It was a Tuesday, sometime in the winter of 2008/2009. I had only arrived in Italy a few short months before, blindly following Love’s call.
I had laughed at the jokes from friends back in Sydney about having my very own “Italian Stallion”. I had even joined in the fun, pointing out how horribly stereotypical it is for a pasty white American to fall in love with a swarthy Italian, while studying abroad in a foreign land, no less. When I told my family back in the US (mostly Sicilian-American descendants, themselves), I noted a hint of concern amid the joyous news that I would be returning to the family’s homeland. “You be careful, though, ok? Are we sure he’s a good one?” One relative went so far as to remind me of the reputation that Italian men have, and told me to “keep my eyes peeled”.
I wasn’t concerned at all. “He’s so not like that”, I’d say.
We arrived in Italy, and I was comforted when several Italian girls on separate occasions told me that I had chosen well and wouldn’t need to worry; it was unlikely that he would ever “andare alle puttane” (which literally means to “go to the prostitutes”, but women here seem to use it any time a man cheats, whether he paid for the services or not).
Our first months here were not easy, however. We had arrived precisely at the peak of the financial crisis mayhem that was sweeping across Europe, and the architectural job that had been promised to my then ragazzo when we arranged the move was abruptly retracted, citing “La Crisi” as the guilty party. I picked up work teaching English, trying to work on my Italian at the same time, while he plodded along with a painful job search during the worst months that employers had seen in years. I won’t get into all the millions of reasons or justifications or exceptions to this following generalization I’m about to make, but… A man without a job is WAY more difficult than a woman without a job. It probably shouldn’t be that way, but it’s the reality of the situation. I watched helplessly as he became more and more upset every day, and I became concerned that he was going to start having a hard time being happy with me and with us as a result of this bullshit economic crisis.
It was in the midst of this climate that the particular Tuesday in question came to be.
My bel ragazzo was out at yet another job interview, where they would inevitably tell him that they’d love to work with him as a freelancer but just couldn’t possibly hire anyone new right now. I had decided to do a load of laundry for him while he was out, as a favor. (That’s how early in the relationship things were – we hadn’t really gotten into the gel of combining and splitting house chores yet).
I went to go hang the wet clothes on the stendino in the spare room, because the winter fog was too thick and soupy to hang anything outside (“sunny Italy”, my ass). I was lost in thought about how to cheer him up…”cook him a surprise dinner… naked… or do all the cleaning on my own this week… naked…” All good ideas, I think. When all of a sudden my eyes rested on a foreign object there in my laundry tub.
Blue. Cotton. Panties.
Blue. Not white or nude, like my cotton panties. Blue. The color of loyalty and trust.
Blue, cotton panties.
Aw, Hell, no. What the… WHY ARE THERE BLUE COTTON PANTIES in my boyfriend’s laundry load? In the span of time it took me to reach down, take the waistband between my fingers and raise it up to the light of the window, my brain had run through all of the following thoughts:
- Maybe he’s washing them for a friend.
- Yeah, maybe someone was over here, ages ago, before me… and left them… and he wanted to return them to her.
- There’s no possible way that he’s got someone on the side. It’s not possible!
- Maybe he bought them for me… and wanted to wash them first… ??
- It does seem strange that he’s been on so many interviews lately.
- Maybe he wears ladies’ underwear?! What?!
- That asshole better be at a f-ing job interview right now.
- Maybe he’s more depressed than I thought…
- Oh god, maybe my mom was right about Latino Lovers…
- Or maybe being unemployed has driven him mad…
- Maybe he sought the warm arms of some blue-cotton-panty-wearing whore…
- I’m gonna f-ing kill that bastard if he doesn’t have a REALLY GOOD explanation for this shit.
This is all running through my brain in one nanosecond, as my eyelids are fluttering over my widening pupils, and steam is beginning to seep out my ears. I’m lost in these thoughts as I toss the skank rag over to the side and blindly pick up the next item in the laundry tub. I’m so beyond worked up that it doesn’t occur to me to stop hanging laundry. Instead I forge fearlessly ahead to see what other evidence I can find…
He thinks he can mess around on ME? He thinks he can mess around on ME?! Ha! I mean, when does he even find the time, that asshole. Is he pulling this shit while I’m teaching my English classes?! While I’m out there, making money for us to live off of, that jerk is back here boning some –
What the hell is this?
A blue handkerchief?
He doesn’t have a blue handkerchief.
Now, we’re going to need to take a brief pause in this narrative to quickly address the more pressing question: Does he have other colored handkerchiefs? And the answer would unfortunately be yes. My then boyfriend, now husband, is “one of those guys”. The only other man I have ever known to use handkerchiefs was my Sicilian-American Nonno, who was also the only man in America to wear a tweed flat cap and suspenders. So there’s that. I seem to have married my Nonno.
Getting back to the story, I was momentarily perplexed as I flew through imaginary scenarios involving a blue-handkerchief-using third party in this sordid sexual tale that was unfolding in my mind. But, then again, perhaps this was positive evidence. Perhaps this vindicated my boyfriend. Perhaps we somehow got a bag of some couple’s clothing – a couple that apparently really likes blue.
Wait, why are they both blue?
It was at this point that I realized the magnitude of my own stupidity, as I pulled out of the tub a new blue sweater that had been purchased at the local market the week before. If we had been in the US, the tag would have read “please wash separately and with like colors”. But we were not. And so it did not. And so I did not.
As I was standing there with my jaw gaping open, laughing at myself and my complete and total ridiculousness, my boyfriend walked through the door.
“What are you doing, honey?”
“Oh wow, you almost got in SOOOOO much trouble.”