The score was tied 2-2 with time running out. My Azzurri had fought hard against the Reds from Santa Maria Novella. All of us, bodies broken, endured for the glory of our quartiere. Blood flowed freely from cuts above both my eyes and my busted nose. Vision impaired, I could only make out the faintest glimpse of La Angelo Belissima. With both hands I grabbed sand and covered my cuts, temporarily stopping the flow of blood until I could see Her completely. She did not seem frightened at the sight of so many men brutalizing each other; rather, see sat forward on Her bench, biting Her lip, drawn to the violence like Romulus and Remus to the she-wolf’s teet. I knew immediately I must have Her. But even more, at that very moment, I knew I fought not only for the honor of Santa Croce, but for you as well. “Giuseppe, Tommaso, form up on me, for today we die like men!” True to our training, Giuseppe went low on the corridori while Toma launched himself high, capsizing the poor Rossi into the dust. The ball flew out of his arms and I picked it up and ran. Ran towards the goal and towards you. A wall of datori awaited me, fists raised with blood in their eyes. Alessandro picked out the man on the furthest left while Carlo tackled the right flank. I hurtled headlong straight towards the two desperate Reds opposing me. I abruptly stopped, swept the legs out from under the first, but the second wrapped his arms around me and tried to drag me down. I looked up and saw your face again, and determined, I flung him off me, aimed, fired, scored. Azzurri wins.
After the match, while my comrades tended to their wounds and discussed the amount of vino to be consumed shortly thereafter in oceanic proportions, I found you leaving the stands by yourself. “Bella, you seem quite taken with calcio. But you are not Fiorentino, or else I would have fallen in love with you many years ago.” “I’m travelling through Italy to celebrate my graduation.” I asked if you were alone, you said yes, and I pledged my life to protect you on your journey. “Now that calcio season is over, I suppose I could use a vacation. Come with me and I will show you the best this land has to offer.” “You mean like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Venetian canals?” “No, Bella, la vera Italia.”
First stop was the Amalfi Coast. “Mio amore, I did not mention this because I was ashamed, but I must do some work while we are here since calcio does not pay any wages. My amico Christopher has invited us to a soiree on his yacht; you may wait there while I finish my work nearby. I am a, what you say, doppio for a Signor Pattinson who is filming here. He saw me on the calcio pitch one day and, believing there to be a facial resemblance, though proclaiming me as ‘even more bloody handsome’, asked me to perform his action sequences. I believe next I will be pretending to be some kind of batlike creature?” “Batman?” “Yes, Bella, its not Fellini, but a man must pay his bills.” I dropped you off at Christopher’s yacht, otnemeM, and did my stunt work. When I came back, I found the entire party encircled around you, apparently quite amused at some story you were telling. The way you effortlessly drew all eyes upon you captivated me. “And that was when I said, ‘with all due respect, shut up ma’am and let me drive this subway, you’re having a baby.’” The crowd rioted with laughter. “Now that’s what I call executive action!” said Michelle Obama, and the crowd roiled with glee. “Bella, you seem to be the belle of the ball!” “I’m having so much fun! Is that Chadwick Boseman driving the boat”. “Si, but you must keep that a secret.” I crossed my arms across my chest reverentially. “Wakanda per sempe. Did you get anything to eat?” “The food all looks delicious, but I don’t eat meat.” And with that I took off my shoes and my shirt and flung myself over the bow. Within a few minutes I had located a beautiful swordfish. Such a noble creature, his death could only be justified by nourishing my Belissima. The struggle was great, but the majestic fish, knowing he was outmatched, submitted to my will. I dragged him aboard but before I could put blade to flesh you said “You jumped before I could tell you I don’t eat fish either.” “Honorable swordfish, I return you to the deep” and, drawing upon my experience as Italian National Champion of javelin hurled him hundreds of meters into the blue horizon.
Our next stop was to Roma to visit la Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. “I wanted to bring you here to express to you how important my Catholic faith is. I was christened here, as was my padre, as was his, and his, all the way back to the patriarch of my family, Maximus Decimus Meridius.” While we explored the campanile, an old man passed by and said to us, “What beautiful lovers!” “Grazie, Papa”. “Was that Pope Francis?” “Yes, Bella, rumor has it this is his favorite mosaic of Madonna and Child.” We left the Basilica for our reservation at La Pergola. You had the pumpkin risotto with sweetbreads while I had the lamb. As we looked out on il Colosseo, where my great x35 grandfather once died fighting for his freedom, I said “Bella, do you know why this is called the Eternal City? Because, when we love something, or someone, the way that we love Roma, that love is eternal.” Our cheese course came out and I told you about a manchego from La Mancha that would make you believe in God. “I thought you believe in God?” “I do, but this is the cheese god. He has a smaller purview. You should come to Spagna with me, Bella.” “I have to go home tomorrow.” “Well, then, that will be an adventure for another time.” We left the restaurant and went up to my room, the Imperator Suite at the Cavalieri Roma. We made love that night, for the first time. And while I did some things with gelato that seemed to be….new to you, overall our lovemaking was tender and passionate.
The next morning, I took you to the airport. You promised to come back someday. We kissed. And then you left.