Tuesday, July 26, 2005

When love sours

Spring, I realized last night, is over. The harbinger came in the form of a woman walking the back streets of Rome. She was in a foul mood, spitting venomous comments about her snake of a man who was walking a few steps ahead. He was bent forward, head down, as verbal bullets were fired at his skull. This woman, wearing an I-could-spit-nails look, was informing the rest of us (as we walked hand-in-hand beside this car wreck of a relationship) that her man was the worst person she'd ever met. Not the coldest. Not the most selfish. Simply, the worst. On cue, a cold front seemed to whip through the narrow alleys and crooked streets of Rome.

I don't understand the Italian obsession with public break-ups. I have seen more couples decoupling on a Roman street corner or in a piazza in the last six months than in all my years in New York or London combined. These are usually incredibly awkward moments. Smeary eye makeup, hysterical barks, inappropriate revelations. And that's just him... None of us are any good at saying this just isn't working out. That's why it's best to choose a forum far away from the public eye. In e-mail, for example.

This morning, the second harbinger landed in my gym. This young woman seemed perflectly pleasant at first glance. Dressed in office attire, she circled the gym with great interest asking those of us without headphones where the manager was. The manager is a lanky character who drives a dirt bike to the gym and works out in shorts that are far too small. But otherwise, he's a very nice guy, always greeting me with a "ciao" and "come stai?" The manager was somewhere in the gym, but couldn't be found. So, the woman waited.

Finally, he appeared and a small confrontation ensued. It was interrupted by a clueless older woman who needed help with the weights. The manager took this as his cue to extricate himself from the heated discussion and, seeing as he was handling a few weights now, to teach the old nonna how to benchpress. We were all impressed. All of us that is but the aggrieved woman who hovered around the weight bench trying to kickstart the stalled discussion topic of the manager's creepyness. While she hovered she lit a cigarette, and then a second. Of course, the guys (me included) working out wanted her to stop smoking in the hot, stuffy gym, but we knew better than to cross this woman. So, me and the other gym rats (some of us wearing weight belts) shot pleading looks to the manager to take it/her outside.

Mercifully, after about 10 mins and 2.5 cigarettes, they did. Outside, the fireworks started. We couldn't hear much through the glass, but the wild hand gestures said it all. From his body language, he had initiated the break-up and she was not pleased. I could imagine him explaining she was too volatile for him. As her hysteria grew, her hands reached higher and higher in the sky as if blindly feeling around for something to club him with. He stood in the ready position as if wanting to dart away.

Inside, the mood in the gym was the most subdued I'd ever experienced. The normally chatty gym rats barely made eye contact with one another. One by one, we cleared out of the gym and cautiously past the arguing ex-couple. On cue, another cold breeze blew down the street.

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