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Chapter Thirteen – Sant’ Antonio
While I was in bed and undergoing physical therapy for a knee injury that I experienced in Ischia, Italy, I had lots of time to think. It had been four years since college, and I had few friends and no dates. I loved my family, and my cousins have always been like friends to me. But they were all either a bit older with families of their own to raise or a bit younger and still partying like it was 1999. But it was 2004, and I was in my mid-twenties. My career had just taken a major hit; being unable to commute, I had to hustle freelance jobs from bed, all while learning to walk without a limp again.
Things seemed dark. I spent many hours crying while watching HGTV and Nick at Nite. What happened to my plans for conquering New York magazines, getting married, and having kids? So, when Tony – a native Italian from Ischia – started showing me attention, I couldn’t help but be excited. I knew that this relationship had major flaws from the beginning. He lived in Italy, and I lived in the United States. Still, I was flattered. Tony was over six feet tall, had the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen, dark, curly hair (a full head of it in his mid-thirties), and he was funny. And he was attracted to me! In fact, I could hardly believe it.
My relatives in the States, who came from Ischia, warned me to stay away from him. The Italians are all married to their moms or they cheat or both, they would say. My one aunt kept telling me, “You don’t want to go to Ischia. You think it’s nice because you go there for vacation. We lived there. We know. There are no opportunities for young people, so you make little to no money, which is why everyone lives with their parents and kills each other like wolves for little pieces of property. The people are ignorant because they never leave the island. They gossip and destroy relationships. No one works, but they all want from you.”
At the time, I thought they were remembering wrong or that they were mistaking Ischia of yesteryear for Ischia of today. Tony was sweet, and so were all the other people I met there. He comforted me in this difficult period in my life. I liked daydreaming about Ischia and the good times I had had there recently. It was about all I had left lying in that bed. Why did my relatives want to take this away from me?
On the other hand, my parents didn’t say a word. A long time ago, they vowed to keep silent when it came to the personal lives of us kids. They did just that, at first. I would tell them that I heard from Tony, and they knew he sent a gift for me through my sister. But none of us – not even I – knew how serious Tony was…until a fateful phone call in October 2004. I didn’t know it at the time, but that phone call was the beginning of a new chapter.
Some names and identifying characteristics of the real people involved have been changed.
Tune into this Web site, Two Worlds, every Monday for the latest installment in my blog about my experiences in Ischia, and every other Monday to ItaliansRus.com for the latest Our Paesani column about all things Italian. Di Meglio is also the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.