polvo magazine

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The Italian

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By Megan Rodgers

“Are you Italian?“ she asked.  He seemed surprised.  That was the best part about being right.  His accent wasn‘t that strong — just the lilt up, the over pronounced final consonant, the short “i“ that slid into a long “e“.  She knew it though.  She had tried to mimic its every variation.

“How did you know?“ he asked.  She had ambushed him.  She had had time to listen, to check all the clues so as not to be wrong: the shoes, the glasses, the jeans, the backpack.  For Italians, the backpack is always the easy clincher.  If it says INVICTA, they‘re Italian.  His mustard messenger bag didn‘t say INVICTA, but it didn‘t scream Midwestern America either.  His jeans had loopy yellow designs stitched on the back pockets.  They seemed homemade.  The shoes were very American, too American, in fact, the kind of American that Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans, covet.  She checked him for Balkan signs: the hair, longish with a little gel; the glasses, heavy, square, maybe Armani.  No, the glasses ruled out the Balkans.  Nothing screamed out Argentinean or Colombian and there was a curve to the lilt that was not Spanish.

“Where are you from?“

“Cecina,“ he said as almost a question.

“I think I know it,“ she said and then immediately regretted it.  She wanted to know it and there was something familiar.  But she was thinking of Chechnya — in Russia.  Was he kidding?  It‘s true, she had forgotten about Russian.  The mouth placement is the same in a Russian accent, only the closure is different.  But then why would he say he was Italian?

“Not to be confused with Chechnya.“

He pronounced Chechnya and Cecina almost exactly the same, though the Russian name had a stronger accent on the “y“.  She had no idea where Cecina was and considered switching the conversation to Italian to, at least, show him how good hers was, especially “for an American.“  But then she thought he might take it as flirting (he was awfully good-looking).  He didn‘t want to draw attention to himself, or his Italianness.  He had been trying to blend in.  She had hated the strangers in Italy who came up to her to practice their English, adding “a“s to the end of all their words and invariably saying “fuck you“ a few times.  That‘s what they know.  He, too, had surely heard his share of New York-ized, “Grease“-ified versions of “Va fa un culo“ in his time in America.  She left him feeling an unearned sense of connection and unwarranted sense of rectitude.  It was a parlor trick afterall.

Megan Rodgers is a Chicago artist now living in Basel, Switzerland.


Written by admin

March 4, 2010 at 2:07 am

Posted in Short Story

Tagged with ,

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