I hate romance in most forms. I like love, of course, but romance… not a shot. I like dry boys who say it like it is. I like guys who have no idea what to say and just wind up stating the obvious when it comes to their feelings. Nothing fancy, just the facts. That’s why I hate chick flicks. Hate them with a passion. But, if the scene I found in an old notebook is any hint, I didn’t always feel that way. So, without further ado, I present to all y’all a romantic scene the fourteen-year-old me wrote. Enjoy…? I didn’t… but maybe romance is your thing. I won’t judge.
There were two things I distinctly remember about my two week stay in America. The first thing is the women: beautiful, most of them, but completely lacking in self-respect. The second thing is the surprised looks I always received whenever I told people that, yes, I had lived in Italy all my life and that, no, I had never been to Venice… or Florence… or Naples… or Pisa. The only place in Italy I had ever been, aside, of course, from Rome, was this small coastal town in the heel of Italy. I eventually stopped trying to explain that most Italians preferred to travel internationally when we traveled at all.
All the same, when I returned to Rome I suddenly felt this need to see more of my country. I had a restless feeling in my stomach, the sort of feeling whose only cure is change, the sort of feeling that could only be banished by doing something drastic with my life. So, one night as I was laying, sleepless, in my apartment, I decided to move to Venice.
From an economic perspective, leaving Rome for Venice was the single stupidest thing a commercial accountant could have done. Venice is for musicians, painters, writers, and hopeless romantics, and, while I did love to paint, I was a young businessman who, from the moment of birth, was destined to scale the corporate ladder, not the bell towers of Venice.
Even so, I told my boss, otherwise known as my father, I was leaving for an undetermined amount of time. The man barely blinked an eye as he handed me a blank check and told me to go live a little. I handed it back, reminding him that three years in the business, no vacations not revolving around work, and fairly Spartan living habits gave me more financial liberty than I knew what to do with.
I was able to fit my entire life into one suitcase. I had never seen the need for an extensive wardrobe, so I packed what few casual clothes I owned. I had successfully lost any of the friends I once had; I had never had time and the breaches just gradually widened. It made life simpler, thought; I left my laptop with my parents and I almost left my phone, but something compelled me to take it. Co-dependency. I hated it.
The October sun had just begun to warm the Venetian air as I opened the window above my bed. Venice had been sleeping when I arrived that morning but as the sun rose, so did the people. Yanking on a pair of reds and a shirt, I twisted a scarf around my neck and opened the door of my new apartment.
Venice is fundamentally different from Rome. You can feel the difference as you walk down the narrow, meandering streets, as you sit in a restaurant overlooking the Grand Canal, and as you watch couples walk, hand in hand, out of the numerous shops and cafes.
I hadn’t had time to paint or even sketch since secondary school and the urge hadn’t hit me in years. But walking through the romantic streets of Venice left me with a need to put everything I saw down on paper. Not realism, it wasn’t the city for that. It was built for sketches, at least that’s how I felt. It was built for charcoal pencils, imperfect lines, and careless shading. It was too carefree for realism.
So I ran to a small shop, purchased a sketch book and pencils, and made my way to San Marco’s Square to draw.
I had been sitting in San Marco’s Square for the past two hours and all I had to show for it was a sketch of a pigeon with a four letter English word written above its head. I was horribly out of practice. I was just about to slam down the cover of my book and go find a pub when I saw someone. She was sitting on the edge of the fountain writing in an ancient looking leather book. Her blonde hair was cut short. A large, gauzy pink ribbon was tied in a bow around her head, matching her pink bracelets. Her outfit, a black and white hounds tooth skirt suit, lent itself well to a black and white sketch. I reached for my pencils and began to draw.
She was easy to draw. She stayed very still, only occasionally raising her chin to look up into the sky. Everything she did, no matter how subtle, was done with an elegance I’d rarely seen. She looked so comfortable, so at ease, in the midst of the tourists and the pigeons. She looked pleasantly detached from the whole thing.
Everything came together in the sketch. She looked exactly how I wanted her to look, just how she looked sitting there in the square. The whole picture was done in black and white but I decided to use color on her. It took only a few seconds to touch her bow with a soft pink and color her lips and cheeks a dull rose.
I looked up from my paper only to find her gone, swept away on the autumn sea wind. If I’d been the sighing type, I would have sighed. Glancing back down at the sketch, I almost did; the real thing is always lovelier.
“How much for it?”
I looked sharply behind me. The girl was standing there, arms loosely holding her leather book, an amused smile on her face. I heard myself tell her it wasn’t for sale, allowing a bit of tease into my voice, as I studied her face.
She was beautiful in a different sort of way. Big, blue eyes and an easy smile. It was the eyes that caught my attention. They were teasing me. She had read me in an instant.
“Not for sale? Why’s that?” she asked, one eyebrow arched. She had an accent I couldn’t place.
“No, it’s not for sale,” I confirm, dodging the question, a small plot weaving itself together in my mind.
“Not for anything?” she asked, sliding into the seat across from me, setting down her book, and quickly snatching up my sketchbook. Her eyes scanned the picture and my eyes scanned her face.
“Well,” I began. She looked up at me, a grin making her incredible eyes laugh. “Perhaps I will sell it.”
“For how much?” she asked, handing my sketchbook back to me.
“For one dinner,” I replied, leaning back in my chair, grinning. She shook her head and laughed.
“Of course. And if you pay for my dinner you may keep the picture,” she said, smiling.
“Wonderful. Tomorrow and eight?” I asked. The girl nodded, rising.
“Si, tomorrow at eight. Where will I meet you?”
“I’ll meet you by the fountain,” I told her, wanting her to stay longer but unsure of how to make her.
“Marvelous,” she replied. Picking up her book, she said, “It was nice to meet you…”
The pause was pointed. “Giuseppe,” I said.
“Giuseppe,” she repeated, finishing her sentence.
“And your name?” I asked.
“Serenity,” she said. Then, with a wave and a smile, she was a person in the crowd, weaving through tables and around children with gelato and adults with shopping bags. I wanted to stand on the table and watch her walk away. I wanted to watch everyone watch her, telling the poor huddling masses that I, Giuseppe, a business man at heart had just asked that girl on a date. I, Giuseppe de Pietro had just done something completely rash and unrelated to business.
Instead, I picked up my sketchpad and pencils and went home to lie down. I wasn’t feeling quite right.
So there’s that. I don’t remember where I was or what I was going through when I wrote this (I only remember when I wrote it because the responsible fourteen-year-old me dated the top of the page… nice, Vivaz!) but I can just imagine myself in all my gangly, overly-made-up, just-barely-post-pubescent awkwardness writing this scene, imagining myself as Serenity.
I think we all did (do?) that… imagine ourselves in situations where we are beautiful, alluring, mysterious women (or men! Guys probably do that too!) and all members of the opposite gender are drawn to us like moths to a flame. And that’s us, the flame. We are hot mamas! And they love us! We’re coyly dodging their questions about our past, batting our eyelashes like Disney princesses, and showing off our perfect curves. We’re flirting like Marilyn, dressing like Audrey. We are Aphrodite.
And then we wake up. Or look in a mirror. And all of a sudden, we’re not the alluring lead actress, the star of the silver screen, we’re the goofy comic relief. Ohmylord just LOOK at my nose! It’s HUGE! I don’t have a thigh gap WHERE IS MY THIGH GAP! My feet are so big! Why are they so big? And look how close together my eyes are… like, what? What even is life?
(Notice how everything I pointed out is (more or less) unchangeable. I’ll talk about the changeable “flaws” in another post!)
You will kill yourself trying to change the unchangeable things about you. It’s not fun being eternally unhappy with your appearance. Plus, it’s shallow. Your physical beauty is not nearly as important as your internal beauty. I know you’ve heard that a million times before, but it is the truth. Personality stays, beauty is fleeting. As opposed to staring at the mirror day in and day out, berating yourself over your lack of Angelina cheek bones, Audrey eyes, and Sarah Jessica hair, walk past the mirror, out into the world, and do something good for someone else.
Ladies, here’s the deal. There will always be someone more beautiful than you… because every man, woman, and child has their own opinion of beauty. But to someone, and this I promise you, you will be the most beautiful woman in the world. Regardless of how huge you think your nose is or how close together your eyes seem to be.