La Lettera (The Letter)

(2010)

Caro Mario,

Ti amo.

Io so quello con tutta la mia anima. 

Io odio la distanza che e’ cresciuta fra di noi e voglio fare del tutto per guarire ogni male che c’e.

E’ importantissimo che tu capisci perche’ ti ho dato l’anello sta sera.  non e’ perche voglio che ci lasciamo o che finiamo.  Anzi, e’ l’ultima cosa che vorrei.  

Io voglio avere la speranza.  Voglio credere che c’e la facciamo.  Che insieme, possiamo andare al tempio d’essere suggellati a l’un l’altro…che possiamo far crescere una familgia insieme.  Che possiamo ridere, scherzare, diverterci…che possiamo aiutarci nei momenti difficili… che possiamo condividere ogni esperienza…e che possiamo sempre imparare da l’un l’atlro.  E’ spero che anche tu voglia queste cose ancora.  prego che tu voglia fare la scelta di darmi quel annello di nuovo.  perche’ il mio cuore e’ rotto sta sera con il pensiero di non averti nella mia vita.

Mi dispiace per tutti i miei sbagli.  Sei un uomo molto speciale.  Il piu che ti consoco, il piu’ che mi rende conta di quanto bravo sei.  E spero di continuare ad imparare quello per tutta l’eternita.

-J

 

 

My dearest Mario,

I love you.

I know that with all of my soul.

I hate the distance that has grown between us and I want to do everything I can to heal everything that has gone wrong.

It is vastly important that you understand why I gave you the ring tonight.  It is not because I want us to leave each other or for us to break up.  That is the last thing that I want.

I want to have hope.  I want to believe that we can do this.  That together, we can go forth with our marriage, that we can have a family together.  That we can laugh, joke and have fun together…that we can help each other in the difficult moment…that we can share every experience…and that we can always learn from each other.  And I hope that you also still want these things. I pray that you want to make the choice to give me that ring again.  Because my heart is broken tonight with the thought of not having you in my life.

I am sorry for all my mistakes.  You are a special man. The more that I get to know you, the more I realize how wonderful you are. And I hope to continue to learn this for all of eternity.

-J

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La Chiamata (The Call)

(2010)

I was verging on hysteria when I entered into the house.  I was quickly overcome with regret for my actions. What if he hadn’t understood?  What if he thought I wanted it to be over?  I didn’t want to end our relationship.  I didn’t want to break our engagement.  But I could no longer wear his ring when I wasn’t even sure he wanted things to continue.

As the sobs continued, I was desperate to talk to someone.  I frantically opened my computer, praying that my mom would be on.  When her “offline” status appeared, I could feel my desperation heighten.  Remembering the phone card in my wallet, I frenetically pawed through my purse until I found it.  I knew that there wasn’t much money left on the card, but I hoped it would be enough.  My hands were shaking so badly I could barely dial the number.  As soon as he said hello, I started sobbing.  Managing to gasp out that it was her daughter, I pleaded for her to get on Skype as quickly as possible.  I could hear the concern in her voice as she assured me that she would and the phone line promptly dropped.

The moments until she signed on seemed to last forever.  I couldn’t control my tears, and the emotional pain of what had just happened became physical.  I gasped at the intensity of the deep, searing pain within my chest, which relegated me to the fetal position on my bed.

Finally, finally, my mom came online.  I reached over to accept her incoming call, but all I could was cry.  Her face was blurred through my tears, but the concern radiated through the screen.  Though the tears never seemed to end, I managed to gulp and gasp out what had happened, dissolving into a fresh batch of sobs when I told her that I had given the ring back.  At this point I was completely panicked, positive that I had made the wrong choice and that I would forever regret that moment.

My mom finally was able to calm me down – to a point.  But even she didn’t know exactly what to say.  No one had anticipated this.

Realizing that my biggest concern at this point was that Mario had misunderstood, she counseled me to write him a letter explaining my thought process.  Writing would allow me the time to calm down and think about what I truly wanted to say, while helping me be a little more rational.  Sending me her love, and making me promise her to call the next day, she left me to my letter.

After hanging up, I just stared at my screen.  My emotions refused to settle, alternating between despair and panic.  After a few false starts, I began to pour out my soul.

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L’Anello (The Ring)

(2010)

I took another long run that morning, followed by a long shower.  I was desperate to clear my head, but I was consumed by anger and fear.  I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall.  I knew that the only way to fix the situation was to find a way to reach Mario.  But nothing was working.  And I felt like everyday I was losing him just a little more.

The day didn’t go any better.  Once again I offered to travel with him during his afternoon work, but even though we were physically together, I could feel him pulling father and farther away.  His work had become his shield, his excuse for every stress, every problem and every frustration.  He hid behind his phone, and the endless calls from his employees.

Dinner with Nonna was a quiet affair, with Mario saying that he would take me immediately back to the Fiori’s.  It was still early, so I hope that he wanted to have some alone time so that we could try and work through this mess.  Once we were in the car, I tried to open the conversation, but the wall of silence had returned.  He refused to answer any of my questions or respond to my pleas.  It was just an endless stream of excuses. It wasn’t long before my temper flared and we were once again fighting.

Same topics, concerns and problems.  The tears came back with a vengeance and I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere.  He just kept repeating that this was something he needed to figure out on his own and he didn’t know how we could fix things when I was leaving in less than a week.  The few sentences that he said made little sense, but he seemed locked into his own thoughts and views and stubbornly refused to listen or acknowledge what I was saying. He had completely shut me out.

I was desperate to knock some sense into him.  As we pulled into the Fiori’s driveway, all I could think is that if I managed to shake him up a little, I would be able to awaken him from his stupor and realize the damage that he was causing.  As the fight escalated, I could feel my emotional side taking over.  I said whatever popped into my head, hoping that my instincts would be able to accomplish what my rationale had failed to fix.

It was an out of body experience.  The words were rushing out of my mouth, the tears were streaming down my face, and I could feel my body shaking with all the emotions that were coursing through it.  Then, before I even realized what I was doing, my right hand reached over to my left and slipped the engagement ring that I loved off my finger and placed it on the shelf between our two seats.  With tears blinding my vision, I chocked out an ultimatum.   I loved him. I wanted to marry him.  But I could no longer continue like this.  And I wouldn’t marry him if he was going to treat me like this.  So he had to decide what it was that he wanted.

It was up to him to decide whether or not he wanted to give me the ring back.

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Le Lacrime (Tears)

(2010)

I soaked my pillow with my tears that night.  Though worried that I would tip off the Fiori’s to what was happening, I could not contain the fountain of emotions that were streaming from my eyes.  Anger, frustration, hurt, betrayal.  I had never felt this heartsick.  I pushed my face into my pillow, trying to muffle the wails that were emanating from somewhere deep in my gut.  I wasn’t sure I would ever stop.

After what seemed like an eternity, my tears finally ran dry.  As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, emotionally spent, my eyes feeling like sandpaper, my mind started whirling with questions.  What had happened?  What had I done?  Why was Mario acting this way?  Had I missed something?  Had there been some red flags?  Was Mario going to pull out of it?  Were we still going to get married?  Could I marry someone who acted this way? How could I make him snap out of it?  Had this all been a mistake?

And on.  And on.

The night hours were long as I wrestled with everything that had happened over the past week.  I prayed.  I cried.  I wailed.  I stared.  And then I did it all over again.

Finally I fell into a fitful sleep.  When I opened my eyes the next morning, I felt like I had been run over by a truck.  And I still had no idea what to do.

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La Frustrazione (Frustration)

(2010)

When I woke up the next morning, I was eager to see what the day had in store.  I was cautiously optimistic that Mario was starting to come around and that we could take the steps to repair the damage of the past few days.  While I was not at all happy with this unexpected behavior, and I knew that Mario and I needed to have a serious talk about it, I was more concerned about moving on from the emotional turmoil and healing our fractured relationship.

The morning went as normal.  Mario picked me up after finishing a morning at work and we headed back to his place to have lunch with Nonna.  She had spent the day being the typical Italian grandmother – cleaning and cooking.  As we arrived, the aromas of a delicious bean soup and a fresh smelling apartment greeted us.

As happy as I was for Mario that Nonna could come and stay, I was craving an opportunity to talk to Mario alone, to try and get in his head.  Things were still fragile, and I didn’t want to have this conversation in front of his grandmother.

While we were eating, Mario mentioned that he had to go back to work that afternoon.  There were some specific tasks that needed to be done that day, and he was the only one who could accomplish them.  Wanting to seize the moment, I asked if I could accompany him, keeping him company in his car as he visited all his different vendors.  He nodded his agreement and once the lunch break was over, I found myself back in his car and driving all over town.

It was quickly apparent this was not going to be the moment for a sincere and honest conversation.  Mario’s phone was constantly ringing, and there seemed to be no end to the problems that arose.  Every time I asked for an explanation, trying to understand what was going on, Mario’s frustration seemed to rise.  Obviously he didn’t want to have to repeat everything, especially as the phone would most often ring before he had finished.  Not wanting to push, I decided that the best course of action was to be a silent support.  As we raced around town, Mario talking a mile a minute, I pulled a book out of my bag and started to read.

Mario glanced over quizzically every once and a while, and once he had a break, he asked me what I was doing.  I showed him my book, trying to explain that I was simply happy to be with him, but I didn’t want to prevent him from what he needed to get done, so I was just finding a way to entertain myself.  He nodded, but gave no comment, and I went back to my story.

It was getting late by the time we finished and Mario was obviously tired and frustrated from the way things had gone.  The stress level from his work seemed to be rising daily, but since he didn’t want to talk about it, I felt helpless.  Mario obviously didn’t want to get me involved, and as much as I chaffed from being excluded, I didn’t want to rock the boat.

It wasn’t until after dinner that we finally had a moment.  Mario was driving me back to the Fiori’s, and we had once again descended into silence.  I knew Mario was tired, but I didn’t want to let the day end without having some inkling of how things stood.  I seemed to know Mario less now than when I arrived, and though I didn’t want to panic, things had been steadily crumbling.  The hope that I had felt that morning had dimmed throughout the day, and I was desperate to get us back on the road of repairing.

I should have known better.  From the moment of my first question, the stress and frustration that Mario was feeling seeped into the conversation.  Mario quickly closed down, and once again I found myself completely shut out from his thoughts.  My plan of talking calmly and clearly flew out the window, and I found myself oscillating between pleading, begging and accusing.  I was sick and tired of Mario not trying and for the endless stream of hollow excuses: mostly his work, the distance and the fact that I was leaving at the end of the work.  None of his reasons held up under questioning, but he refused to go deeper and tell me what was actually bothering him.

The conversation escalated into a full-fledge argument.  Though heartsick that we were once again arguing, I was running out of tactics.  Mario was so…apathetic.  Emotionless.  Nothing seemed to faze his stony demeanor and the more emotional I became, the less he seemed to respond.

Finally, in a fit of frustration, I got out of the car.  With tears streaming down my face, I once again begged Mario to think about what he was doing.  It was still completely possible for us to fix this.  All he needed to do was open up and start communicating.  But he had to TRY.  With that final thought, I shut the door and stumbled into the house.

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Una Crepa (A Crack)

(2010)

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.

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La Sicillia (Sicily)

(2010)

Mario’s father was waiting for us at the airport.  After a flurry of welcomes and introductions, we settled into the car and headed for Mario’s childhood home.  It was my first time in Sicily, but with the late hour of our arrival, it was too dark to see my surroundings.  I would have to wait until the next day to catch a glimpse of the land that Mario loved so much.

The entire family (including uncles, aunts and cousins) was waiting to greet us.  As we were ushered in, I tried to keep all the names and faces straight.  A late dinner had been prepared in honor of our arrival and we were quickly seated as the family settled into the communication mode that Italians know best: food.

Mario’s family was very warm and welcoming and I could tell that they were happy to have us both there.  It was going to be a quick trip – less than 48 hours – but I hoped that it would be a pleasant one.  I was looking forward to seeing Mario in his hometown, hoping that I would gain even more insights into the man that I had come to love so fiercely.  I was hoping also that this trip would serve to help pull Mario out of his current withdrawn state and that we would be able to get our communication back to its normal level.

At least that was the hope.

The next day was much of the same.  As I tried to get to know Mario’s family, Mario retreated into his own world.  No amount of questioning would pull him out.  I tried to be patient, but my frustration was growing by the hour.  What had caused this complete shutdown?  It was so unlike the Mario I had come to know and love. I was completely bewildered.

To make matters worse, we were in Sicily.  Where they speak Sicilian.  Though most people on the island can speak “normal” Italian, the norm is to converse in their native dialect.  A dialect that, to me, is completely incomprehensible.

I hadn’t worried too much going down.  I mean, I had translated for Mario all the time when he was in America.  I knew that it was important for Mario for me to meet his family so I was sure that he would help me out.

But that was before silent Mario took over.

As the day continued, and Mario and his family visited, I felt consistently left on the outside.  Even when I would remind Mario that I couldn’t understand what people were saying, he only gave a half-hearted effort to translate.  Furstration turned to anger as Mario’s withdrawal, already baffling, seemed to turn into complete apathy about me and my feelings.  Not wanting to fight in front of his family, I tried ot put on a brave face, but it seemed like everything was crumbling around me.

The only thing that gave me hope was that, throughout the day, there were moments were the old Mario seemed to break through.  Whether during our excursion to explore the nearby windmills, making dinner or roasting chestnuts in the yard, I would catch glimpses of the kind, caring and considerate Mario that I loved.  The moments were brief however, and were quickly followed by a wall slamming down.  A wall that I was desperate to penetrate.

After the last chestnut was roasted, Mario and I excused ourselves to go back in the house.  Claiming to be tired, he headed into his room and lied down on the bed.  I wanted so desperately to talk to him, but I could no longer gauge his moods or his desires.  Did he want me to stay?  Was that my signal to depart for my own room?

Finally, in a small voice, I asked if he wanted me to stay.  Mario barely moved, giving a noncommittal shrug while facing the opposite wall.  Taking a deep breath, I moved in closer, determined to find a way to get him talking.

But nothing worked.  All he said was that he didn’t know what was wrong.  That something was off, but that he couldn’t explain it.  And silence.  Lots and lots of silence.  Finally, in a fit of frustration, I reminded him that a relationship only works when both sides are putting in effort.  I loved him.  I wanted to marry him.  And I was willing to fight with everything that was in me to make this relationship work.

The question was, was he?

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