era cathedrals in Italy. A sign outside warns of a local legend that it’s bad luck for newlyweds to walk hand-in-hand down its steps post-nuptials, lest you bring ill-will upon your marriage and curse yourself for a rocky road ahead of early divorce and untimely death.
“A city as exciting and cultural and historic and artistic as this…it’s meant to be earned.”
Adriatic waters calmly splash against the ritzy yachts in the harbor. Preteens scheme in the plaza, wreaking havoc outside an ongoing mass, “bicicletas!” at their hips. A chorus line of soaring palm trees separates the new town from the old. Impregnable stone walls as ancient as dirt protect the cathedral of San Nicola from the revelers convening at bar-hop row. Old women use their thumbprints to meticulously form individual orecchiette, lay them out to dry on folding tables outside their homes. The business district of banks and office buildings makes way for a wide esplanade of high end fashion stores and expensive steakhouses. Beggars roam the streets, boldly approach outdoor diners, gently place roses on tables in exchange for some coin. Potbellied men bake their epidermises in Speedos at Bread & Tomato Beach (Pane & Pomodoro to locals). This is Bari, pronounced ‘Bah-di’, and it was, without a doubt, my favorite part of Italy.