Chapter 23: Pride

Whatever you do. Do with pride

You can’t buy pride.

I heard you can earn respect.

They definitely had a sale or something on dignity last week.

Did you hear about this willing to live thingy?

Seems like a scam.

I’ll stick with indifference.

Maybe I can get my money back.

As the train finally pulled away he let out a huge sigh. She watched Bassano disappear from them with Erika and the boys standing on the platform waving frantically. Apparently, he didn’t get home too often even though he lived less than two hours away. He looked down at the seat next to him. It was full of leftovers. He sighed again. All of the women in the family were convinced that none of the men could or ever would be able to cook.

She didn’t see the ´oh so cool bartender´ sat in front of her now. She saw the boy that had grown up with a big sister and a loving, loud family. He was still trying to wipe the lipstick off of his cheek as if it remained there still, an imaginary coat of arms. She enjoyed the vulnerability and felt more at ease with all of this ´normal´ information about him.

He let out a final sigh and smiled at her as the mountains flickered past the window.

“You survived the Galetti’s. How would you like to describe this traumatizing experience?” He leaned forward with an imaginary microphone.

She straightened her shirt and sat up for her interview.

“Oh, Golly! Traumatizing it was!” She held her cheeks.“ But I lived to tell the tale” She gasped in her best Lois Lane voice and feigned fainting on the seat.

He pretended to resuscitate her on the seat.

A young boy with a crew cut and military clothes jumped over from a few seats back.

“Step aside Sir” He asserted as he pushed Michele back and started CPR on her. She jumped up and pushed him away.

“What the hell??” She yelled back at the soldier.

“Oh, Ma’am! I’m so sorry. I thought you needed help” He stated standing back up straight as he looked around for some type of sergeant.

She sat up and rearranged her shirt. Michele was giggling into his hands and the young boy bowed his head with embarrassment.

 “My apologies” Said Sergeant Finiguerra. “It’s Mike…if you like or Mikey…or Michael! Whatever works for you” He smiled sheepishly as he scuffled back to his backpack and his seat. Michele jumped up and rushed over to shake his hand. He insisted the young soldier sat by them. It was his first week in Europe, all the way from Virginia. Michele wrote down some names of pizza places and Irish pubs. Mikey’s eyes teared up.

“Golly, you’re the nicest Europeans I’ve been done met” He gasped through held back tears.

She felt an urge to hug him but refrained. He sniffled towards the window and then turned his baby blue eyes towards them.

“Sorry, Ma’am. Sorry, Mick-ay-leeee. It’s just I miss ma dog and…I miss ma Mama” He stared back out the window.

Michele reached for the leftovers and placed the open Tupperware underneath his nose in an effort to bring him back to reality.

Michele started telling tales of his embarrassing aunts kissing him, kids screaming and running around his ankles and all of the dishes he had to wash whilst listening to Aunt Hilda’s various bunions and callouses.

The mountains flickered by.

They passed over the Bacchiglione River while Mikey chowed down on some pheasant thigh.

“I heard y’all in Vincenza, you folk eat cats or summin’” Mikey scoffed in between picking out the foul skin from his teeth. 

“Darn, this chicken is good” He proclaimed

“It’s actually Pheasant” She pointed out in an effort to not sound condescending.

“Oh, I’m sorry Miss. I don’t really speak the ol’I-talian just yet” he giggled with Pheasant bones in his mouth.

She was so confused that she just sat back down and wondered if Americans had any idea that Europe was a continent and not a country.

They exited the train together. What an odd group. A tipsy English girl, a flamboyant Italian guy and a squaddie, wandering the streets aimlessly. Maybe sometimes it’s better when you don’t know where you’re going or exactly who you are with. The expectations and disappointments remain low. Survival is a plus. The squaddie wanted to be in charge. He was adorably oblivious to his awkwardness and patrolled the calm streets of Vicenza like a warzone.

They walked towards the Olympic theatre. The theatre was designed by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and was not completed until after his death. The scenery inside was designed to give the appearance of long streets receding into a distant horizon, in 1585, it’s the oldest surviving stage set still in existence.

They watched Mikey walk ahead. He looked back once but carried on walking with his shoulders back, he showed no fatigue to his heavy backpack as he marched up the hill, into the horizon.

Three jeeps came down the hill. He turned to look at them and smiled, waiting, still with something between his teeth. 

The jeeps parked up and the other soldiers solemnly walked out and stood in line.

She walked over and hugged Mikey and handed him the Tupperware full of leftovers to give to his commanding officer. The Colonel had no idea what to do. He took the gift and he took his sunglasses off.

“Thank you Ma’am” He grunted. ”We appreciate the I-talians and your compassion here”

She patted Mikey’s straight back and shook the Colonel’s hand.

“I’m English” She winked proudly and drifted back to Michele.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published