A Italy: Tears and Recovery
By Trudi Russell
(pictured above on the right)
At a time in my life where I found myself questioning if my living was in vain, if all that I had invested in someone else was fruitless and what would come of the next chapter in my life; I went to Italy. I guess I could say that Italy was my own version of the book and movie, Eat, Love, Pray because for ten days that is exactly what I did.
Coming out of a seven year relationship and a broken engagement I was shattered; I was looking for something that was intangible, something that would take my mind off of standing on the window ledge of my six floor Harlem apartment building and jumping. While six floors may not have been a lengthy enough fall for me to die from, it would have at least transferred the pain from my heart to my body and I could shift focus of the mental and emotional turmoil that was roaring inside of me. I even thought to cancel my trip. What was the point?
I had been crying my eyes out day and night anyway, why take what I could do alone in the confinement of my apartment to another country and risk the chance to being asked what was going on with me. I wouldn’t answer, I would be shut down and women who didn’t know me would think I was a total bitch because that is what I felt like and that is what I was, at least to myself.
In the days leading up to the trip, I would receive a flood of emails from Blackgirltravel stating all the options of activities that would be offered, itineraries, tips on how to pack, advice on how to live for ten days amongst the Italians, being immersed in their culture and how not to offend them. Upon receiving each email, I would try to feel excitement, but I felt nothing. Then one evening, Katrina, my assigned roommate, contacted me via facebok. She came across as being sweet and welcoming. We corresponded for a while on that evening and then I disconnected from facebook; disconnecting myself from the world, hoping not to be found and I thought I had succeeded, until Fleace called me and told me that my roommate was trying to get in contact with me. She told me that she forwarded Katrina my email address and wanted to notify me that she would be emailing me. I thought, gosh, this chick is relentless. Why not just meet me at the airport with the rest of the other women traveling? But God had another plan for me, for us; he used Katrina as an angel who, I later found, would hold my hand through the pain.
Within days I found myself at JFK airport, plastering on a smile, convincing myself that this was the right move for me, telling myself to be open to newness, happiness and a different experience. I met beautiful and distinct brown faces, women from all walks of life who had come far and wide to share the experience of Italy with me and me with them. I wondered if they would have any impact on my life; they did. I thought that I would be crying for ten days straight, that I would look as dead as I felt before boarding Delta flight 246 to Rome, Italy. Instead, I could not have felt more alive. Suddenly, as if a magic wand was waved over me, I was distracted from my pain and pushed into a city and culture that was colorful, vibrant and alive. I was inspired to project and give back the same energy that Rome was giving to me. And when I opened myself up to that, a new perspective and relationships started to form.
The thing I love about what Fleace gave me and other women, who were open to the experience, was a bond. A bond that will link me to Ruth Bobo from Minneapolis, Katrina Duty from Chicago, Shawnada Green and Jamie Reed from New Jersey, Candice Smith from St. Louis and Taaj Muhammad and Tiffany Norwood from Los Angeles; women who impacted me; women who opened up to me; women who let me know that I am not alone; women who could sit and marvel at the things that stood before us; women who I will probably be in contact with for a long time or even a lifetime; women who embraced me and shared this experience of Italy with me; women who allowed me to feel safe in whatever emotion I expressed with them. A sisterhood is what was created.
It goes without saying that the cuisine in Italy is some of the best in the world. The ricotta and red sauce ravioli was my favorite and the gelato is just sinful. All flavors too! Watermelon, mango, coconut, strawberry, there wasn’t a flavor that wasn’t offered. Each bite of flavored substance that entered my mouth was a spiritual experience. I would close my eyes, sit back in my seat and grunt to each morsel of food that was swallowed.
The Ristorante in Capri was one, of many, of my favorite restaurants in Italy. This restaurant stands out to me most because the food was outstanding and the walls were covered with pictures of every celebrity dating back to the late 70s, who had walked their floors. It was a modern day Studio 54 of restaurants, in the sense that everyone who is anyone has dined there and there I was taking pictures with the owner, chef and the women I connected with, pictures that will be added to the collection of celebrity filled walls.
An advantage of this tour was that I was able to customize it to my own liking, go at my pace and get all that I wanted to get from Italy. While most of the girls did every tour offered, I found myself on an express train to Florence, Firenze, as pronounced by the natives. I had a window seat, my iPad, music, journal and my thoughts. How drastic they had changed from jumping off of a window ledge to wanting to do and see more in my life. I did the same in Venice, walking through and snapping pictures of the narrow canal like passageways, watching an Italian woman hang dry her clothes from the window of her apartment and questioning why in Italy it seemed like the right to do, but in the states the first thing I would think, depending on where one lives, is, ghetto. I watched her attach each clothing pin to the line with concentration and precision. It looked like a scene out of a movie, that was definitely an, oh my God I’m in ITALY, moment. The gondolas that floated by with couples listening to Italians sing passionately with the assistance of their accordion, sent chills up my spine. I went from wanting to die to Italy. What a resurrection.
Sorrento, the last part of the trip, was a city that meant the most to me. Standing on the terrace of the hotel that gave me a full view of water and waves for eternity, the Amalfi Coast is what I was experiencing. With each wave that rippled through the water, it symbolized life to me, how it keeps moving even through pain. That was a moment where I felt closer to God. Sorrento was also the city where I had one of the best lunches of my life with Shawanda and Jamie. This particular day was so powerful for me because I went through a whirlwind of emotions and even snap decisions.
As I sat with these two women who shared their life experiences and pain with me, telling me about the things and people who had changed them forever, I contemplated sharing my own story until Shawanda shed her first tear and broke down. Jamie, who is funny, lively and will drop it like it’s hot at the drop of a dime, was crying too, hiding her tears behind her oversized shades. The environment was safe, raw and open; it was there where I began to speak my truth. After a couple of hours of pizza, gnocchi, and wine we went from pain to laughter and it felt good, liberating and free of judgment.
Our waiter, who was a gorgeous Italian man, came over to lighten the mood even more. We laughed and joked with him, taking pictures and at one point I even told him how beautiful he was, not expecting anything to come from it, but paying a genuine compliment. Once we paid our bill we were on our way, smiling and waving bye to the waiters who were fascinated by the fact that we were black. My beautiful Italian waiter smiled at and beckoned for me with his hand and said, in his thick accent, “Come, come.” Shawanda and Jamie gave me an inquisitive look and agreed to wait for me.
As I followed this sexy, swaged out Italian beauty toward the back of the restaurant, he led me to their well kept individual bathrooms, stood in the doorway of one of them, held out his hand and said, “Kiss me…” I stood there, frozen, making sure that I heard him correctly through his accent. He said it again, “Kiss me.” Yes, I heard him correctly, but what was I to do? No one had ever called my bluff like that before, especially not at their work establishment where tons of tourists, locals, co-workers and the owner of the restaurant were within a ten step radius. I got scared. I laughed the awkward, uncomfortable feeling off and ran out of the restaurant and directly into Shawanda and Jamie.
“What? What happened? What did he want with you?” They were wide-eyed and expectant. After I told them what had happened they jumped, screamed at the top of their lungs and asked, “Did you do it?” When I told them I had not we all looked at each other for a moment, coming to the same conclusion and almost simultaneously, they grabbed my bags and I ran back to my beautiful Italian. He was waiting for me. We communicated through our eyes, no language barrier there, as I ran back to the bathroom. Before I knew it, the door was closed behind him, I was pushed up against the wall and we went at it… And just like that, he added another dimension to my life. I was already having the best time ever, but that moment was something I’ll always remember and icing on my Italian cake. It wasn’t the physical act of kissing that stays with me, but rather the impulsive, exciting, passion for life this man transferred over to me. I needed it!
He had no fear or reservation in stating what he wanted. He wanted to kiss me and whether I said yes or no, he made sure before I left his restaurant that day that his intentions were clear. No sugarcoating, no bullshit, but rather a full-fledged, I want you. I found that this is the way Italians live their lives, intentional, carefree and in a way that inspires them. That is a gift that I took back to New York with me. I wear this new found perspective like one of the fabulous leather bags I bought there and when people ask me where I got this new attitude from, I smile to myself remembering my beautiful Italian; never mind his real name.
Italy was everything for me. It was the trip of my life and the trip that came to me at this extremely difficult point in my life.
Now, there were 64 women on my tour and I came across some disheartening stories of one or two personality clashes and misunderstandings on occasion, but that wasn’t my experience. I didn’t attract or position myself in a space where I was even subjected to any nonsense or mischief. Interesting how we all were on the same trip, did most of the tours together, but each of us has a completely different experience and perspective on what Italy was to and for us. This is what you, too, will get if you decide to become a Bella.
My Italian experience wasn’t the same as my roommate’ Katrina (pictured below). Each night we would congregate in our room, where she would be excited to hear about my adventure of the day, telling me that I was having a completely different trip from her and how inspired she was by my balance of independence and camaraderie. I left New York emotionally disoriented and depleted, but during my hiatus in Europe, I met seven sistahs, three in particular, who picked me up, dusted me off and held my hand, they’re still holding it, and showing me that there is life past my pain. It was the inspiration of these women, perfect strangers, who encouraged me to live either through their example of courageousness or either by voicing it to me.
It was Candice and Adzoa who danced behind me at a local outdoor roman lounge, while Eleanora, a high spirited, tattoo clad, edgy, sassy, fun and exciting roman chick, danced with me, twirling me around, instructing me to “Shake it to the ground girl!” She had no qualms about letting me know, through her soul and confession, that she was a black girl too. It was Shawanda and Jamie who gave me the silent go to make out with my beautiful Italian. It was Katrina who held me while I cried and it was Fleace who gave me a safe space to explore a place where I reconnected with myself in a way that I never have before. I went to Italy, rediscovered Trudi and got kissed along the way. Not bad for my first European trip.
About Trudi Russell
Trudi is a Los Angeles, California native who now resides in New York, NY. Currently working in Corporate America and a part-time student at City College New York University, she strives to write for some of the most popular women's and fashion magazines on the stands. Contact info: email@example.com
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