Breadcrumbs by Mimi Vaquer
I once fell in love with an Italian, in spite of my Italian descent.
My mother told me so and so, and said she told me so when I cried
after he left. She was one of the fair-haired Anglo-Saxon women in my
family, who would wring their hands in full ethnic lament when
thinking of the boys they had let get away. Instead they had settled
for handsome. Soap opera handsome with thick hands and sandpaper
I was there when my Nona stood on our front porch with rain dripping
from her hair. I remember because she cried. She was thin and mean
and cried real tears that left ruddy trails on her powdered cheeks. I
listened through the air vent leading down to the den, and learned
that Po-pa had come home from his three week trip to Florence two
years later, his clothes smelling of ripe tomatoes and eau de parfum.
Giovanni was a sailor. His hands were callused from rope, and the
muscles of his arms stretched his skin into shine. He spoke of gold
medals, but sat in the corner of my father's restaurant sipping wine
until the dish boys brought their brooms. The first time we lay
together was on my parent's sofa, when he asked to bring me back to
Naples. I began pushing money into an envelope I kept hidden in my
bedside table. $400 by August, that I eventually spent on a new TV.
A man from the newspaper interviewed me for an editorial that summer.
A hometown love affair with an Olympian. He interviewed my mother
too. When I read the article, I could see the half moons of her lips
on the glass that she drank as she spoke, with her left hand wildly
punctuating each pause. I said that American boys knew nothing of
love. Papa framed the article and hung it by the front door to the
restaurant. I was too young to be embarrassed.
I quit eating after Giovanni told me in his fractured English that my
thighs looked like biscuits. Although deeply insulted, I was
impressed with his simile, and it made me love him even more. I lived
on grilled cheese sandwiches, one a day, and the steak Papa would make
me on Sunday.
I waited for Giovanni at the back river dock on a Saturday. He
rounded the marsh and tied his boat to the pilings before walking
towards me in the green grass. Mina was with baby, he said. Mina in
Naples with tapered fingers. Mina's tiny feet swelling under her slim
calves. Mina, unexpected, expecting. I ran sick to the roots of a
tree, clutching its tall trunk like a toddler clinging to her father's
Six years old. My legs burned after communion when I knelt in false
piety and watched the parishioners pass on their way to the host.
Papa's eyes were tightly shut in prayer, but I saw the lash-long
glances under church-day hats that settled on his face. Mama would
whisper in my ear about God inside of me, while the women thought of
Papa inside of them. Father McHugh stared straight ahead.
My phone rang early on Friday mornings, the time change of no regard,
with Giovanni's voice loud through the receiver. His English suffered
from the lack of gesture, and I struggled to follow through sleep.
His calls stopped in December, but I was no longer sad. I had
filtered it through the passage of time and the four beers I allowed
myself each night. I slept to the glare of my television, the voices
muted and the beautiful faces dancing in the shadows on my wall.
Mimi was born in 1974 in Savannah, GA. Currently, she is pursuing her
Masters at Armstrong Atlantic State University and is also an 8th
grade English teacher. Mimi has previous and upcoming publications in
Willard and Maple, Foliate Oak, Steam Ticket Journal, Oak Bend
Review, and Boston Literary Magazine among others.