The Second Part of a Short Story about Italians, Iranians and a Romantic Night in Napoli!
Marco and Gino’s mom Signora Donadoni stayed with us for a month and before she left she made me promise to come to Napoli soon and visit the whole family. She told me in a motherly way that I should meet her daughter Paola and I said that I was looking forward to it. The last night before she left, she asked me if I was a Catholic! I knew that I couldn’t tell her that I was not into god or religion and things like that because to her that would have meant that I was a godless communist and that would have ruined our friendship instantly. So I told her that I was a Muslim by tradition. She didn’t know much about Islam so she listened carefully as I put the best face on Islam.
“Iranian Muslims are kind of like Sicilians! The women wear black and cover their heads when they go to church. We are not supposed to eat pork or drink wine around the religious holidays. Otherwise, we are like everybody else.” She was relieved.
At one point, and after having met many of my Iranian friends and watched them in action, Marco made the following observation, “Northern Italians are like Germans. We don’t even consider them as Italians. Iranians are more like Sicilians, the way you guys are protective of your women and are serious about certain things. Italians on average are more relaxed about life and don’t take things as seriously as you guys do, unless we are talking about football, food or wine!” I think that he nailed it!
I graduated a while later and got a job and moved to the big city. Marco got his degree and moved back to Italy with his brother and Gino’s Alaskan Husky. We promised to stay in touch and visit each other whenever we could.
A few years later I was on a business trip in Europe and took a few days off and headed to Napoli. Marco set me up at a bed and breakfast place and on a Sunday morning, the day after I arrived, he showed up at my hotel with his Vespa and took me for a tour of the city. First we had an espresso at a very popular place. It was the best coffee that I have ever had in my life. Then we drove around the city looking at the famous buildings and sites. Finally, we went up the hill to Napoli’s famous lovers’ lane where young people would come on the weekends to enjoy the view with their loved ones.
As we went up the hill and got to the area where you could see the entire Bay of Napoli, he pulled to the side and told me to look at the scenery and take it all in. I noticed a bunch of newspaper piles, spaced almost 10’ apart on the side of the road. I asked Marco what the deal was with the newspapers. He said, “In Napoli, almost all young people live at their parents’ homes and don’t have a place of their own, so most of the romantic action takes place in their cars! And on Saturday nights, the couples come up here to look at the moon and the bay and then they put the newspapers against the windows inside their cars to have the privacy and then they go at it! After they are done, they discard the newspapers on the street as you see.” I just couldn’t believe it! I’ve had my share of romance in the car but nothing as elaborate as this!
On Sunday night, I was invited for dinner at Mr. And Mrs. Donadoni’s home. They had a large apartment overlooking the Bay of Napoli. Grandma lived with them so were Marco, Gino, Paola and the Alaskan Husky, all under the same roof. There was a Polish maid there too that they had hired to help around the house. It was great to see the entire family, but the whole scene at their place was like a Fellini movie! The dog was running around from one room to another panting in the warm Napoli night. The grandma was hard of hearing and kept telling me “mangia, mangia (eat, eat)” and other things in Italian that I didn’t understand. Signora Donadoni was complaining to me about the maid who didn’t like pasta so they had to make a potato dish for her every day to keep her happy. Marco’s dad was serving Calabrian home-made wine and wanted me to sit with him in the balcony and watch the beautiful moon. And then there was Paola!
She was more beautiful than her pictures. She had the most beautiful smile and the warmest eyes that one can imagine. She was a few years older than I was, but she was at that age that women are the most dangerous, confident of their power and beauty, and have figured men out completely. A man doesn’t stand a chance in that situation. The best that a man can do is to walk away! But I truly liked her family and was falling for her beauty, charm and independence. I had to take a bite of the apple, even if it meant that I would be kicked out of my little heaven for ever!
She worked at a multinational company and spoke English fluently. It was love at first sight. She seemed very independent and confident and at the same time gentle and compassionate. She would be smiling in one second, and then turning serious the next as the topic changed to business or politics. We talked for quite a while. In a strange way, it felt like an Italian Khaastegari where neither Paola nor I were thinking beyond the first date, but the parents wanted to get things done quickly by traditional means! She finally asked me if I have had the true Pizza Margherita and when I said no, she said that she would take me to the place that the Pizza was invented on Tuesday night, before my departure the following day.
On Tuesday night at the pizza place we sat outside and enjoyed the pizza as it was meant to be and the wine. We just talked and laughed and I even told her how I had heard about her ass and all the arguments! She laughed, but for the first time I saw a momentary shyness in her reaction. After dinner, to my utmost surprise, she drove her little Renault to the lovers’ lane and parked in a nice spot. We looked at the beautiful moon and kissed and for the first time that night, there was no talking. After a while, she grabbed the newspaper from the backseat and told me how to put it against the windows. I didn’t tell her that I already knew about the scheme. Once the windows were completely covered she gently came over to my seat and I had one of the most memorable nights of my life in a tight seat of a small Renault.
After a while and with her in my arms, I was trying to figure what my next move should be, I noticed Maradona’s picture in the sporting pages of Corriere della Sera newspaper. It had been several years since Maradona had left Napoli but they still talked about him as if someday he might come back and return Napoli to its glory.
Marco took me to the airport the next day. We hugged and kissed and promised each other to stay in touch.
About a year later I got a Christmas card from Marco telling me that he was getting married to his girlfriend from Calabria and that Paola decided to get pregnant and have a child but she didn’t want to get married. The grandma was upset in the beginning but since she loved Paola a lot, she didn’t say anything. He also mentioned that Gino’s dog was getting old and did not move around as much. And finally, the Polish maid was beginning to like pasta and she was going to take care of the baby when Paola went back to work.
At the end, I came to the conclusion that the Iranians and the Italians have a lot in common. Italians come from an old culture with a glorious past, so do we. They have great arts, literature and poetry, so do we. They love bread, cheese, wine, pasta and rice, so do we. But the big difference is those bus-loads of female Swedish tourists that come for some sun and fun to Italy every summer! We don’t have anything like that in Iran. And therein lies the difference.
Here is Bahareh Eshgh by Sayeh
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