Of all the men I might have married, the one that stands out for me most clearly at this moment is the Italian tourist who asked me for a kiss as we stood waiting for the light to change on the corner of Madison and I-forget-what-street on the Upper East Side that summer afternoon in 1980.
Of course, I kissed him. I was like that then – accustomed to the admiration of men in New York, and accommodating when I was in the mood.
This man, a young-and-darkly-handsome Italian, with his broad smile and thickly accented English, put me in the mood for a street-corner kiss. But soon enough the light changed, and I went on my way to wherever I was in a rush to get to, blithely waving to him over my left shoulder and calling out one of the few words I knew in Italian: “Ciao!”
I’ve often wondered since: What if I’d lingered, walked with him to wherever he was going, maybe fallen in love and returned with him to Italy? I know this is a leap, but what if this Giuseppe – or whatever his lovely name was – and I had married and had a half-dozen Italian babies who tried their best to teach me, in turn, the intricacies of their musical language?
I have vivid imaginary memories of our summers together at Giuseppe’s family’s ancient farm in Tuscany. One memory in particular is of our daughter Angelina – the child who was most like me – hitching up a little goat to an old cart and announcing she was running away from home. We all stood in the driveway, waved goodbye and sang in a chorus, “Ciao!” pretending to be sad. She waved back. But the goat didn’t take her far.
Giuseppe’s mother, forever stooped and dressed in widow’s black, never grew to accept me. And her only son, my charming, errant husband, never stopped kissing beautiful young strangers on city street corners.
Yet I’ve never for one moment ever regretted our own street-corner kiss. Without that spark, there would never have been an Angelina.
Bonnie Lee Black
Bonnie is the author of many published essays, as well as five published books: most recently, Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts: Stories and Recipes from a Culinary Career (Nighthawk Press 2020); an historical novel, Jamie’s Muse, based on the lives of her Scottish great-grandparents who emigrated to South Africa in the late 19th century; and three memoirs about her own life-changing experiences in various countries in Africa (www.bonnieleeblack.com). Bonnie taught English and Creative Writing at the University of New Mexico’s Taos branch for ten years. Now retired and living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, she writes an award-winning weekly blog called The WOW Factor: Words of Wisdom from Wise Older Women, which is read by hundreds of (mostly) women all over the world (www.bonnieleeblack.com/blog/).
The Ekphrastic Review
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