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"Amore means love."
"Hey, mom.., can I pop into this little book store down the street? It's not even a block away."
"Sure, Harley, but meet me at the little Café building next door in 30 minutes. Got your cell phone?"
My name is Harley Davis. Not Hayley, Harley. Har, instead of Hay. My parents and I are in Venice, Italy for our annual one- month summer vacation. I've seen a lot of Europe, like Paris, London, and Munich. But never Venice before...and now, here I am...and I'd say it's overrated; it’s way too crowded here. So much, that I can't enjoy the huge lion and angel statues that watch over the city. It’s too noisy. People pushing and shoving to get to where they want to go with their cameras, flashes all over the place, too much English and not enough Italian! I mean, one of the main reasons I was looking forward to the trip was to expand my Italian and learn some new things in the culture, but, nope! The only things that separate this place from America, in my opinion, are the canals, the food, the money, the occasional real Italian local, a few Italian words maybe, and the gondolas. They’re too busy anyway, though. All the snobby tourists push past you to be first in line as if they’ve been doing it for years, and honestly, I'm fed up with this place. Or maybe it’s just the people, can’t be sure which. What's the point of staying here if I just can't see over the heads of all the tourists...I'm short for my age, you see. I'm 14 and a half years old, and about five feet. I hate being short. People always think I'm twelve. Originally, I'm an American, born in Box County, Pennsylvania, but as much as I travel the world with my parents, you might as well say I don't live anywhere for long. My family has always been rich...we have countless houses and condos in various countries; my dad’s job pays well (too well if you ask me) and I’m the only kid. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not spoiled! I don’t ask for much. I mean, that camera I begged mom for was only 300 dollars. And the skateboard from grandfather (an early Easter present) couldn’t have cost him more than 100. I’m so used to getting what I ask for whenever I ask for it. Until...well...just keep reading.
I walked out of the antique shop that my mom was obsessed with, the one with little trinkets and nick nacks in the shapes of gondolas and lions, and stepped out onto the packed side walk. I'd already learned how to push past tourists with ease and no guilt. They were used to it, anyway. Ever since my parents and I had first arrived here in Venice, I'd wanted to check out a small bookstore across from our hotel. We were staying for a few more weeks, in a hotel called, "Benvenuti a Tutti" Which means, “Welcome one and all.” The hotel was alright, but this bookstore had something special about it. There were things like Christmas lights hung all around the small building, and the windows were huge, so that one outside could easily see the entire inside. There were seats in there, next to book shelves and coffee tables. I felt almost drawn to the store, and it was odd that I actually went in to see what was so special about it, because I wasn't much of a reader. As I neared the book store, the crowd thinned, which to me, meant that this little shop wasn’t very popular to them. I suppose, all of them were only interested in a gondola ride (expensive no doubt). There was no one walking or standing near that book shop; seemed like quite the place not to be. All the same, I opened the door and stepped inside. A tiny bell that was taped to the top of the door rang softly as I walked in. The store was hardly occupied by anyone. There was a small counter in the corner where one could pay for books, and a young lady with red hair pulled back into a tight pony tail stood behind the counter, and she gave me a smile.
"Buongiorno," she said, which I knew meant, "Good day." I smiled back and nodded at her, then continued to examine the small store. Book shelves...a few customers...a window seat...and that was pretty much it. That is, if you don't count what was on the walls of the place. All four walls were covered in posters, newspaper articles, and pictures of nearly everything! Fruit pictures, animal pictures, children portraits, and cartoons. There was a small radio sitting on the counter, and from the radio came a love song that I recognized. I stepped farther into the store, and caught sight of a book not too far into the room called, " L'Italia è meglio scherzi. " I didn't know what that meant...my Italian was very limited. I picked up the book, opened it, and found it was full of cartoons and a lot of Italian words I had never seen before. I liked the cartoons, so I went to sit down on the window seat, which had a cushion on it that looked quite comfy with no one occupying it. Making myself comfortable, I settled down and began to study some of the words in the book. “Perché...” I read to myself inside my head, “Avete...”
Suddenly one of the customers in the store walked loudly up to the desk, and said, in an impatient tone,"Mi scusi, ma vi capita di avere questo in carta posteriore per me? Mio padre ha chiesto per me di acquistare questo per lui." I looked up, curious as to who was speaking so loudly. A teenage boy, maybe 15 or 16 was standing in front of the desk, holding up a thick paper back to show the employee.
The poor woman couldn't help him, and I could tell she was flustered as she replied, "Mi scuso , ma non sono più in vendita questa carta indietro." What in the world could they be talking about? Their conversation went on for a few more minutes…
"Sapete di un luogo dove avrei potuto trovare in edizione economica?"
"Scusa ... no".
The boy, obviously agitated, sighed with annoyance, and disappeared behind a book shelf. I couldn't see his face, but I was instantly annoyed with him because his tone of voice was disrespectful to the girl that worked behind the counter...I couldn't understand what he'd been saying, of course, but his voice was just different from any other voices I'd heard. I stood up slowly, and casually walked to a table where books were piled high. In a very nonchalant manor, I set down my book, and walked about the store, as if I was merely taking a stroll. I hid my annoyance, and looked at some more old copies of Italian books. I finally found one English book, a translator, with the Italian word, and the meaning of the word translated into English. I flipped through it, and found it was in almost brand new condition, and the pages smelled like strawberries. I checked the price of the book: “25 dollari,” it read. I checked my pockets for the 10 or 15 dollars of Italian money my dad had given me for a souvenir. A book like this would come in handy for the few weeks to come before we left Venice. All I found in my pockets was 11 dollars, and 27 cents. So much for getting the book. I continued to wander in the store, weaving my way in and around tall book shelves, getting lost in my thoughts, and dizzy from all the Italian words I saw. Then, as unexpected as a lion becoming friends with a lamb, I heard from behind me, “Tu non sei italiana, vero?” I whirled around, to see the young boy who had spoken earlier. What was I supposed to do? It sounded like a question…I didn’t know Italian! What would I do? Tell him in English that I couldn’t talk? He wouldn’t understand…Then I remembered the translation book.
I held up one finger, and uttered, “Wait”, and, seeing that he got the point, began flipping through my only means of communication trying to find something to say to him in Italian…but when I looked back up at him…he was gone. Where in the world…?
“Boo!” I gasped and whirled around again, to face the annoying boy.
“What…why…who-” I stuttered, thoughts passing through my mind as fast as a jet plane. The boy-whoever the heck he was, had a huge smile on his face, and his dark eyes sparkled as the smile lines became more pronounced on the boy’s face.
“Ti ho paura! Ti ho paura!” he shouted. The girl behind the counter peaked around the book shelf that hid the boy and me from her view in curiosity. She smiled as the scene made itself clear to her eyes. She let out a chuckle, and went back to whatever she’d been up to. The boy couldn’t stop snickering, and as he recovered from his laugh attack, I had time to look him up and down; old worn out jeans, high top blue chucks (that looked much too small for his feet) a black and white striped shirt, (that made him look like a sailor,) and a long big black coat. The boy needed a haircut, and his curly brown hair covered his entire forehead and his ears. When I looked into the boy’s eyes, a surprising smile appeared on my face. As soon as I realized I was smiling, I stopped, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of making me laugh. Instead, I began reading the Italian translation book, so I could say something to the boy. On the greeting page, there were Italian words like, “Ciao” which meant “Hello.” So I tried it…”Ci…urrmm…ciao...” I said, with a hint of being unsure in my shaky voice. The boy’s smile faded a bit…then got huge, turning into a grin that showed all his clean teeth.
“Buongiorno” he said kindly. I knew what that meant already, so I looked at the book again, searching for more things to say.
“Ion non non parlano I’italiano” means “I do not speak Italian.” I said it, with more confidence this time.
“Ahhh” said the boy slowly. “Di dove sei?” he asked.
I quickly looked up what he’d said in my translation book. He’d asked where I was from. “Maryland ... l'America ". I replied. He nodded, and came closer. I casually backed a few steps away. I looked down at my book, and after quite a few minutes of studying the translation book, I managed to say, “Quindi perché stavi ridendo di me?” Which means, “So why were you laughing at me?” The boy looked confused and shook his head, shrugging. I looked back at the book. Had I mis pronounced something? I tried again. “Quindi perché stavi ridendo di me?” This time I put more effort into the accent part. The boy really never stopped smiling. He was suffering from another laugh attack now, and that was when I got mad.
I slammed the book shut, with a sour expression on my face as he cracked up. I stared as he laughed and laughed, so hard, that he could hardly breathe. Finally, I began to walk away. I didn’t like that boy for taunting and laughing at me, and why should I stick around for him to just keep laughing? And I shouldn’t even be talking to any strangers in this weird place. I checked my watch and decided I’d check out a few more books and then meet my parents at the Café. I went as far away from where the boy was as I could.
I found myself in a corner, surrounded by shelves and a small table with magazines on it. I removed the boy from my mind, and continued looking at books. The boy…followed me to the corner. He was smiling…as usual. “You speak dreadful Italian!” He said. I was stunned…the boy could speak English?!
“You speak English?” I asked.
“Yes, I do.” He replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I said angrily.
“I was having fun listening to you speak horrid Italian! I’m fluent in Italian, though. I’ve lived here for 13 years.”
Why was he telling me this? “Well…that’s great. Glad I could make you laugh.” I really wasn’t glad. I wanted him to leave me alone after he’d had his fun with me.
“So…you’re from America, then?” he said. I flipped my hair, (trying to look impressive) and scanned a book about how they built the lion statues in Venice, and kept my eye contact away from the boy as he continued to talk to me.
“Yep…just visiting.” I said.
“You got a name?”
“I have a name, yeah…”
“You don’t have to tell me, ya know. But mine’s Marty.”
I looked up at him with wonder and innocent curiosity. “Your accent…you sound British.” I said.
“That’s because I am!” he said grinning again. “Spent 2 and a half years of my life in England, and then my dad had to move here because of his job. And…well, he dragged me and my mum along with him.”
“You said you’ve lived here 13 years, right? Then you’re 15?”
“Yes, ma’am. 15 years, 12 days, and… I dunno how many hours or minutes.” I smiled at this. For some reason…the boy, (without me wanting him to) had captivated me in a way. I was actually interested in his story as he continued to explain where he grew up, who his parents were, and then he asked all about me. “How old are you?” was one of the first questions.
“14,” I said, and then stopped myself. What in the world was I doing? I didn’t know him…not personally, but by now, I knew a lot about him. I still had to be careful.
“You want me to read you some Italian from the books?” he asked when the conversation got boring.
“Um…sure.” He grabbed the book I held, and read the cover, “II Piu Divertente Scherzato in Atalia”…that means “The Funniest Jokes in Italy.” He began to flip through the book and read a few jokes. For the better part of 30 minutes, Marty read and read to me, the funniest jokes I’d ever heard. Not the kind that go, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” or, “Knock, Knock”, they were actually really funny. So funny, that at one point we both had such bad laugh attacks that were had to lean on one another, and steady ourselves, so we wouldn’t fall. More and more time passed as I laughed, in fascination of this boy and how he could so easily be himself. Finally, something caused me to glance at my watch. “Oh no! I’m late to meet my parents!”
Marty looked up at me from the book he’d been reading. “What?” he asked.
In reply, I said, “I told my parents I’d meet them at a café, and I’m 20 minutes late. I’ve got to go…” Marty frowned. “Let me walk you!” he said. “You probably don’t have any idea where you’re going anyway, but as for me, I know my way around!”
I stared at him for a few seconds, thinking about what to say. He’d been really kind…and I had been wrong to judge him when I didn’t even know anything about him. “Well…I guess it can’t hurt” I said. “You bet your sneakers it can’t.” That made me laugh! Marty was funny, I thought.
As we made our way to the door, I suddenly stopped, and walked back to the counter. “Wait! I want to get this” I told Marty, who followed back with me. Marty told the woman behind the counter that we wanted the book, and she nodded and told us how much money it would cost. “She says 25” said Marty.
“I only have 11…” glumly, I began to walk away to put the book back on its shelf.
“Nah, wait!” Marty said, grabbing my shoulder. “I’ve got money ya know!”
“But I couldn’t just take your money…and anyway, I don’t absolutely need this book.”
Marty wasn’t listening; he was reaching inside his pockets and pulling out bill after bill of money.
“Don’t you fret,” he told me, “here you are, it’s on me!” He sped back to the counter before I could stop him. He slammed the 25 dollars onto the counter in front of the woman, who smiled, and laughed.
“Now that you’ve got that book paid for, what do you say we go now? Wouldn’t want your parents to worry.” I nodded and followed Marty to the door. However, as I passed the counter for the last time, the young woman leaned close to me, as if she was going to tell me a secret, and she said, in English, “I’d watch out for Marty. He’s very nice.” She smiled, and winked at me. I smiled back; astonished that she could speak English like Marty and me.
About 5 minutes later, Marty and I sped down a dim ally way, or, “a shortcut” as Marty had put it.
“We’ll be there in a few more seconds! Just you wait and see!”
I was liking Marty’s personality more and more as we went along, and wondered if I had finally found someone to be real friends with. Back in America, I hadn’t been friends with any of the snobby or popular girls at my school; in fact I had no friends. Marty appeared to be my exception.
“Here we are!” Marty said, leading me down a sidewalk, reaching a building and swinging the door open for me. Once inside the shop, I spotted my parents, who immediately jumped up and began asking,
“Where have you been?! What were you doing? Who’s this?” My father pointed to Marty at this last question. “Oh, that’s Marty. He’s my friend.” Marty smiled triumphantly, with his hands on his hips, and a sparkle in his eyes. My dad shook his hand, and said, rather loudly and slowly,
“Do…you…speak…Englishhh?” He kept the shhh sound going after “English.” Marty nodded briskly, and said, “I do, sir, very well, actually. I’ve been living here all my life, so I speak Italian also.”
Over the next half an hour, my dad was fascinated with Marty’s languages, his past, and his present life. We invited him to have lunch with us, and he agreed happily, sitting down with us at our table as we enjoyed Italian pasta. While my dad asked Marty all about his life, my mother was whispering to me…
“So…he’s cute. Do you like him?” I laughed, and shrugged. “Mom, he’s just a nice person.” My mom gave me a sly look and a wink, but didn’t ask anymore. However, I eyed Marty in a different way after that. Could my mom be right? And did I consider Marty as “cute?”
We all spent most of the day there enjoying our food and talking in that little café, and half way through the meal, as my parents were distracted with the waiter, I turned to Marty and asked, “Marty, what does that word mean in Italian?” I pointed to the sign in front of the café. The word was, “Amore”, and I had not heard it before. Marty looked up at me from his pizza, and smiled warmly. He looked at the sign, back at me, and then back at the sign again. “Amore…” he said, “means Love.”
Not long after that my parents and I left Venice. After arriving home, it seemed like all I ever talked about after that was Marty; Marty this, Marty that, until my father looked at me in the eyes one day and said, rather annoyed, “That’s it, we’re going back to Venice and we’re going back soon.”
My parents agreed to visit again, and again every few months so that I could spend time with my “best friend”, Marty. In our third visit to Venice, about a year after the first, my dad allowed me to go out with Marty.
4 years later, Marty and I had a solid relationship going.
6 years, long distance relationship, and still, no breakup.
8 years, Marty popped the question.
10 years, Marty and I have a home in Venice, get visits from my parents every so often, and work in the book shop that we first met.
Also, in my spare time, I give advice to dating people about long distance relationships.
My life is the way I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve got Marty, and he’s got me. We’ve got the perfect life, and where did it all start? In the little book store that I was drawn to explore. And my favorite part of my story so far, was the fact that Amore means Love!