It takes a while to get my mouth working.
Tizi and I arrive in San Marino on a Thursday afternoon, focus the rest of that day on getting heat turned on, hot water flowing. After 14 hours of travel, it would be nice to have a shower? From the need-to-do-right-away list, pick one and get busy. Mop the floors. Pick up the carcasses of the cimicie, local bugs that like to come indoors and die. Shake out sheets laid over a few pieces of furniture. And dust. Dusting is your new career. Launch the washing machine. Make beds. Look out the window to make sure everything is still there. Shaggy pine trees? Check. Mountain? Right where we left it. Elementary school? Check. Adjacent homes, castle, green hillside, park and dog run, construction cranes, vineyards? All checks.
When our son was little and we went somewhere in the car, upon arrival, he would look up and say, “Where we are?” Garbled grammar in a little kid is cute. In an adult, not so much.
This trip I am keenly aware of the recovery period—getting traction once again in the language. On return trips I speak fluently, but there is definitely a garble factor. First few days I babble fluently.
When the boiler tech arrives at the apartment, he doesn’t exactly arrive. I’ve called and said, “Please come to the house and service our boiler. The address is Via Olivella, 8.” When he arrives, he doesn’t knock. He calls. And tells me there is no Via Olivella, 8. A hint of irritation in his voice.
Where we are?
I step outside and look at the front of the building. Via Olivella, 18. His confidence in me is shaken, if there was any to shake to begin with. There he is, turning his vehicle around, then rolling down Via Olivella. I flag him in, apologize profusely (I speak fluent apology), and launch into a description of the situation. A lot of it must sound like babble, because once we’re inside, he stops listening to anything I say. Tizi takes charge. I put in my two cents, but you know, you can’t buy much with that.
That night we eat big, stay awake until eleven, and sleep nine hours.
Next day, the Friday, is a blur. I know we went somewhere and did something. I spoke to a couple waiters. I remember eating a sandwich. We had some wine.
Saturday is market day in Rimini. Mercato through the entire old city. We usually do not go to the market for anything. It’s a place to walk, past stall after stall, and see people. This day we park across from the Roman amphitheater and walk through the food zone. I would not have thought there would be artichokes in February, but there they are, carciofi, dark green beauties. We continue into clothing and, well, the stuff areas, which is most of the rest of the mercato. Pillows and sheets, underwear and shirts and sweaters, socks and shoes and slippers, scarves and pashminas, jackets, coffee pots and cookware.
We stop at Tizi’s nativity shop, where we reunite with our old buddy Francesco. Before getting to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph the three of us talk about Covid, the economy, the state of the world. When I babble a couple observations, Francesco squints and says, I didn’t understand that. “What he said was,” Tizi offers… speaking for the child who does not quite make sense.
After Francesco, she says she needs to see her scissors man. And maybe coaster lady.
There are items she prefers to buy over here. In a kitchen cupboard back in the States, we have 30-40 stainless steel coasters. Coasters are something of an obsession with her. In Rimini we have a coaster lady, an affable woman who runs a kitchen accessory store with her father. We’re old friends now. Nothing cements a relationship quite like buying 40 coasters.
“Please,” I’ll say to Tizi whenever we go to the store. “No more coasters.”
“But I can’t find them like this back home.”
“But we don’t need any more coasters.”
Question not the need. Someone said that. King Lear, I think.
Our scissors man, once over by the fortress, is now on Via Dante, closer to the train station. He knows us. We know him. It’s a reunion. Briefly, Covid, the economy, the state of the world. When it’s my turn to say something, I hold up an object I’ve brought from the apartment, the shiny round thingie that fits over the shower drain. Could there be an Italian noun for that? I say “ferramenta,” the word for hardware, which is my shorthand way of asking do you know someone in the mercato who sells something like this? He shakes his head NO and says I’ll have to go to Obi, the Italian version of Home Depot.
Tizi buys are few things—cheese slicers (2), cappelletti stamps (2), and scissors made for foot care. They’re nice ones. She says she can’t get nice scissors like this back in the States. They cost five euros. He gives them to us for four, and discounts the other items too. That’s what he says. I believe him.
It’s a warm day when you’re in the sun. Two or three times I take my jacket off in the sun, then put it back on in the shade. In a few hours we’ll have lunch. I phone the restaurant and ask for a table for two. The guy on the phone gets what I’m saying. “A dopo,” I’ve learned to say. “See ya then.”
“Do you need anything?” Tizi says. Meaning do I need to buy anything in the market? Maybe yes. But I’m in no hurry.
“Sono a posto,” I tell her. Meaning, I’m okay. Literally, I’m in place. Which I am. Or at least I’m getting there.