Every story has its genesis and I am not able to tell this one without highlighting a significant friendship in my adventure.
In the winter of 2009 I was wrapping up my first four months working in administration for a ballet company. I had some interaction with dancers, but nothing really personal. There was this one guy, Alberto. I saw him each morning walking into the studio wearing his designer sunglasses and leaving a trail of spicy, expensive smelling, no doubt couture cologne to linger in the air well into the afternoon. We only greeted one another briefly and, perhaps, shared a joke while pouring coffee in the staff kitchen or passing in the hallways. See, dancers and staff had their own kitchen and we were to stay in our own lanes, so to speak. But Alberto would often be spotted in his tank top, tights, and leg warmers poking around in the kitchen between rehearsals. And, to be honest, he scared the crap out of me. His perfectly almond shaped eyes under his wavy dark hair would only be seen after his presence was felt. He commanded a room and in my first days at the ballet, this man intimidated me.
One night, at a wrap party for Nutcracker, I found myself leaning against a grand piano, sipping a glass of wine with this Italian . We shared a few laughs and commented on the food selection when he suddenly says, “we should hang out”. I was taken a little off guard that this seemingly aloof guy wanted to socialize in non-work related fashion. “Yes! We should….tonight”, I said without thinking. He looked at me for a moment as if to categorize my hastiness and then his eye brows raised and he said, “Why not?” We settled on venturing out for karaoke. We made our way around the party, engaging in small talk while exchanging looks across the room at one another until we found an appropriate time to make a break and head out for some after hours fun. The head count grew to a small group of six and we took our escape to a small bar on the outskirts of downtown to engage in a spot of classy, midnight karaoke.
Oh yes! This is my element. The karaoke game is mine!!! I ordered a drink and mustered up the nerve to ask my new friend if he’d like to sing a duet with me. He agreed to do
“You’re the One that I Want” from Grease and when they called our names, we eagerly made our way to the stage. Our moment in the spotlight as a newly formed duet lasted approximately 1.2 minutes. While I was fully committed and doing my best Tony Winning performance, Alberto stops singing, looks at me and says, “this is too much English” and walks of off the stage, dropping the mic as only a true badass would do. Like a fool, I stood there singing “rama lama ding da dong” as a solo for the rest of the grueling three minutes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first of many nights with my new friend.
Over the next couple of years I built a friendship with this funny, intimidating, talented man. Alberto has a wild sense of humor, wicked even. At times we just sat over a coffee and found ourselves laughing at the ridiculousness of our own realities; seeing the humor in our own flaws. Each summer when we’d return to the states after his holiday, he would appear in the doorway of my office with an ear-to-ear smile and a perfectly stunning golden tan. We’d spend time recapping our last few months and, of course, he would always win by telling me stories about amazing beaches and the slower, most enjoyable style of an Italian summer. I’d listen to every delicious description and ask
stupid questions, as I was so very naive, but not unappreciative of his sharing. I loved hearing his stories about his home country and the smile painted on his face only made the pins and needs I had been siting on more obvious; I will see this place eventually. It was at this time, during one of our office story telling dates, his phone started to vibrate. He began to feverishly text back, stopping only to look up and say, “I’m talking to a new dancer who is coming here. He is from my home town and I think he’s nervous about coming to Tulsa”. Little did I know what was headed my way. As time kept moving forward, I found myself spending a few holidays, a lot of late nights, and some quiet, reflective moments with this colorful individual, realizing the whole time that one day it would come to and end. At least the frequency of these moments would change. Even so, it was worth building chapters of moments spent with this guy.
Finally, it was that dreaded time when life changes and people are needed elsewhere and were needing to move on. Alberto was one of the departing as he expressed many times that he was ready for the next chapter in his life, and ready to go home. The months leading up to this mass exodus were met with a sense of getting near the end of a really good book. So many people were leaving and some of these were my friends and individuals who made my daily life more
interesting when slugging through paperwork and deadlines. These were friends who I would have dinner with, dance worries away, go on long walks in the park with all the while laughing and dreaming and helping me to see another side of a beautiful life. My friends were leaving…the country and it just wouldn’t be the same anymore and that was okay. My Little Italy was going to be significantly downsized and while it seemed, at times, like coming to the end of my favorite series, it was all sadly beautiful. When I took that job I never knew how significant it would become along the path of major changes happening in my own life, and this man, this Alberto is a permanent and profound character in the story of my own personal growth; my metamorphosis.
On a beach in Civitavecchia the following summer, I met Alberto and his canine companion, Paldo, who had made the trip with him from Tulsa. We sat there quietly in the sand looking at one another, but not saying much, Finally, he peered around and then back at me and said, “I can’t believe you are sitting here on this beach. In my hometown.” I smiled back at him, “It’s strange, right?” But somehow, even from the beginning, I knew this was a person worth inviting into my life as he invited me into his own. And in 2016, though communication with Alberto isn’t daily or even monthly, when we do speak it truly is as if no time has passed.
“What a beautiful life, full of beautiful people you have been granted with, Carrie.” I think to myself. And to Alberto, the First, I say thank you for the invitation that night. You really shook it up for me. Ti voglio bene, amcio.