I have many faults but perhaps one of my biggest faults is that I carry a big ole' chip on my shoulders. Many years ago, I used to live in a small town in Italy. Back then, I was often the only Asian at social events and outings. With an increase of Chinese immigrants, Italians often mistook me for being Chinese....
As a child, being "different" was always difficult and I had my share of kids teasing me and my sisters. Growing up in Hawaii, I fit right in but in California, at one time, there were only three Asian-American families we knew of. Because of this, I had a big chip on my shoulder and I would immediately judge others in a harsh way, fearing the worse.
I have learned, however, that if I expect a certain behavior from others, I will most likely attract and find it. But life can be filled with teachable moments and one such moment came when I was living abroad.
While living in an apartment complex in Prato, Italy I road my bike everywhere. For fear of having it stolen, I often had to carry my yellow bike up and down the stairs and leave it outside my apartment door. My neighbors across the hall from me were retired so once in a while, I bumped into the husband while going upstairs. Back then, he was in his early fifties, wore glasses and was bald.
One morning, I came inside and started to carry the bike up to the first floor. And there at the top of the staircase was my neighbor. Instead of offering to help me, he instead pointed to the walls and showed me black scratches that he assumed were caused by my bike.
For days, I sulked in our one bedroom apartment. And then one day, when I realized we had no more food in the fridge I walked down Via Francesco Ferrucci and went to the nearby supermarket Esselunga. With two grocery bags filled with pasta, fruit and bread, I was walking home when I saw the bald neighbor walking towards me. For a moment, I thought if I crossed the street, I could avoid him but realizing how silly that would look and I instead uttered a quick prayer to God to help me.
Wearing a hat and a thick wool coat, the neighbor nodded and said, "Buon giorno." I smiled and then before my mind could stop me, I uttered out. "Excuse me. I want to apologize for the other day."
The man walked up to me and smiled. "Oh, but I didn't mean to blame you. I was simply pointing out the marks," he said with a kind smile. "I'm sorry if I made you feel that way."
"Well, I responded quite harshly and I'm sorry. My name is Gaya. I don't believe I ever introduced myself. My boyfriend name is Marco. He is from Florence and I'm American."
"Ah Americana." We then spoke about Prato and how much I enjoyed living there. After a few minutes, we then said our goodbyes and I walked home, trying to digest all that had happened.
A few days later, the neighbor spoke to Marco who apologized for the marks and together, we cleaned the walls.
In the end, the neighbor and I became friends and we spoke often. He showed me some coins that were given to him by a Native American (he was so excited to share them with me) and he introduced me to his children and his little grandchildren.
A year later, Marco and I unfortunately broke up and I returned to California. It was a hard break up and I only told the neighbor that I had to go back home but I would return one day.
Funny thing was that after I left and our breakup became quite apparent as Marco began dating another woman, apparently my dear neighbor stopped talking to him, and scowled every time he saw him, as he assumed that Marco had broken my heart and had cheated on me. HA~
Till next week....