When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t immediately remember where I was. As I looked around at the unfamiliar furniture, the events of the previous evening rushed back into my memory. Immediately I could feel the tears well up and I closed my eyes in a effort to shut out both the memories, the emotions and the day ahead.
As much as I would have preferred to crawl up in a ball and sleep through the day, I could hear Cara in the other room. I knew by glancing at the clock that Alto had already left for work and since I was sleeping in their main room I knew that I needed to get up and make that space available once again. But I simply didn’t have the energy to move.
And so I laid there. Cara eventually peaked her head in, only to find me staring vacantly out the window. Without a word she padded across the room and laid down next to me on the sofa bed. Enveloping me in her arms, she simply held me, letting all her love and strength pass through her to my devastated condition.
I’m not sure how long we lay there before she started talking. She started with our favorite story from when we had been missionaries together. Once that one was over she started on another favorite memory. One by one she went through all the ups and downs, the highs and lows. I couldn’t help being pulled in, and soon our laughter filled the room as we reminisced about the moments that had solidified our friendship into a sisterhood.
Gradually the laughter subsided and we descended into silence. I was immediately slammed with the reality of my situation, a reality that hurt so acutely that it made me gasp aloud. Determined that I wouldn’t repeat the previous night’s emotional melt down, I took a deep breath and forced myself to sit up. My first instinct was to check the cell phone Mario had lent me to see if he had called or left me a message.
Mario’s lack of communication sent an acute stab of pain through my heart. I wiped away an errant tear as I put the phone down and headed to the shower. Cara was too good a friend to let me mope all day, so after I made myself presentable we started to make plans.
The next few days passed in a haze. Alto and Cara did their best to both distract me and cheer me up. My days were full following Cara around on her errands and work, and the evenings were full of good food and laughter. After learning about my disastrous birthday, they were determined to celebrate with an evening full of gourmet pizza, a Rome-by-night tour (including a stop at our favorite gelateria) and a homemade birthday cake. With every antic and every plan, I loved these two more. And with every passing, silent, moment, my anger towards Mario grew.
How could he just let me leave? How could he stay silent? I was leaving the country on Monday and our relationship was in shambles. How were we going to resolve this? And the worst part was, I didn’t even know what had happened! He had simply shut down. How could I help fix something when I didn’t even know what was broken?
The silence was driving me crazy. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t handle it anymore. Almost 48 hours had passed since I’d left. I was returning to the United States in another 48. Something had to give.
I was debating what I would say when, suddenly, my phone started to ring.
For a moment, I could just stare at it, dumbfounded. Then, realizing it was about to go to voicemail, I scrambled to answer it.
Mario’s voice sounded strained. Before I could say anything, he asked if there was any chance that Nonna’s return plane ticket had ended up in my bag. She was supposed to leave that evening and he couldn’t find her ticket anywhere.
I was stunned into silence. After almost 2 days of non-communication he finally called and THIS is what he had to say?
Trying to contain my emotions, I assured him that no, her ticket was not in my bag.
Va bene. (Alright)
Then, I couldn’t help myself.
C’e qualcos’altro che vuoi dire? (Is there anything else you want to say?)
Mario was quiet for a moment. I could almost feel his shrug through the telephone.
Come stai? (How are you?)
I had no response. Though I had been imagining our first conversation in my head for the past two days, at this moment, after what had just transpired, I had nothing to say.
Which was a total lie.
Once again, silence descended. I could feel the tears of frustration welling up, but I was determined to keep my composure.
Quando torni? (When do you return?)
In that moment, all my fanciful dreams of Mario rushing down to Rome, proclaiming his idiocy of letting me leave in the first place, vanished. There was going to be nothing easy about my return. And though I ached to have everything resolved between us, I suddenly began to dread the moment that I would see him again. All I could see in front of me was pain.
Domenica sera. (Sunday night.)
Mario quietly acknowledged my response and told me to call him when I knew my train times so that he could pick me up at the station.
And that was it.
After he hung up, I stood there for a long time, holding the phone in my hands. In less than 24 hours I would return. Throughout this whole experience, I had managed to hold onto to the hope that there would be reconciliation. That Mario would get past whatever his problem was and we would be able to move forward. That I would eventually wake up from this nightmare and continue on with the new life that was before me.
That hope was beginning to fade.