I had a minor meltdown Monday night after a concert I heard in Bologna. Too much tension, I suppose. I can push my inner ferrari at 300km an hour, but eventually the engine just shuts down. I found myself slipping out of the church in the full knowledge that people were waiting for me. With every step I took away from San Petronio, my inner voice rose in protest: “where do you think you’re going?”.
I took a left turn and entered a friendly bar.
“A glass of local red, please.”
The bartender handed me a smooth Sangiovese, and I sat with my back against a wall of organic pasta and olives with my eyes closed. There was nothing else to do but sit quietly and hope the buzzing feeling would pass.
I flipped open my phone and wrote a message: ‘Go on to dinner without me. Enjoy yourselves, it was a lovely concert!’.
Then I ordered a second glass.
By this time the bartender, waiter and waitress were paying attention to my face. “Mangia,” he said. “Non hai mangiato niente. Tu non stai bene. Dai! Mangia qualcosa.” (Eat. You haven’t eaten a thing. You’re not well. Go on! Eat something.)
If tears roll down your face in Italy, the world brings you food.
I picked up a chunk of parmesan and sipped my wine. Then an olive. And another. They smiled and went about their business.
Eventually I paid my bill and gathered my bag to fizzle out into the warm cobblestoned street. And as I went a deep voice called out sweetly: “Ti aspettiamo”.
They’ll wait for my return.