I’m washing my hands. The window above the sink is facing the cute restaurateurs who are sipping coffees and taking business calls. The window is open with a sort of Renaissance wrought-iron cage that some buildings tend to have. Only in Europe, that is.
Italy gives you more intimate glances into people’s lives that would never happen so innocently in America. Fresh bathroom air means a warm, but gawky, glance to the man drinking his cappuccino; meanwhile, I am lathering my hands. It means seeing a girl tripping over the jeans she is pulling on over her lacy black thong in the apartment across from my school window. It means hearing the babies of my neighbors cooing outside, the bustle of the frying pan, and the jabber of Italian back and forth, like morning birds discussing the next juicy worm they would like to catch. All because of a breezy bathroom.
Windows are a source of inequity. A lot of life slips in, and occasionally a glimpse of privacy slips out. After all, it’s through the window that Romeo sees Juliet, alone and ethereal; apparently, as incandescent as the sun. Her remark: Then, window, let day in, and let life out. That shows how much of an escape a window can be. The calm of light pouring in, of rain sloshing against the pane, of trees and mountains grazing by on a road trip. Rapunzel lets down her hair. People pass wine, despite fears of the plague. Someone gets serenaded. Someone else gets screamed at for being too loud. Pigeons scuttle by. There’s a flash of someone crossing the restroom, the sound of a tea kettle boiling, of dogs barking, and the sight of a grandmother resting her hands in prayer on the sill, her neck craning with a dangling string of pearls.
No matter how messy some claim Italian bureaucracy can be, Italy has perfected the details of some of the more important things. The small exchanges that make up daily life are artful, decadent, and undeniably romantic.
It was through the window that I had my own Italian rendezvous. Four months of tinted eye contact, of seeing a mystery man through a blur of what clearly needed Windex; slinging dough, texting and casually smoking a cigarette, while I shyly danced to class. I’d gone by that window in every mood, every state of adjusting to Italy, bitter or elated, under every colour of the sky, in every kind of outfit (the ones that scream Everything Wrong with Americans to what I wore to meet my friends at Nove7 on a Saturday night). Sometimes five or six times a day, I walked by that window, subtly noting how much of his life became a part of mine. The window was doing its thing, creating intimacy by being both a barrier and an opening, a refuge and an escape. When we finally went on a date, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I remarked how little he knew me. His response was, “I know you very well. I see you every day through this window.”