August 26, 2019 – Joemma Beach State Park – Gig Harbor, WA
Early this week, my daughter Lia and her Italian husband packed up and moved back to Italy. Of course, I was sad to see them go, but I understood why they left. Lia lived in Italy from the age of 14 and she’s always told me she feels more Italian than American—Italy is her home. Diego picked them up from the airport and drove them back to our shared house near Palombara Sabina, where conditions were as I suspected—atrocious. Diego told them he’d just washed the sheets in the master bedroom, but that first night they slept on bedding that was soaked in cat urine. He’d left the window open in the house so our cats could come and go freely. Of course, that meant the stray cats as well. They are everywhere in Italy and probably spread the word about free food and water on Colle Fagiano.
I’d warned Lia in advance of the extremes Diego takes to please others. Throughout our relationship, he told me what he thought I wanted to hear, which was often not the whole truth. Last night, as Brent and I sat around the campfire, I shared some of my stories.
“Remember, I told you about Diego working long hours? During the last few years we were together, he’d leave the house at 5:30 in the morning and I wouldn’t see him till 8:30 or 9:00 at night.”
Brent looked me in the eyes. “Hun, you really believe he was working all that time?”
As usual, I tried to make excuses for my ex, or were they for myself?
“After his breakdown, he became very religious. He told me he’d stop by the church every morning and go to mass before work.”
Brent wasn’t having any of it. “Yeah, well I’m sure he was having an affair. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.”
“But he told me he wasn’t interested in sex after his breakdown.”
“How convenient.” Brent gave me a ‘how-could-you-be-such-a-sucker’ look and I began to wonder how I could.
Looking back over those 18 years, there were so many things I made excuses for, so many things I overlooked. Just a few months after moving to Italy, I found a pile of printed emails while cleaning. They were written to a woman during the period I was working in Germany, just before I came to live in Italy with Diego. I didn’t read everything, but enough to see there were passages that could have been pulled verbatim from the emails he wrote to me in our courting stage. Feeling betrayed and confused, I confronted Diego.
“I can’t believe you were writing to other women at the same time you were writing to me. What a bunch of bullshit. I thought you were so sincere, but the whole time you were playing games with me.”
Diego stared down intently at a crack in the tile floor. When he looked up, his eyes were wet with tears and he tried to explain.
“There was this guy at work who was sending emails to an American girl and his English wasn’t so good. He came to me for some advice—he knew I’d been sending you letters—and I decided to help him. I let him copy my letters to you so he could write to her in English.”
I wanted to believe him, so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, but there were so many holes in his story. There were paragraphs in those emails that were not quoted verbatim, material included that wasn’t in his letters to me. It didn’t make sense, but he pleaded me to stay and I’m a sucker for tears. Over the years I found several strange notes lying around the house, and heard more odd stories, but we were getting along well and I chose to ignore them.
Ten years into the relationship, after he suffered his breakdown, I began to see things in a different light. There was another letter, written in Italian talking about “the 2 days we spent together, lying next to each other on the bed…” The email mentioned stories that I thought had been shared only between Diego and I, personal stories, and I felt betrayed. Again, I confronted my ex. He told me they’d been written by a mutual friend of ours, a Swedish woman. Knowing she’d had a crush on him, I chose to believe him, and I sent her an angry, accusatory email. “How could you sleep with Diego? I can’t believe you would do that.”
She replied, equally angry. “Why would Diego say that? I haven’t seen either of you in two years, There is nothing between me and Diego—nothing!”
I confronted Diego once more, and the story he came up with this time was even more bizarre.
“I was on a business trip to Saudi Arabia. The hotel rooms were all booked, so I had to share a room with one of my male co-workers.”
Was Diego gay? He’d mentioned many times how he was a magnet for gay men. Regardless of his sexual orientation, why would he share such intimate information with a work colleague? I didn’t believe that story either. He’d already shown that he was more than capable of lying when forced against the proverbial brick wall.
Brent isn’t always the best listener, but that night he listened intently while I ran through my litany of Diego stories.
“Now I understand why you pull back sometimes. I knew about the breakdown, but not about all the other stuff. At least you don’t have to worry about me beating around the bush. I’m always straight with you.”
“Yep… you go to the other extreme.” I laughed, but it was true. Like me, Brent tends to verbalize his thoughts, which aren’t always positive.
Now we’re back at Joemma Beach—it feels like home to me, though it’s a long way from civilization. This week will be a busy one. We’ll be in the Seattle area for three days in a row, which means leaving the trailer here and sleeping in the back of the truck—most likely in the Walmart parking lot. It’s those times when I feel homeless rather than just houseless. I may as well just stay up all night—though we’re always in a remote area of the parking lot, spotlights glare through our camper windows. Cars and people pass by until the early hours of the morning. Around midnight or so, Walmart closes its side doors, leaving only one way to enter and exit. Inside Walmart, people come and go. You can tell the ones who are camped out—like me, they head straight for the sign reading “Restrooms.” I carry my purse so I look like a customer, though I’m sure the night watchman knows the truth. But why should I care what he thinks of me? I’ll never see him again.
Brent’s been fixing up the trailer and it’s starting to look very cool. It now has fenders and a locking back door. We picked up a free camper top and set it on the plywood sides to serve as a roof. Eventually it will be raised to create a sleeping loft—the whole trailer could become a mini home once we get to Arizona. Tuesday we take it for inspection so we can (hopefully) get tabs and not have to worry all the time about being pulled over.
I know I’ve been saying this for months, but I can’t wait to get on the road!