I’m cheating a bit today but have a lot of work to do which I will be paid for so it takes precedent. On my way back from the city center the other day I was reminded of something I wrote years back when we lived behind the Duomo and I could hear the shouts from the corner bar even while lying in bed at night. The life of a study abroad student in Florence is more complicated than it looks from the outside, and each year I see younger generations thrown into a city that is too big and too real to handle so fast.
Dear Blonde 20-something in the prime of your life,
I heard you before I saw you – your voice frothing with the side-effects of alcohol and bouncing off these ancient walls that do nothing for you but border the street you’re taking advantage of. You yell to your friends – most of which I’m sure you’ve only met weeks ago, if not days, and proclaim the same war cry that I’ve heard so many times throughout these past few years. “WE STICK TOGETHER” you shout – though I think it’s more for your own protection, not theirs.
But yet as you say these words, as you shout this statement that demands alliances and strength in numbers, you’re proudly checking things off your Instagram bucket list as you take a #selfie in the borrowed helmet you just ripped off the Albanian boy’s head. You gallantly mount the back of his scooter in that dress that was never made for sitting (nor dancing on tables but you did that earlier tonight, didn’t you).
Your friend is smarter than you – refusing the offer of a midnight ride and standing stubbornly, back pressed against the wall in protest, hoping someone will come to save her. She isn’t sure how to get back to your new apartment alone and she’s worried that if she doesn’t go with you on this manic split-second decision, something else may happen to her.
“Don’t do it,” she slurs to you. “WHY!” you scream into the night and into his ear as you wrap your arms around his waist – and you don’t even know where he’s from, what his intentions are, what he daydreams about, if he loves the ocean, or sings in the shower when no one is listening. You know nothing – and that is your kryptonite.
She asks if you know him, you say you don’t. She says that’s why you shouldn’t do it. But you came here for the experience and you came here to take chances and you came here to fall in love and ride on scooters and be the most beautiful girl in the world and you’re doing it and it’s right here and your heart is full.
I know I have told everyone to trust people. That I’ve scoffed at students in the past that run in the opposite direction of a “ciao you are-a very beautiful whereareyoufrome.” And at times I just can’t handle the girls that don’t understand why I talk to the toothless drunks that sit at the end of my street and allow them to kiss my hand as they act out their favorite scenes from Clint Eastwood movies. I know that I’ve preached to be open, inviting, but this was not what I was talking about. There is still danger when your head is muddled with drinks and everyone becomes your best friend. I want to run out of my apartment and pull you off that seat myself as I watch you from my window, but I don’t. He revs the motor and you squeal with happiness.
I hope the kid on the front of the bike heeds to your constant repetition of the question you’re yelling from underneath your hooded eyes: “YOU KNOW WHAT STOP MEANS RIGHT?”
What if he doesn’t; what if you don’t? Because alarms should be ringing in your convoluted head telling you not to do this . Maybe if you got to know him, allowed him to be the romantic that most are when they meet girls around here. Maybe if you met up with him for a coffee. Maybe if you knew his favorite song and what he likes to do in his free time. Maybe if you strolled under the Duomo after ONE glass of prosecco at his favorite bar. Maybe then this European cliche scooter ride would mean more to you – but I see no limitations in your actions as you hug him tighter.
Maybe he doesn’t know when to stop – maybe you shouldn’t trust him. But you do, and the throttle opens, and you scream down the street- hair flying like blonde tassels on a tricycle.
And I pray
that you’re ok
and I hope
that this is everything that you ever wanted.
The brunette twenty-something that knows