I found my leather jacket yesterday, the one that reminds me of you. It was in a box, folded haphazardly beneath a pile of scarves, tucked behind old paint cans. It doesn’t fit anymore. I’m much rounder and softer now. You weren’t there on that weekend trip to Rome when I found it at a market and fell in love with its scent. You weren’t there, but I can’t extricate you from its worn and faded lining. I wore it to vineyards and piazzas and smoky bars, and each time you declared it belissima.
I credit you with my quick grasp of Italian. Before arriving in Siena, I knew a handful of words I gleaned from a phrasebook. I’d been looking for a semester abroad to shed the skin of my first heartbreak and seek the adventure I’d been craving. This is what one is supposed to do at twenty, yes? I wanted to see the Duomo and sit in cafes with cappuccinos while pretending to like coffee. I met you three weeks into my semester in a club whose name eludes me now.
My intensive Italian classes give me the courage to falter through a conversation with you as we lean in at the bar. My drinking resume is limited. I order a tequila sunrise because it’s one of the few drinks I’ve heard of. Wine still feels too grown up, too sophisticated. You speak no English, not a word. Four drinks in and it doesn’t matter. We find a corner and you slip your hands inside my jacket, and I murmur in agreement when you invite me to a party at a vineyard.
On the walk to your car, I pull my jacket snugly across me as as I push down my mother’s voice whispering, This is how girls get murdered! My new roommate and I grip hands as we follow you and your entourage aimlessly. We quietly assure ourselves that this is the adventure we signed up for. Nothing bad can happen if we stay together. We’re not stupid. Twenty minutes later, we pull up to a dark vineyard. Maybe you work here. Maybe you just know someone who does. The details are unclear, but you are funny and charismatic, and your English speaking friends help translate the gaps as you continuously fill my glass with wine. It’s bitter and I hate it, but I don’t let on. I choke it down, swallowing the nerves until my eyes burn and the room refuses to sit still. I’ve never been this kind of drunk before.
There’s a bedroom in the guest house. Of course there is. You lead me there so I can rest and recalibrate. I squeeze my eyes shut and lean back against a pillow as I wait for the room to hold still, but it refuses to do so. I’m veering on the brink of sleep when I feel you unzip my pants. I jolt and twist. No, no, I mutter as I push your hands away. Just let me sleep.
Your face contorts, not with rage, but with disbelief and frustration as your voice raises and you say things I don’t understand. I shrink into my own skin as guilt shrouds my body. This is my fault. Of course it’s my fault. What did I think you were bringing me here for? My shame and stupidity leak down my cheeks as I struggle to translate your indignation. And because I won’t find my voice for another few years and because I don’t yet know my own worth, I acquiesce and let you fuck me. I am limp as I stare at the patterned ceilings, recalling the one and only other person I’ve ever been with. Crying is futile by now, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it. You aren’t looking at me and don’t seem to notice. When it’s over, you slide your body off of me and grin as you program your number into my little, blue Nokia phone. The night air is damp and I feel it through the sheet as I lie there rehearsing what I could have done, should have said.
I don’t allow myself to be angry with you. I can’t. I can only wrap myself in the humiliation of my own naivety. And when you call me a week later, I will let you take me to dinner, because dating you is a better story than the way we could have left it. We will spend the rest of my semester together, exploring the parts of the city I would have never otherwise known. I will pretend to tolerate the smell of your cigarettes, and I will rewrite our story and call this chapter the exotic Italian fling of my youth. It has a much nicer ring to it, don’t you think?
But when my daughter finds the jacket in a Goodwill pile and asks why I would get rid of something so beautiful, I tell her that I don’t want a story full of half truths anymore. She’s too young to understand, but I’ll tell her when the time comes. She deserves a story that needs no revision.
Emily Corak has spent the last three decades in the Pacific Northwest and now resides outside of Portland. A mom to two kids, ages 4 and 7, Emily has been an educator for the past decade and is now taking a break to see what’s left of her identity outside of teacher and mother. She is now going back to school for her MFA in creative writing after deciding she had more to offer the world than breast milk and unsolicited grammar advice. When the world allows, she spends any spare cash on plane tickets, and she lives for books, tea, and all things Top Chef. She occasionally writes about anything and everything that comes to mind, and you can find her work here: https://offbrandmusings.blogspot.com/
Writing Cohort Opportunity
Circe is offering: Crucible – A Year-Long Writing Cohort
Let by Gina Frangello and Emily Black, this cohort is designed for writers seeking to spend a year deeply immersed in writing or revising a book length work.
- Once monthly class meeting over Zoom
- 2-3 members will have their pages workshopped per meeting (each participant will be workshopped twice)
- Every other month individual/private meeting with Emily or Gina over Zoom (participants will have a chance to work with both)
- Ongoing online communication between members of the cohort to share resources and ask questions in between sessions
- Writing prompts
- 100 manuscript pages read and reviewed by Emily and Gina
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information