By Sarah Schneider - Jul 13, 2018
C met me at Milano Centrale. I had spent the morning wandering around the station and sleeping on the steps in the sun. We didn’t kiss when we saw each other on the platform, and I handed him a hardboiled egg I had brought in my backpack. On the train, I asked him if he missed me and told him it was hard for me to separate and come together again. We kissed and went to the bathroom to have sex, but he came with the condom on before he was inside me. Back in our seats, he felt embarrassed and I told him it would be weird if he didn’t come quickly after not seeing each other. C looked out the window and I fell asleep on his lap. From the station at Sestri Levante, we walked up into the hills to our airbnb, stopping at a little shop where the Italian woman sold us packaged ice creams with soggy cones. We walked for over an hour, and a lot of it I was quiet, thinking how can I ever be happy again? At the house, where our hosts spoke to us in Italian, our room was cool and dark, the windows shut, only slits of light from the spaces in the closed wooden shutters. We had sex, C came, then he gave me head, then we had sex again and we both came. At the end I said “wow” and he smiled. We lay in bed naked and I talked about my anxiety and sadness in being long distance. He said he understood, but he knows some day we will live in the same place. I cried and he said he didn’t expect to see me cry. It was dark, and we walked out into the cool night air, along quiet winding mountain roads, past huge squashes hanging down concrete walls from people’s gardens. We ate pizza on the patio of a little restaurant and talked about Italian culture and American politics. We walked home past barking dogs, kissing and making jokes. Before bed, C gave me head in a modified 69 position, as I lay on top of him. Afterwards I asked, was your finger in my bum? He said, my finger is always in your bum. We told each other we love each other and fell sleep, me as the little spoon, and I slept very well.
We slept in and when we woke up, C went out and said our hosts invited us for breakfast on the terrace. Outside, it was cool and sunny and there were mountains all around us. Our host was playing catch with her dog in the front yard and C had made us a pot of tea. Our host gave us milk and cookies, and we ate them while looking at a map of where we would walk that day. C said we should walk all the way to the next campsite, in Rapallo, which was seven hours from us, much further than I expected. We tried to lighten our bags, and I threw all my copper money into the trash. Our hosts drove us in to Sestri Levante, while their dog slept with his head on my lap in the back seat. From the station where they let us off, we started walking. We were excited to be in Italy, with the bright sunlight, cream-colored buildings, and blue sea. We walked through a tunnel along the coast with arched windows cut through thick concrete looking out to the ocean. We jumped over a little fence by the road and scrambled down to a ledge of boulders that met the water. We put on our swimsuits, and C went in, but there were barnacles and big waves, so I stayed standing on the rocks. I saw two tiny crabs and a sea urchin, and then we made our way back to the road to keep walking. It was around 11:30 and, tired and sweaty, we crossed over the road, and went to another beach. The sea was salty and burned my eyes and face. We lay in the sun eating almonds and chocolate and we watched an old woman walk into the water with her cane. For lunch we went to a supermarket to buy pesto, focaccia, mozzarella, tomato, and arugula, which we ate with our salty fingers in the shade. We started walking up a big hill then stopped in a little church, where I got on my knees to pray next to C, who said he doesn’t believe in that stuff. I felt so hot and wet with sweat I thought I could never get dry. Near the top of the mountain, we stopped and I drank tea from our flask. I asked if C thought we should take a bus, since we still had more than three hours of walking to go. He more or less said no, and that walking was my idea. We kept going and I said I was sorry for complaining because I actually did want to walk. When we finally started going down hill, we high-fived. I scrumped some ripe figs and grapes for us to eat, and we filled our water bottles at a faucet by a church and dumped water on each other, but mostly me on myself. C pointed out many places where we could hypothetically set up a tent–someone’s olive grove, an empty parking spot on the road. C asked an Italian builder for ‘aqua’ and he ran inside to find his wife, who came out and gave us giant glass bottle of cold fizzante. C said to me, “who’s your boy?” and also that builders know what it feels like to be thirsty. We sat on a bench and acted normal while C pulled out his dick and peed on the ground. We reached Zoagli, a little town wedged between the mountains, the center square separated from the sea by massive stone arches of the train tracks. We walked the wrong way down the coastal walkway, where everyone was swimming or lounging packed into the nooks and crannies of the rocks. We found our way again, up a steep staircase, through the lush green trees and a motor tunnel. We walked for a long time down a mountain highway not speaking, C ahead of me. By the time we reached Rapallo, I was feeling pretty bad, and C was too. The sea front was packed with aging tourists; the town lined with bleak shops selling flip-flops and cell phone cases. Further down the road, past gas stations and chain-link fences, we found our campsite, and reserved a spot for the night. C set up our tent on a balding patch of grass then we ate spaghetti and pizza at a restaurant across the road. We talked about our favorite parts of the day and where we might travel next summer. We made jokes and took photos of each other. After we paid our bill, I suggested C steal the sugar spoon to eat yogurt with in the morning and he did. In the tent we made love and I fell asleep first.
In the night, I woke up to the sound of a large animal eating something near our tent. I lay still and C snored. He stopped then whispered, “There’s a hungry horse”. He fell back asleep, and I did too, until we heard the noise, which sounded more like a wild boar, encounter a smaller animal that shrieked a horrible shriek and I sat up straight. In the morning, I felt like I could have slept forever, but C was up and said we should get going. We agreed to walk the two and a half hours to Portofino, and from there decide if we should carry on into the footpaths of the mountains to wild camp, or if we should return to the campsite that night. We walked along a red carpet that wrapped around the coast and lead us over rolling hills past grand hotels and clear blue water. We stopped at a small public beach by a hotel, where only a few people were swimming. C unrolled the tent onto the rocks so it might dry in the sun. We called C’s mum for her birthday, and I told her about the wild boar and eating figs from the trees. While swimming, I peed, and C came close to me because he wanted to feel it, but then he moved away when we noticed how oily it looked in the water. We continued walking and we got hot, so we stopped at a bench to look out at the ships on the sea. C started feeling me up under my dress and I pushed him away as joggers went by. We kissed and took pictures of each other and joked around. We walked along the bay of Parragi, talking about land art- C about Richard Long’s A Line made by walking, and me about Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series. C didn’t know she was married to Carl Andre, and I explained about how he probably pushed her out a 34-story window to her death. At Portofino we bought savory pastries and hard nectarines for 11 euros and C said we got ripped off. The port was scattered with yachts and the town square was full of restaurants with roped-off white tablecloth seating. The tourists were mostly speaking English and we wandered up and down looking for a beach but there didn’t seem to be one. We walked up a staircase where C was confident there would be a beach, and we saw a piece of printer paper taped to a tree with the words “public beach” on it. Down some stairs there was a little cove entirely shaded and crowded by small boats. I tried to sleep on a jagged rock and then used C’s lap as a pillow. When I woke up I felt tired and full of dread. C said there was another beach, an hour and a half walk further in a place on the map with nearly no towns marked. He said we should go buy food then make our way there and spend the night. I didn’t speak on our way up from the beach, and we sat in the church at the top. I prayed on my knees then hugged C and said ok let’s go buy some food. We bought focaccia and goat cheese and tomatoes and a grapefruit, and then looked for the long path we would take to the beach. We wandered around, trying to orient ourselves on google maps, but our blue dot seemed confused. An Italian woman stopped and asked if we needed help. We showed her where we were going and she said we shouldn’t go now, because it was too hot, the walk too long and steep. C said we are fine, we had walked from Sestri Levante, and she said that is nothing compared to where you are going. She said to make sure we could get a ferry back before nightfall, and C said we are not coming back. She looked concerned and said there is nothing there. She told us to take a map. C didn’t want to but I said he must go buy a map. I waited in the shade with our bags while he did. When he came back, map in hand, I said we needed to talk, because I didn’t want to go any further. I said I wanted to go to the beach at Parragi and then back to the campsite. C agreed, in a ‘how could things get any worse’ tone, then walked quickly ahead of me. I walked along, feeling gleeful about our new plan. After a few minutes he came next to me and said of course it was ok not go for further, but he wished we would have left our heavy bags at the campsite. We passed the crowded beach of Parragi and walked down stairs leading us to a flat rock formation where people were packed together on towels and jumping off into the water. We found a little space for ourselves, just big enough to sit up in between our bags. I dove into the water, which was cool and full of fish, and I looked up at the green mountains all around, half in the shade and half in the light, as the day was fading into late afternoon. I sat next to C and we ate our food, folding the focaccia around pieces of cheese, and biting into the tomato. We talked about the autobiography of Malcolm X and watched as the girls in bikinis climbed on top of high rocks and dove into the water. We swam together, and C insisted I put on his goggles so I could see the fish underwater. When I put them on, C made fun of the way I looked, and I laughed so hard I peed. On our walk back to Rapallo, we stopped to eat licorice gelato on the beach. We walked through an empty golf course, alone in the lavender glow of twilight, and had to slide between a fence and concrete wall to get back to the campsite. I realized that I had lost the camping towel C had bought me somewhere along the way and said I was sorry. The long day ended with us hanging up all our wet clothes on a tree, C saying ‘everything that could go wrong has’, me giving him head, and us both falling asleep before 10pm.
Dreamt I was up in the hills with C, tall bridges everywhere. Woke up feeling hot and took off my top and slept in just my tights. At 7am C woke me up and said happy one year anniversary. He wanted to make love but I wanted to go out to breakfast instead. We went to a little café nearby and had coffee and crossiants, one regular, one with bright green pistachio filling. We talked about how we felt about camping and what we would do differently next time in Greece. We bought some local fruits from a shop and C apologized for being grumpy the night before. He asked if I felt weird I gave him head, since it is something I rarely do. I told him it was okay and I thought his cum tasted like licorice ice cream. We started our walk to Recco, on a quiet country road, uphill and shaded by trees, eating grapes that tasted like flowers and scrumping blackberries along the way. We stopped to read a sign in front of an dilapidated building with a fresco on the front, which said the building housed lepers in the 1500s and then later, victims of the plague. We talked about our trip so far and I asked about his experience traveling with other girlfriends. He said he had never been to so many places and walked so far with someone as with me. We stopped because I felt hot, and because no one was around, I took off my sweaty dress and stood behind a shed in my underwear. We walked down a wobbly stone staircase off the side of the road, into the woods, where we had sex against a tree, and it was very sexy, how vulnerable we were to the world and each other. Afterwards, C said he likes giving me head while I’m standing up, because of the physical challenge, and also the role reversal of being on his knees. I asked if he had seen people having sex before, and I talked about the podcast about a woman who, from her living room window, watched a young man and his girlfriend have sex in their apartment for a year up until he died from cancer in their bed. C picked a cactus fruit and I told him to peel it carefully because of the spikes and we ate it and I said it reminded me of a papaya. We reached the top of the mountain where there was a little town and we could see the ocean down on the other side. We filled our water bottles and kissed sitting on the steps of a beautiful church while people stood around us talking. Then we made our way down, walking slowly, and we examined different fruits we could potentially scrump, but didn’t. C dangled his dick off a stone wall and peed while I tried to throw rocks into the stream. Finally, we reached the beach, where there were many families and we spread out our bed sheet since I no longer had a towel, and I lay on my stomach topless until I dried off. C gave me my anniversary gift- a book about the Greek islands by Lawrence Durell and a card with a drawing he made on the front and inside he wrote many nice things, including how he felt like he had never seen the world before meeting me. I pulled out the Ritter Sport I brought him but when I did, it had completely melted and was a liquid inside the package. Later it would pop in my backpack and leak almost entirely into the inside pocket. We went into the water together, and C held me and talked in a cockney accent and pretended to carry me off to sea. We walked a long way, talking about how to make and use concrete, and who might live in the houses overlooking the water. We climbed up a mountain up to our campsite, where we made love and showered together and took naked selfies with the orange glow of the tent on our sun burned faces. I sat between his legs on the dirt patch outside our tent and we watched the lights from ships move slowly across the water in the dark night. I read my journal out loud to him and he said how good he thought it was, and we fell asleep under the sheet, C taking up most of my mat.
We woke up at the campsite on top of the mountain in Camogli. C was very sleepy so I went down to wait for the restaurant to open for breakfast and I got us two croissants and cappuccino and hot water for tea. We ate sitting on the concrete wall where C said he had peed the night before. I wanted to take the free bus down the mountain but C said we should walk, so we did. My feet were feeling really tender on the bottoms, so he insisted on putting another pair of socks on me, then I was wearing two pairs, one pink and one lilac. We saw a green house of cactus in the middle of the road with one very tall cactus sticking up through the roof. We stopped to buy nectarines out of a truck on the side of the road and noticed how in Italian, nectarines are also called peaches, and we wondered what the difference was, other than the skin. I peed in the parking lot of a church and felt really sweaty. We talked about the problems of renting in urban areas and also the women of Italy who we agreed had style. We walked along the coast in direct sunlight and up winding roads in Genova. We felt hot and tired and C said I smelled like vegetable curry and I told him not to walk next to me. When we arrived it took a few minutes to call the airbnb host to get the keys because C didn’t have the number, and I said the number was on the site, and he said it wasn’t there, and then I looked but didn’t see it, then C found it, so we sat waiting, not speaking or looking at each other. When the host finally let us in, the apartment was bigger than expected, with a balcony off the kitchen overlooking the busy highway. We had sex and fell asleep and when I woke up I went to the bathroom to squeeze my skin in the mirror and C caught me. We walked down to the beach and C said he would not tolerate me picking my skin because I am beautiful and it will only scar. I apologized for how stupid it was to worry about my skin and he said it wasn’t stupid and that sometimes he felt insecure about his nose or posture. At the beach we swam and then lay on the sand. Little kids ran around with buckets of water that splashed on C’s shoes. A disoriented old lady in a bikini wandered around saying something in Italian about peaches. C asked me to try to stack rocks on his tummy but I couldn’t balance them. I put on his goggles with stones over my eyes and he took a picture. He spooned me and I cried a little saying why is my path in life so unclear? On the way home I was still thinking about my skin and we talked about celebrating Jewish holidays. We stopped at the grocery store for bread and eggplant and garlic. When we got home it was dark in the apartment and we walked around naked with the windows open to the warm noisy night and we made love. We cooked dinner and stood on the balcony in our underwear, looking down at the busy highway and into the windows of the hospital across the road. We listened to a podcast about an American woman who moved to Istanbul when she was 30 and it made her realize America was not as good as she always thought it was. After dinner we both felt really full but we had sex anyway, first on our sides looking into each others eyes saying I love you. Then I sat on his lap, turned away from him with my feet on the floor, not using my hands, and he came. We took a bath in the old tiled bathroom with frosted windows. C said he liked the soap dishes built into the wall because they were from another era and couldn’t fit a bottle of body wash. We washed each other’s feet and talked about rap. C said it was sad the most popular rapper was Canadian and if Tupac were still alive he would probably be the president. In bed I suggested we watch the video for Method Man by Wu Tang but it wouldn’t load, so C put on a BBC radio show about childhood obesity instead. We fell asleep under the sheets, C as the little spoon.
I was up in the night so I walked through the rooms of the apartment and sat on the floor in the living room looking at my phone. I could hear C moving around making little noises in his sleep. When I came back in he said, “I am not ashamed… (Inaudible)”. I lay down next to him then heard him laughing behind me and I asked what it was. He said he had a dream about a herd of cows walking through their own yellow shit and someone putting “my dick” into google maps. When we woke up in the morning and I asked him what time it was, he said his phone was displaying letters instead of number and the letters were S.P.O.O.N.M.E. I asked him to make us tea and I wrote a review in the guest book. When C read it he said it sounded like English was my second language. We had tea on the balcony and also figs and yogurt. C put a hardboiled egg between his bum and I took a picture with the flash on. While I packed, he cleaned the kitchen then we went to the grocery store to buy bus tickets. C said he was confident we could soon be fluent in Italian. We talked about his anxiety about needing to pee while in public. I said maybe he should go to therapy to make peace with the trauma of the time he involuntarily peed on his dining room floor. We made love in the apartment but stopped because I felt sore and he felt sad. We left and caught a bus to the train station and devised an experiment to discover the cause of his peeing problems. We got off and ate lunch sitting against a statue in the park, with C in the sun and me in the shade, discussing plans for our trip to Greece. We ate ice cream and I asked him if he has always been obsessed with getting tan and he said he would not say he is obsessed. Waiting for the train we sang songs like “how do I live” by LeAnn Rimes and tried to harmonize. We watched a large woman on her cell phone yell at an Italian man on the train platform. She said, in English, “This is my place of work”, and the man’s daughter, who he was holding, began to cry. From inside the train we could see the man being taken away from his family by Italian policemen. When we got to the airport, we sat waiting before C had to get his flight. I drank coffee, we shared a Twix, and he kissed me standing up. He told me to dance a little and I did. As he went through the security line, I stood waving and watching as he moved further away, then he was gone.
ARTWORK BY LUIGI GHIRRI