“The world is just going to hell.” She said as we stood in the shadow of the menacing building. Its towers spiking into the sky like spears from a pitchfork. “The plastic!” she lamented as she pet Luna’s head. “I remember when all of the bottles were glass. Reusable. My mother would wash the old milk jugs out with those leaves-” she said the name in Italian, and when my face showed ignorance, she elaborated. “The ones that stick all over you?”
My ex-colleague had shown me once during our coffee break out in the garden behind our office. The little leaves of this popular weed can stick to clothing, and she told me how they used to be essential to a childhood game of hers in the Italian Alps when she was growing up.
“Those and olive oil, and she’d wash everything, and you know what? We’d never get sick. Not like these kids now. Sick every week.”
She shuffled in her sandals. The brown leather straps crisscrossing over bright red painted toes. She had bare legs at the beginning of June and was in a sundress – white with a big flower design on one side. Her hair was cut short and styled into spikes, a faint blue tinge mixing with her gray. She was tan like a Florentine that had already been to the beach for the past few weekends. By the end of summer, I’ll sure she’ll be as bronze as the statues in the Bargello. On her wrist above her bangles, a Florence Lilly was tattoed in black ink.
She turned the conversation back to Luna, who had brought her over to us in the first place.
“Dogs don’t destroy the earth as people do. We kill each other, steal from each other, care about the wrong things, pay attention to the things that don’t matter. They just love, and show it so much more than people do.” She knelt down and grabbed the wrinkles of Luna’s face again, kissed it, then looked back up at me.
“I get home to my four dogs and there’s chaos ‘CIAOciaoWeloveyouMamma!” all four of them jumping on me, so happy, and I’m so happy to see them! I get home to my son and it’s ‘Ciao Giuseppe!’ and just an “ah, hi Mamma from the couch.” She rolled her eyes.
People pass by us into the courthouse. Young, old, some dressed up in suits carrying briefcases, others strolling in nonchalantly in more casual clothes. The heat had just hit and though almost all of these people were Italian, the style ranged from boots and a jacket to sandals and a sundress, like my new friend. She soon was talking about her oldest dog at home. Apollo.
“I found him out back of our place by the trashcans,” she shakes her head as she remembers. “He was in a box, in a bag.” She grabbed my arm. “A bag too! To suffocate him. Thankfully we saved him, but others aren’t so lucky. These terrible people. These complete inhuman beings that do these things. I just can’t understand. At least bring them to a shelter! My dogs are my children. I could never.”
Luna edged closer to her feet and started to lick her feet. She laughed as she felt her. I noticed a red mark, then realized it was another tattoo, a hammer and sickle on her ankle.
“Those people are just ashamed. Ashamed, and so their shame makes them do worse things.” She tsked. “I’m going home to my puppies and my son that loves me even though he doesn’t show it that much,” she said with a smirk and a wink, and I realized just then, that she hadn’t even ever acknowledged that I was foreign, and I didn’t have to explain where I was from. It was just love for dogs outside of the Florentine courthouse, nothing else mattered, and nothing else should.