Some men love me. Some love me like a daughter. Some love me because I am their daughter. Some love me when I wear denim, call me blue jean baby like I’m on a bar crawl in downtown Nashville.
Reduce me to my roots. Call me baby or kitty or pumpkin. Judge me by how soft my skin is compared to yours. Daddy used to rub my back before bed and I hated it. His dry palm left scrapes along my spine. His chapped fingers tore me apart. You can’t put bandages on your own back and prayer doesn’t rush the healing. I wonder how much Daddy’s heart cracked when his little girl told him not to touch her. Daddy’s heart always cracks. He cries a lot. I wonder if Daddy ever cried after I yelled at him for not washing my underwear. I feared Daddy’s house for this reason. I hated washing my clothes in the bathroom sink and waiting for them to dry. I wanted Daddy to get rich in quarters just so baby brother and I would always have clean clothes. In the summertime, Daddy hung our bed sheets from the ceiling to save on air conditioning. He moved our mattresses to the living room so that we could all sleep comfortably.
Whenever I use a staircase, I look over my shoulder to see what’s behind me. It’s muscle memory. I am looking for eyes that follow me up each step. I am waiting to feel gross. I hate it. To avoid his eyes, I started sprinting up the staircase, not giving him a chance. My thigh muscles tightened and became strong. My bare feet stamped the carpet. My body adapted to the exercise. Then my chest started growing and he noticed. I wanted to hide from his eyes forever. His eyes taught me how a man looks at a woman. His eyes taught me to wear baggy jeans and sweatpants. His eyes taught me to run.
I ran up the staircase and back into my Daddy’s dry hands. He rubs my back at night and I no longer complain. Daddy looks at me and I look at Daddy. I would never run from his eyes. In the summertime, Daddy used to take baby brother and I to the swimming pool right outside the apartment’s screen door. Daddy only had one bathing suit. It was red. I wore a light pink two piece that criss crossed several times along my back. Daddy helped me tie it. I didn’t care how much Daddy looked at me. To him I was a girl, not a woman.
We used to wrestle on my mother’s golden framed bed. He tossed me on top of the covers and I laughed the whole time. He tickled and poked me. He wrapped me in his arms. I knew Daddy would be upset if he saw us. I didn’t want to betray him. But Daddy, you never have clean underwear for me and I don’t like sharing a room with baby brother. I have my own room here and we don’t need quarters to do laundry. I’m going to stay here until it no longer feels like a family. I wonder how much Daddy’s heart cracked when his little girl told him he doesn’t feel like family.
Now my Daddy holds me and all I feel is family. I want to curl up on the couch next to him and let his dry hands stroke my hair. When baby brother and I went went to Daddy’s house for Thanksgiving I clung to Daddy the whole time. I couldn’t let go. We danced in the living room together. Our bony hips knocked. We cleaned the dishes standing side by side. Daddy’s eyes are harmless and lonely. And maybe I am lonely too.
There is no word for what it feels like to wake up on an island, but there should. I rested my head on Meg’s shoulder, mouth-breathing and warm. The ferry’s windows mocked us with their stiffness and immobility. I just wanted a breeze. I just wanted some relief from the feverish pink that doused my cheekbones like a rash.
When the ferry docked I felt Meg’s shoulder shift. I woke up and instinctively joined the stirring of eager travelers: collecting their belongings, stretching, craning their necks to see the new landscape. Meg checked our seats to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind. I like that about Meg. It reminds me of my mother. Then, like schoolgirls filing out of hot gymnasium, we walked onto the dock with our luggage thumping behind.
We paid a man to drive us to the city center of Capri. He helped pile our luggage into the back seat of a light blue convertible, the kind of vehicle I would expect to see in an old world like Cuba. The suitcases piled high. He asked for my bag but I told him I would hold it in my lap.
We drove upward. The wind flattened my bangs along my forehead and sent the rest of my hair flapping backward like a fibrous flag. Meg sat in the passenger seat. She was laughing and smiling. I felt the smile on my face too. It was like experiencing freedom for the first time. The other girls were laughing too. In all the wind and laughter and freedom, no one remembered to talk. I tilted my head back and raised my arms. The sky was blue like the terracotta statue of the Madonna and Child I had seen in Florence. The inscription read Della Robbia blue. I will never forget that blue.
January 20th, 2019
Today I woke up at 9:30. I made coffee with my new french press and then I read in bed for a while. I did my first load of laundry today. The washing machine is puny. Around 12:15 I ate yogurt and granola. The woman from Italy Excel emailed me back and said she wants to meet at her office. I hope the internship goes through.
I went to Coop today and bought carrots, lettuce, mushrooms, and brown sugar for coffee. It makes the coffee taste sweet and good. I just relaxed all day. Classes start tomorrow. At 5:30 I went to La Chiesa di Santa Maria in Trastevere. I bought a pair of leather boots on my way home from mass because the ones I’m wearing give me blisters.
For dinner I made the following: two-three mushrooms, one garlic clove, 1 oz spaghetti noodles, extra virgin olive oil, red wine, and a salad. Now am drinking a glass of red wine and eating chocolate in my room. Meg and Anna are talking about taking a trip this weekend but is sounds nice to be on my own.
Tonight, everyone in my family is having dinner with someone they haven’t seen in a long time. My dad and I. My mom and her best friend. My step-dad and his daughter. I don’t know my brother’s dinner plans for the night. His friends will probably order a pizza or maybe they’ll walk to the Mediterranean place down the street. My brother loves it there. I do too. The waiters are friendly and they hand out free samples of fresh fruit smoothies. I’ve been there twice with my brother. Both times he ordered the chicken shawarma.
My brother is coming home in the morning. My mom and I are going to pick him up. He brings a laundry basket full of dirty clothes with him every time. No matter what time it is or how early he went to bed, he always sleeps on the ride home. We are getting breakfast tomorrow. My mom and brother and I. My mom told him to invite friends; there are extra seats in her car. She’ll drop them off before we head home.
I met two of his friends about a month ago outside of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I spotted my brother in a wool lined denim jacket and dark washed jeans. He wore a hoodie beneath the jacket. And his white Adidas shoes. He was hunched over, shivering. Hands in pockets. Hood up. Knees knocking. His back was facing me as I approached. I could see his friends’ faces. The girl had auburn bangs. The boy had a mustache. I don’t remember their names or majors or how many layers they wore in the cold. But I remember the brides. I remember the photographer. He pointed to a rectangle of shade for the bridal party to stand in. Shade means good lighting. No harsh sun lines across the face. No shadows. There were so many shivering brides that day. Teeth chattering. Bouquets twitching. The groomsmen jumping. For the love of God, someone give her a jacket.
We walked across the street to the library. Another bride in the stairwell, standing against a stained glass window. She had a white, fluffy shawl covering her shoulders like the fur of a Pomeranian. The photographer was squatting. He touched his fingertips to the floor for balance. A camera case sat beside him with chargers, lens caps, and reflectors protruding through the zippers.
From the top of the stairwell, I peered over the railing and watched the groom watch his bride. I watched him closely, waiting for some proof to cross his eyes or lips. If you love her, I thought. I’ll see it. His arms rested along his torso. He flicked dust from his left shoulder. He leaned closer to the photographer, trying to see the images as they flashed on the camera’s mini square screen. He started to sway. The photographer motioned for him to join his bride. He lowered his chin and skipped a little. I thought he might jog to her. His eagerness made her giggle like a stunted hiccup. If you love her, I’ll see it. With one hand on her stomach and the other on her back, he brought her closer. I saw his lips. He whispered to her through a full faced grin. Whatever he said made her quiet for a moment. Then she laughed and laughed and laughed, looking up at him, leaning into his body. I heard the camera shutter like a machine gun. This is great you two. That’s beautiful. Keep that up, keep that up, keep that up.
January 18th, 2019
I went on a walking tour of Rome today. We went on various forms of public transportation. Isabela was my tour guide. She showed us the Colosseum, the sight of Julius Caesar’s stabbing, and overall how to navigate the city. After the tour I went to lunch in Tiber Cafe and then to a wellness workshop. Anna, Meg, and I went grocery shopping at Conad. I bought pasta, sauce, garlic, Nutella, chocolate, and milk.
We had meeting with our RA’s this evening. Afterwards, I went with Ursella to a pizza place called Pizza Trilussa. I bought two slices of Margherita and two slices of zucchini pizza. Then we stopped at a mini mart. I bought a bottle of red wine for five euro.
We went back to our apartment. I called Lia on WhatsApp and we talked for an hour while I ate. For dessert I had a few pieces of chocolate dipped in Nutella.
A large group of girls went out to eat tonight. I was invited but I just couldn’t bring myself to go.
January 17th, 2019
My other roommate is from Canada. She gave me a sleeping pill last night that brought upon good news and bad news. The good news is that I slept like a baby last night. The bad news is that the pill made my stomach self-destruct. I almost missed my immigration appointment at the post office which cannot be rescheduled.
It rained today so I bought an umbrella from a leather store for 8 euro. As I was crossing the Tiber today, some guy pestered me into giving him money for some foundation. If he would have cut the crap and stopped trying to charm me with his olive skin and light green eyes then I would have gladly donated. I gave him 5 euro. He was disappointed and said 20 would be better.
I applied for an internship today with a company called Italy Excel. If I don’t get this internship then I’m going to do the Flannery O’ Connor volunteer writing program.
I desperately need to buy a french press.
January 15th, 2019
I woke up at 4 a.m. and looked photo albums Denise left on the desk beside my bed. At 6:30, I heard Denise fumbling with the cappuccino machine in the kitchen. I ate a croissant with my coffee just like she said. At 8:00, Denise’s driver, a man of roughly forty named Antonio, picked us up and drove us to the university. Antonio and Denise talked for the entire car ride. I tried to listen for words I recognized.
Move in went smoothly. I am in my apartment now, unpacked and settled. The black, rain-proof boots my mom bought me really hurt. I’ll have to buy a new pair soon.
I just ate lunch with Deirdre in the dining hall.
Everything is so beautiful but I feel a little homesick. My other roommates haven’t arrived yet. I think I live with Meghan Fors. The name tag on the door only says Meghan, no last name.
I’m going to rest now.
It is 10:36 p.m. and Meg is here. It is Meghan Fors and we just said hello. After my nap today, I went to the grocery store called Coop across the Tiber River. I bought yogurt, granola, honey, and tangerines. Then I met up with Anna and we strolled for a bit.