When I finally pushed send, I felt a huge release of emotion. There was nothing else I could do but wait.
It was another sleepless night. I kept replaying over and over in my mind what had happened. Each time would trigger a fresh bout of tears. My head – and my heart – felt like it was going to explode. Finally, I lay there, listless. I was utterly drained, and had a splitting headache from all the crying.
And still the night continued on.
I knew Mario would rise early in order to go to work. In the early hours of the morning I waited. Since my cell phone was useless overseas, Mario had given me an extra cell phone to use during my time in Italy. I had that phone lying near my pillow, next to my laptop. I prayed that one would chime – a phone call, a text message, or a response to my email. Anything. Anything that would break the silence.
As the hours passed, and no contact was made, my heart sunk farther and farther. This was not a good sign.
Finally, a little after noon, he called. With the excuse that things had been crazy busy at his work, he said that he would be by soon to pick me up. Nothing was said about the night before, and while siting down to lunch with Nonna, he once again announced that he would need to return to work that afternoon. Mario’s Zio called inviting us all to dinner and his grandmother mentioned that she was in need of a few things. I volunteered to take care of his grandmother and to fix a desert for the evening meal. Mario expressed his thanks, hurriedly finished his meal and headed out the door.
Helpless to do anything about Mario, I decided to concentrate on building my relationship with his grandmother and fixing Mario’s favorite desert for that evening. Between errands, cooking and helping Nonna with her hair, the afternoon quickly passed and it was almost time to go. Mario came home, as detached as ever, and headed to the bathroom to get ready for the evening. Dejected, I headed into the bedroom and curled up on the bed, staring vacantly at the wall. Zio came down to bring Nonna to his apartment, but I couldn’t bring myself to rise up and enter the front room. As he searched for Mario, he came back into the room and saw me on the bed. It was all I could do to lift my head and muster a smile. Motioning for me to stay where I was, he gave me a sympathetic smile, called for Mario to hurry up, and with Nonna in tow, headed out the door.
When Mario exited the bathroom a few minutes later, he found me still lying there. I could briefly see the emotions warring across his face before he once again dropped down his mask of non-expression. He quietly joined me on the bed, and hesitantly reached out to touch my face. My eyes welled with tears at this physical contact – something that had become extremely rare – but I was unable to say anything. After a few moments of silence, he quietly said that it was time to go.
The last thing I wanted to do was go to a family dinner. I was barely keeping it together, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up a brave face for a whole evening.
The dinner was a disaster. Not only was it Mario’s family, but one of his employees and some people from church. Mario was in charge of cooking, and though I tried to help him in the kitchen, the wall between us made it extremely difficult to pretend that we were the happy engaged couple that everyone expected. I was extremely conscious of my bare left hand, and all I wanted to do was get through the evening without bursting into tears.
The charade didn’t end with dinner. With the evening ending later than planned, the trains had stopped running and the members (who lived in Pisa) were stranded. Since Mario was the only one with a large enough car, they asked if he would be kind enough to take them back. Mario agreed, and the four of us headed to his car, and cried to keep things light as we made the 20 minute drive into town. Once we dropped them off, silence descended.
Mario looked haggard. I knew he wasn’t sleeping well. It was obvious that the stress from his work was exorbitant. And the, of course, there was the added emotional trauma of our train wreck of a visit. A feeling of pity welled within me, which was quickly extinguished by my rising anger. This last part didn’t need to be a problem.
I asked him is he had read my letter.
He let out a sigh. Thanking me for his words, he assured me that he understood what I had been trying to say. He just wasn’t ready to talk about it.
I had reached my limit. While I wasn’t due to leave until Monday, the thought of going through this same routine for the next few days was more than I could handle.
I quietly asked him what he wanted to do. Looking completely dejected, he just shrugged. Pushing him for an answer, I asked if he even wanted me to be there. Again, that maddening shrug. No response, no assurance that he wanted to work through this. Just that exasperating wall of silence.
Trying to remain calm, I informed him that I could not survive another few days like this. If he wasn’t willing to work through this – to actually TALK to me – then I was leaving. I would get on a train in the morning and head to Rome, to my friend Cara.
I desperately wanted him to plead with me to stay, to promise that things would get better. Nothing. Just silence.
Fighting back tears, I reached over, and placed my hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look at me.
“Ti amo, Mario. Ti prego di provare.”
(I love you Mario. I’m begging you to try.)
For one moment, I saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes. Desperate to capitalize on the moment, I leaned forward to kiss him.
He pulled away.
Without even thinking about it, my hand shot out, slapping him across the face.
The crack of my hand against his face rang out as I looked at him in horror. Never in my life had I ever physically hit anyone. But the anger and frustration and taken a life of its own.
As the tears, once again, welled up, I fumbled to open the car door and without looking back, ran into the house.