An Evening With Fiorella

At Fiorella’s house, there aren’t many rules.  In fact, there really aren’t any, except to be on time for dinner, which is at 8:00pm every night.  I usually make it home around 7:45pm, just to be on the safe side.  Today, however, I was running a little bit late because I stopped by the store on the way home, so I pedaled as quickly as I could, locked up my bike on the sidewalk instead of at the bank across the street like I normally do, and ran up to the fourth floor where we live, with only 5 minutes to spare.  Every evening when she hears me open the door, she always greets me with a cheerful “Ciao!” from the kitchen, so you can imagine my surprise when I walked in the door and there were no pots clanging together, the TV wasn’t blaring, and the cat was meowing at me like I knew where her food was.  Strange, I thought.  Then about two minutes later, my phone rang, and Fiorella’s chirpy voice rang loud and clear.  She was going to be late for dinner.  “That’s fine,” I told her, “take your time.”  Nearly two hours later she floated in the door, whipped up a quick dinner for Hanna and me, and sat down with a cigarette to keep us company.  She was happier than usual (a level of happiness that is hard to achieve!) because she had been at a bar having a drink with her son who was in from Rome.  Hannah has exams this week so she didn’t linger long at the dinner table, but I wasn’t in a rush so I just sat and talked to Fiorella for awhile.  We talked for about an hour as she recounted story after vivid story, all of her best memories, and some of her worst.  I mainly just sat and listened, mesmerized by the depth of her sincerity, grateful that the world had given her some really beautiful things in life and saddened all the more for the tragedies she has encountered.  She has taught me a lot in the short time that I have been living with her.  She has taught me that it is possible to love life with every single breath that you take, even when it smothers you.  She has taught me that putting everything you have into whatever task is at hand can be exhausting yet invigorating at the same time.  She has taught me that it’s the little things in life that really matter the most– a perfectly-cooked risotto (rice), a nice little summer stroll, flowers on the balcony, fresh herbs in your salad, coffee in the morning.  The grandiose things always come and go in life, and at the end of it all, does it really matter that you have the biggest house on the block or the fanciest car in the lot?  Or does it matter more that you love with everything in you, and are loved in return?  That you give abundantly and without expectations to everyone you meet, leaving an indelible mark on each and every one?  I am so thankful to be living here with her, and I can only hope that someday I can have just a fraction of her inexhaustible energy to put forth in the world, that I can open myself up without fearing vulnerability, that I can dance through the mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights, even when things don’t go my way, and that I can someday make one mean risotto, just like Fiorella.

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