“Ah, solo è aqua,” I said to the woman standing next to me on the bus. “It’s only water.” It may have only been water, but there certainly was a lot of it dripping off of me as I got on the bus. I hadn’t anticipated the rain that day in Florence, and anyways, I didn’t have an umbrella anymore, so it made little difference.
Lacking an umbrella was entirely my own fault; a mixture of my stubbornness and protest. My umbrella had been stolen several weeks earlier. And despite the constant barrage of street merchants, trying to get me to purchase an umbrella, I refused. These men would shove an umbrella in my face, when it started raining, but I would always respond with, “No. Grazie,” and walk on my way.
I was angry at Florence, for stealing my perfect umbrella, so I refused to pay even 5 euro for a new one. The theft of my umbrella occurred like a cruel twist of fate. The first time I left my umbrella in a rack outside of a shop, it was stolen. I had never wanted to leave my umbrella out in one of those racks because I knew it would be stolen. I had no rational reason to believe this, but it was one of my firm beliefs. Leave something out, even in a normally safe environment, and it will stolen.
“It’ll get taken.” I would say.
“It’s not going to get taken, Sarah.” My friends would tell me.
I would give them a look, wrap up my umbrella, and put it in my purse. But on this day, the day of the theft, a particularly rainy day, my housemate persuaded me to leave my umbrella outside. She told me it would be fine. There were 30 odd other umbrellas in the rack. It should have been fine. I went into this upscale shop, believing it would be fine. I was just paranoid. Probably. But like some cruel joke, when I went to pick it up an hour later, it was gone. Then a huge thunderstorm started. I didn’t talk to my housemate for the rest of the day.
She apologized, but pointed out that it was just an umbrella. I had to explain to her that this umbrella wasn’t just any umbrella. It was the perfect umbrella. I had had it since 8th grade. Push button to open or close. Yellow border on blue cloth. I adored this umbrella. It traveled the world with me. It was my protector through the worst storms. Now it was gone forever. I mourned, saying that I hoped the thief enjoyed it. I also refused to buy a new umbrella. A decision, that only effected me, but felt like some form of justice. Against what I don’t know.
Flash forward to dripping water on the bus. I had stopped at the grocery store for five minutes, to pick up some last minute things. As I walked out of the supermarket, the skies of Florence opened up, and let loose. There I stood, wanting to cry, groceries in hand, no umbrella. I hated the world. The rain was so blinding that I decided I would take the bus back to my apartment. Screw the seven minute walk.
In my desperation to get out of the apocalyptic rain, and away from the men trying to sell me an umbrella, I got on the wrong bus. It was going towards school. Away from home. I realized my mistake too late, and got off the bus 15 minutes later, far away from my apartment. I walked through more rain, to wait for the correct bus to arrive. I waited seven minutes for the bus to come. My clothes soaked, my groceries dripping, I got on the mostly dry bus, with the dry people staring at me. “Please don’t stand near me,” each of them thought.
I made my way to the middle of the bus, apologizing to everyone as I walked through. I was the only soaking wet passenger on the bus. I felt like the quintessential, stupid American. The woman who I ended up standing next to smiled at me with sympathy. She dug into her purse and pulled out a packet of tissues. With an understanding smile, she handed me the tissues.
“Grazie mille” I said. “Thank you so much.” She nodded her head. As I dried off, we both laughed. She understood. She had been there. “Ah, solo è aqua” I said. At least she chuckled. The man sitting below me, on the other hand, only glared. It may have only been water, but the fact that I was dripping onto his previously dry coat was hardly a laughing matter to him.