Saturday, March 04, 2006

Assisi, But He's No St. Francis

One thing nice about having a friend with lots of air miles is that you never know when she’ll decide that half-way around the world is “in the neighborhood,” and jump on a plane to get there. I was in a car, leaving Tuscany for Umbria to Assisi and a house in the hills. Nancy was friends with a couple who had a house there. She skied with them several times a year. They’d invited us to stay with them for a week.

I wasn’t much of one for staying in a stranger’s house, but an adventure with my best of friends in the hills of Umbria was too good to pass up.

I arrived at a villa. Do you call it a villa in Italy? It was fabulous—a movie set should look so good. I sat in the car for at least five minutes looking at it, thinking this was a place where you change into your best jeans for breakfast. Nancy would do fine with these folks. She could have been a senator’s wife or an ambassador. She was made of that kind of stuff. Me, I wasn’t so sure I’d know the right way to say, “Hello.”

I was greeted at the door by a bronzed couple with smiles that made my eyes hurt. She was sunlight. He was a rain cloud in autumn, dark with thunder and leaves gone to mush. She had a certain knack for ignoring him. I had a certain inclination for feeling everything she ignored. Nancy came down from the room upstairs and showed me around the place. She saved our room with the view for the very last.

The mornings were spectacular. We pushed open the shutters and saw the sunrise over the hillsides. The afternoons were frivolous—two friends in a car, exploring the countryside, including the history of the famous saint, Francis, who came from these parts. The evenings were dinner with three friends and one exceptionally bad-tempered man. My friend and hers had their ways of ignoring him. I had my ways of not saying, “ouch.” The late nights were conversations with stars coming in through the crack before we closed the shutters.

We talked about the mean man downstairs.

It was like a slumber party. She was in her bed. I was in mine. We talked in the dark.

“Ooooh how rude he is. That guy makes me crazy,” I finally said on day three or four. “He has all this, and he can’t find a way to be happy. Why does he say mean things? I just don’t get it.”

“Yeah, he’s a bit much. I’ve never spent this much time with him before.”

“What’s ironic is we spent the day hearing about a guy who gave up everything and got named a saint. Then we spent the night listening to a guy who has everything complain about nothing.”

“Maybe we should call up some relative of St. Francis.”

“They're probably sleeping. Besides, what would they do?”

“I don't know. You're the Catholic. Maybe they'd pray for us.”

“Oh, it's prayer you want? How's this for now? . . . God, grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept those I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference. A prayer for Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky.”

“Does that mean we don't get to tell him that he's an idiot?"

“Let me see. Nope, there's no binding rule there that says we can't do that.”

“Okay, then. Amen.”


“Good night.”

“Good night.”

—me strauss Letting me be


Eric Mutta said...

Hey Liz, this was a lovely post :-)...and that last conversation there was refreshingly humourous!

ME Strauss said...

Hey Eric,
Thanks for stopping by. It's good to see you. Hope you're doing well.

I'm glad you got a chuckle from this one. I had a chuckle again reading your comment.


Silly Adventures said...

your italy read-bites with the nice pix make a nice reading in the evening. thanx.

mergrl said...

just great my friend, another snapshot picture for my minds vacation, can just see the villa :0)

love those late nite girl talks :0)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Silly Adventures,
"Read-bites" What a fine term that is! Thank you!

You made my day with your comment.

ME Strauss said...

Hi mergrl,

Isn't that view just spectacular?

Gosh wouldn't you and I and Nancy have the best fun there? We'd give that guy a run for his money . . . Those late night girl talks are the best . . . aren't they?

You're a wonder.