The Italian Girl

If the coup had not succeeded, you would not be sitting in an American bar with a beautiful woman tonight


The Italian Girl
by siamak vossoughi

She was American really, but she became a little more Italian after each drink, not in terms of how she talked or acted, but in terms of how she wanted him to see her, and after their third round, he'd told her about how a lot of Iranians liked to think they looked like Italians, and he tried to tell her with the right combination of flirtatiousness and Western beauty standards critique.

You don't have to lay your whole heart on the table in order to have a good time, he thought. Anyway there's no time when you lay your whole heart on the table, because that would suggest that you understand the whole thing. It was a very sound conclusion to reach after three gin-and-tonics.

She was quiet for a moment and then she said, "I don't like the way they protest against Columbus when we have the Italian Day parade in North Beach."

Okay, he thought. He took stock of the competing forces and motivations going on within him just then: 1) Physical desire 2) Alcohol 3) Courtesy and respect 4) Justice for Native Americans. It was easiest to begin with questions - did she see the Native Americans' perspective towards Columbus, did she agree that history was written by the winners? She did, but it was just a tradition at this point, a way of celebrating being Italian.

What you did when you presented a historical critique of someone's traditional beliefs was make them fall a little, and he knew by now that if you were going to make someone fall a little, you had to be a place where they could land a little, and when that someone was an attractive woman you were sitting with in a bar, it might mean putting your hand on the back of her neck with a softness to match the hardness of what you were saying, trying to make your touch on her neck as soft as the question of whether Native Americans had a right to look at Columbus the way that Jews looked at Hitler was hard, because really your only intention just then was not to make her change sides, but just to say that things were complicated, history was complicated and touching on the first date was complicated, though both were simple too, and neither of them could best be navigated in their complexity or in their simplicity without a fresh mind and an open heart, and by that you just meant that what seemed like a loss might also be a gain, and by way of illustration you can cite yourself and you can say that while on the face of it America has been a good place for you to grow up in, in contrast to your native country of Iran, still that's only half the story, and the other half is that Iran would not be in the shape it's in if it wasn't for American foreign policy, most specifically the American coup in 1953 that overthrew Iran's young democracy, and although it's true that if the coup had not succeeded, you would not be sitting in an American bar with a beautiful woman tonight, still and unfortunately, fairness would dictate that you would have to accept that, and all along the whole thing there would be a touch of sadness because you would know that for better or for worse you could not fall in love with someone who did not carry the injustices of Columbus against the indigenous people somewhere inside them, still that was all right too, because you didn't have to start to fall in love in order to have a very pleasant night, at least to have the pleasantness of your hand on the back of her neck in a bar as you talked closely.

Maybe there was no time when you weren't putting your whole heart on the table, he thought, because your heart was a heart of the moment, having certainly brought things to the moment that were from other moments, but going into each moment anew, and gin-and-tonic number four certainly helped with going in anew, but it still needed something that was already there that was ready to be fresh and open, as fresh and as open as you imagine the indigenous people had been when they'd first seen old Columbus, because the truth was that by going where your heart wanted to go, there was a chance that she would storm right out of the bar, or at the least abandon any thoughts of romance, and your hand on the back of her neck was your way of saying that you weren't going to take away any stories that she held on to without giving her a start of some new ones, and that those stories made romance, and the more that those stories contained, the more romance could enter into the picture, so that a touch was always going to be softer, both for the one doing the touching and for the one being touched, and a kiss was always going to be deeper, after the indigenous people had had a chance to be human beings, undeserving of the fate that Columbus laid out for them.

What else were you going to do, since you weren't going to storm right out of the bar yourself either? You weren't going to do that and you weren't going to bury it in yourself either, since your destination was a kiss, and burying wasn't too conducive to that. That was a good destination, but it was helpful to step out of the moment and remember that the destination was a kiss, but it did not necessarily have to be tonight and with her, that there was a greater kiss, one that relied on your worth as someone who kissed and who was kissed, and that most definitely meant being honest about Columbus, whether or not that mattered to anyone around you, whether or not you were in America or anywhere else. Your hand on the back of her neck was beautiful for what it was, not for what it might lead to. If you remembered that, then it would lead to wherever was the right place for it to go. You didn't know where it would lead to and you didn't know where America would lead to, but you knew that there was a right way for you to be going about both, which was, honestly, and you wondered how any man could ever be so honest as to put his hand on the back of a woman's neck without looking honestly at Columbus and the Native Americans. Even when she was looking back at you with a face that seemed to be saying - 'But what about all this? What about us sitting here on Saturday night in an American bar in San Francisco? How am I supposed to be glad about this and sad about Columbus?', all you could do in response to that was to start with the biggest smile imaginable, the one that's been with you all day and maybe all your life, through drunkenness and sobriety, having taken on many forms other than a smile through that time, and to say, 'I know, it's crazy, isn't it?' in a way that suggested there wasn't a single thing crazy about it.

And then: Get yourself sharp at the end of the night, remembering as you and she walk out of the bar that all this is between you and the night, between you and the world. There is no such thing as being drunk enough and there is no such thing as being sober enough, but in between, the world and the night can look very beautiful. It's good to breathe the air, like it's been waiting for you too. It's good to want everything there is in the world, and yet: measuredly. Taken in the right measure, her wish for Columbus to be an Italian hero was on the same side as the night, even if she wasn't sure about it herself. You're not always going to be drunk, he thought, and she's not always going to be beautiful. True, but you've already stayed home at night in order to make people what they really are, beyond any beliefs they might have about who was an Italian hero. You did that all through youth, sometimes with a pen and paper and sometimes without. You've already stayed home so that people who long ago stopped having any more nights of the world could share just one more with you. It was time to introduce them to the living. They were friends even if they didn't know it. It was always easier to be friendly when you brought a whole world of friends with you wherever you went.

They were with you, but you were all alone too, and the question of what to do with the end of the night was yours alone too, and it was important to not think of yourself as so big that the rules and expectations of a man and woman out together for the first time did not apply, drunk or no drunk, and who you were and who she was were still bigger than anything you might think the two of you could seal at the end of the night with respect to Columbus and the indigenous people of the Americas, from the tip of South America all the way up to Canada. All of that land held the story of a great injustice, and yet, you had to operate respectfully towards her till the last moment of wakefulness, if you had any notion of keeping them alive in your heart, keeping them alive in your sleep, through the dream or through the absence of a dream, and what that meant in this case was summoning enough sobriety in your drunkenness to realize that any kiss would be a drunken kiss, and it was better to wait for the sober kiss. Even if you carried a world of sobriety around with you all the time, it was better to wait for the sober kiss.

Which was what he did, and as he walked home, he had to admit that the whole thing was crazy - America, his presence in it, and the way that first dates went back to the beginning of America, and he said to the night, I'm not sure about this, but I don't think there is anyone like you. Don't quote me on this, because after all I'm just one man and there's more that I don't know than I know, but I don't think there is anyone on earth like you, tonight or any other time, which is the same thing anyway.


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by Siamak V (not verified) on

Thanks, I appreciate it. I can't help writing in big sentences when the narrator has been drinking. :)



It was different!

by Miny (not verified) on

Hey you know Siamak you can win a award for being able to write a story in such big big sentences...Amazing you could do it....and i really appreciate the way you have put your thoughts and the way you have thought them... It's actually a great read!

maziar 58

Wrong thing at the wrong place

by maziar 58 on

Back in the 80's once I had the opportunity to take out  an Italian girl from salerno to the Beach for a drink out side of my apt. complex ;I did not had any mal intention ;whoever we drank and talked nonsences for about two hrs. when she left  she did not talk to me any more; curiouse to find out ,she said to have fun we don't need to be intelectual and to me those peoples on saturday night fall to MENTAL.never the less we were talking about the great Persian empire during hostages crisis......  Maziar