An Italian Vacation: A Bar Trip, A Fault Line, And A Week Alone

The afternoon I called to tell him about the great airfare I found, I got his voicemail. Breathless, I gave him all the details. Italy.  Two weeks. August. $500.00 roundtrip.  When he called me back, the sun had sunk behind Cabrini Green, and I had to duck into a church doorway to keep the falling snow from sticking to my phone.

This was supposed to fix it all.

This was supposed to fix it all.

“Did you get my message?” I asked, watching my breath evaporate while I waited for his answer.

His voice was flatter than week-old Coca-Cola, and the tension in his voice filled me with a dread that made my spine ache.  “I thought you’d be excited,” I said, my voice trailing off.

He broadcasted plenty of emotion that night– mostly rage.  He didn’t care that my firm had given me an advance that I planned to use for a trip after the Bar exam.  That advance was more money that I’d ever had at one time.  Everyone was taking a Bar trip. Of course I wanted to take my boyfriend to Italy.  I couldn’t see the problem.

He was seething with something bitter and rotten.

I’d later learn that he thought I was controlling.  He was livid that I’d bought the tickets without discussing it first.  The subtext of his logic horrified me: I got to make the decisions because I was the one with the money.  Every few weeks I would sputter out justifications for why I’d jumped on the tickets.  It was a limited-time offer; I had to act fast or they would be gone.  When I got tired of playing the role of asshole girlfriend who wanted to take her boyfriend to Italy, I reminded him that we had talked about it.  He insisted we’d only discussed it “abstractly.”  I insisted that my impulse purchase was motivated by a hope that our relationship was one of the good ones– one where you could act spontaneously after an “abstract” discussion and end up in Italy having sex and eating gelato at the end of the summer.

I struggled to see it from his perspective.

The trip loomed out on the horizon like a nuclear cloud, and I could feel the resentments rumbling under the surface of the relationship. The trip struck at the center of our fault lines– power, control, resources, commitment– and I held my breath wondering which one of us would break off and sink into the ocean.

Two weeks before our flights, he called me after his weekly therapy appointment.  “I’ll go but only for one week.”

“Great!” I exclaimed, dizzy with relief that I’d get my Bar trip with my boyfriend.  Sure, I’d have a week by myself in Italy, but then he’d join me and all the unspoken resentments would dissolve in the shadow of the Duomo.  I ignored the rumblings I felt along the fault lines as I spent hours on hold with the airlines changing his ticket.

I spent my week alone wandering through the ancient Italian streets, pretending I was a cosmopolitan woman at home eating three-course meals solo by the Vatican.  It wasn’t until he arrived, a full itinerary of things he would do “on his own” while we were there, that I knew the fault lines were too deep to be fixed with a scoop of gelato and the lingerie I’d bought in Rome.

When I scroll through my reel of memories from that trip, I remember the homemade gnocchi, the way the heat rose from the asphalt on the road from Florence to Siena, and the kind hotel staff who helped me find the grocery store.  None of my memories include him, because all the good stuff happened before he got there.

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47 thoughts on “An Italian Vacation: A Bar Trip, A Fault Line, And A Week Alone

  1. ha. enthusiasm flatter than week old coke. so glad and impressed you did that week by yourself. amazing. and clearly, he was not man enough for you. i got tix like that years and years ago too. we went for $99 each way! i mean, come one! can’t beat that!

  2. I hate hind site – it’s always so damn clear! Good thing you had the week to yourself! I in my youth I used to have these “great plans” which would inevitably fail, I was so hopeful and heartbroken. I finally realized, it wasn’t my planning abilities, it was the crowds I was planning for, we didn’t have the same plans, we had to part ways. 😊

  3. I know about 3-4 couples who met in their early teens and have been with only each other for decades over decades. They got to miss out on the joys of asshole dating, but maybe they got a toe chopped off in an industrial accident, so we’re all even now, bitches.

    • Oh, the glories of dating in my 20s and 30s. It’s given me endless stories to tell. I could keep Yeah Write in bidnez with all the bullshit I said, did, endured. And I was no victim–there’s plenty of guys out there who could fill a grid with my crazy.

  4. Well, I asked and asked my boyfriend if he would come with me to Italy next year. It’s kind of the same situation with me – the time between end of college and start of the job. But he doesn’t have the money and, learning from you, I wouldn’t force my decision on him. I guess I will just stick to my solo Italy trip. Better have a happy trip than an accompanied, tragic trip, right?
    By the way, I just adore the expressions you use here!

    • Thanks and OMG, I feel for you. I remember sitting in law school feeling like it was my RIGHT to have my boyfriend come with me. In the end, I was forcing him out of his comfort zone because I had the money to do it. He was right I was controlling– I just thought it was for such a good cause. I mean, it wasn’t like I was saying we should visit a swamp or sleep naked in the desert. It was ITALY! Good luck to you.

      • Yes, precisely. I mean I keep dropping the topic every now and then, hoping he would think its going to be a very good trip. I mean really, exactly, it’s THE Italy. But ya, respecting his choices, I lean from your example. Thanks! 🙂

  5. I remember taking a trip with a boyfriend in college to New York. As in city. We thought we were such jet-setters. We went dancing at a club one night, and he critiqued my dance skills, informing me I “needed to move my feet more.” I was heartbroken, and the rest of the trip served as the epilogue to our relationship. But it’s a funny story now. Glad you enjoyed YOUR time in Italy and that you got rid of the jerk.

  6. What a big, fat jerk. Everyone knows that for the entire month after the bar exam, the bar exam taker gets whatever she wants. No exceptions. I’m glad that you spent that week in Italy by yourself, and that your memories include only the good stuff.

  7. You are nicer than I would have been. The first time he bitched about it I’d have said “Don’t bother joining me I’ll take…….(insert name here!) It did make for an interesting story though.

  8. Ugh. What a douche.
    My PV (my friends and I call them ‘pig vomit’- those exes that are so awful they don’t even deserve their names to be used) was equally evil, but calculating.
    He encouraged me to spend every single dime and max out ever single credit card on him. Take him shopping, to San Francisco, shoes, sheets (?) etc etc etc. The only bright side was that I was never taken advantage of again… and now he’s married with daughters so I figure that’s a lesson in itself.

  9. Well didn’t that just suck to ruin your Italian vacation. This reminds me of one of my favorite pins – Hey Karma, I’ve got a few more people that you missed 🙂

  10. What an ass hat. BUT, he probably had issues and didn’t know how to deal with them. And you got a week alone with awesome memories to cherish now. AND…AND who knew it would supply an AWESOME blog post years in the future? Priceless, Chiquita. Priceless. 🙂

  11. And really, getting to explore Italy by yourself is an amazing gift – nobody to drag you off to the stuff you don’t really want to do. Beautiful post!

  12. I think insecurity may have been at the root of his jerkiness. Nothing you can really do to fix that! I mean, it’s not like you bought the tickets for you and your best girl friend to go and planned to leave him at home….on second thought, that might have been a good idea 🙂

  13. How painful. I would have gladly taken his place and I would hold no resentment whatsoever if you bought the tickets. Just remember this for any future European trips. 🙂

    • At first I thought it said, “so many lawyers in this story.” I was going to say, “how did you know?” My reading skills are not so hot right now. Anyway, thank you!

      On Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 11:47 AM, Outlaw Mama

  14. I have so much to say about this – first, I WANT TO GO TO ITALY. What an asshole.
    Second, I have always had more fun traveling alone, personally (did two weeks in France solo – best time of my life).
    Third, this was a well-written story. Sucked right in, as usual. 🙂

  15. Pingback: yeah write #130 weekly writing challenge winners: crowd favorite + top row five | yeah writeyeah write

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