Many tears were shed that night. I couldn’t understand what was happening. It was if the Mario I loved had disappeared and a silent, stony man had come in his stead. And that person had completely shut me out.
Mario was quiet the next morning. Though he went through the motions, I could tell that he was troubled. Nothing seemed to give him joy, not even his family. Even when someone managed to make him smile, it never quite reached his eyes, and it quickly disappeared.
And I knew how much Mario loved to smile.
It was our last day in Sicily. Mario continued to take me with him wherever he went, but it was like walking with a stranger. Finally, when he took me into an building where the elderly men of the town had gathered to play cards – a game that I was not familiar with nor one that Mario wanted to explain – I quietly told him that I would meet him back at the house. I was tired of not understanding anything, of feeling like a world-class idiot. And I was tired of begging Mario to include me. I needed some time to think.
While Mario watched the card game, I grabbed my coat and my IPod and took a long walk down the road. I played some calming music, trying to sooth my heart, and headed off into the Sicilian countryside.
And I began to pray.
I started to rethink our entire relationship. Had I missed something? Some sort of signal or red flag that this was, in fact, a bad idea? Had there been any clues that Mario was capable of this type of complete shutdown? Had I made a mistake in agreeing to marrying him? In coming over to Italy?
Though my heart was bruised, I couldn’t honestly say that there had been any signs or clues warning me off this path. Yes, I had had my own moments of nervousness and doubt, but I couldn’t deny the feelings that I had towards this man, or the peace that I had felt when I decided to marry him. It was right. I felt that, deep in my soul. I didn’t know what was going on, or why this seemingly unsurmountable obstacle had been placed before us, but I could only trust that somehow we would get over it. Soon.
I walked for a long time that night. Though part of me was nervous that I would get lost in this unfamiliar land, I could not deny my need for these quiet moments. Tears streamed down my face as I wrestled with the anger and hurt that had been building inside me. But finally…finally, I knew I was ready to face him again.
When I got back to the house, Mario had still not arrived. Knowing that we would soon be leaving for the airport, I headed to my room in order to pack my bags, keeping my earphones on and my IPod running. Mario walked in a short time later. Coming into my room, he silently observed my packing before quietly asking if I was almost ready to go. When I assured him that I was, he gave me a small smile and motioned for me to follow him into the kitchen where the family had gathered.
The goodbyes were heartfelt. Even though I knew Mario’s family had felt the underlying tension, they had warmly welcomed me into their home and their lives. With promises to see each other soon, we headed out to the car. This time, however, we had another person in tow. Mario’s grandmother – a delightful elderly woman whom he loved and respected more than anyone else in his family – would journey back to Lucca with us.
The airport was packed for a Sunday night. Mario’s nonna patiently waited as we checked in and then followed us as we headed towards security. After going putting my bag through the scan, I was leaning down to put on my shoes when I noticed that Nonna was being led off to another security table. Without passing to think, I quickly grabbed my bag and followed. Nonna was clearly frustrated when I arrived, not understanding why she was being detained, and the security officer seemed ready to cart her away. I looked over my shoulder to see that Mario was still stuck in the original security line, and looking anxiously in our direction.
The security officer asked if I was with Nonna, and upon hearing my “Si,” launched into a long detail of how the medications within Nonna’s bag were a security risk. While I couldn’t understand everything he said, I gathered that the syringes were the problem, and tried to assure him that Nonna had been unaware of the rules when she had been packing. Finally, at this point, Mario joined us and was able to convince the officers that it had all been a harmless mistake. As we left security, I could see the tension leaving Mario’s body as he realized that his Nonna was just fine. With the first genuine smile that I had seen in days, he looked over at me and with a tenderness that almost broke my heart, expressed his gratitude that I had been there to help.
The wall had been cracked. I could only hope that this was the first step in breaking it down.