The Kindness of Strangers

Day 6 After the Fall (cont’d)

Later that afternoon, as I was taking a break at La Collina, Janet called. “Giorgio is on his way to the hospital! Are you there?” she asked.

“No, but I can be in five minutes.”

“Well I’m not sure how long it will take him. He’s coming from work.”

I couldn’t believe this woman was making all these arrangements from Toronto. Nor that a man we’d never met would take the time to visit Jay in hospital. To date my overwhelming impression of Italians was that they were abrupt, voluble, impatient and incomprehensible. Although a few of the nurses were friendly – and a couple of them had clearly taken a shine to Jay – mostly I felt the hospital staff were irritated by me. I did my best to be inconspicuous. Of course I failed – I was, after all, constantly asking questions and bugging them about one thing or another. In any case, I thanked Janet and assured her I would go back to the hospital right away to meet Giorgio.

Two hours later, just as I was about to head off to try out the restaurant at La Collina, Giorgio arrived, grinning from ear to ear. A stocky man in his early fifties with bright brown eyes, he hugged and kissed me as though we were long lost friends, and clearly would have likely to do the same with Jay but didn’t know how to do so without hurting him, so resorted to a hearty two-handed handshake instead.



Then we proceeded to have a conversation that went something like:

Giorgio: “Buongiorno! Hello hello, Canada!”

Me: “Hello, you must be Giorgio.”

Giorgio: “Yes yes! Giorgio.”

Me: “I’m Meg. This is Jay.”

Jay: “Buongiorno.”

Giorgio shook his head, raised his eyebrows, pointed to Jay, clearly communicating his sorrow at Jay’s plight. “Janet,” he said.

Me: “Yes, Janet. You are good friends with her.”

Giorgio: “Yes, yes, Janet.” He then proceeded to hold forth in Italian for a bit, hands waving in the air.

Me: “It’s very kind of you to come.”

He smiled and nodded. “What I do?”

I smiled and nodded. We looked like grinning puppets. I felt the conversation lacked a certain flow.

Giorgio: “I can help?”

I proceeded to try to explain some the problems we faced, especially in relation to getting reports from the hospital and the police. He looked utterly bewildered but kept laughing and smiling. At that moment my phone rang. It was Janet.

“Giorgio is here!” I told her. “You’re right, he doesn’t really speak English, does he?”

“No, I’m sorry about that. I hoped I could get some other friends with better English but I think they are out of town. Let me speak to him.”

I handed the phone to Giorgio: “It’s Janet!”

He grinned even wider and looked as though this was the most astonishing coincidence he could imagine. “Janet?” He laughed, then took the phone. A short conversation ensued, very lively. He handed the phone back to me.

“He wants to know if there is anything he can do to help, anything you need,” Janet said.

I considered. If he could have translated for me, that would have helped. He obviously had the Italian, but alas, not the English. “Well, there is this damned police report. I have tried calling the phone number but something’s wrong, or maybe they just can’t understand me. Maybe he could call for me?”

Janet was sure that he could. I handed the phone back, there was more animated conversation. Giorgio turned to me. “Yes, yes, polizia. I help.”

Janet confirmed his urgent desire to undertake this task. I told her I would give Giorgio the information. After we disconnected, I found the card with the officer’s name (Rossini, don’t you know) the dubious phone number and the address of the carabinieri office.

Giorgio read it and nodded vigorously. “Yes, no problem. I get it.”

All three of us were by now exhausted from this attempt at jovial interaction. Giorgio promised to come again, tomorrow. I said it was not necessary, but I was grateful. Perhaps he could obtain the report and the insurance company would finally get on with approving the claim. Perhaps.

We called the insurance company. Jay authorized them to speak to Mike. They had no news, no decision had been made about the claim. They still wanted the police report. They seemed entirely unconcerned about the approaching surgery but promised (mealy-mouthed) that their medical team would reach a decision “soon”.

La Collina Ristorante

La Collina Ristorante

That night, I ate in the outdoor restaurant at La Collina. I sat alone, of course; only two other tables were occupied. The heat had dropped a little, a warm breeze wafted. It was a gorgeous evening. The maitre d’ (also the sole waiter), a trim, perfectly attired little man named Danieli, was the epitome of old-style European service – and he spoke very good English. He tempted me with various dishes on the menu and brought me a substantial glass of excellent white wine. As I waited for my pasta with truffles and green salad to arrive, I struck up a conversation with another woman dining alone. A Brit, she’d lived in Italy for the past ten years. Her husband had cancer and he’d been in the hospital for some time. As I sipped wine, chatted with a sympathetic stranger and, eventually, ate a delicious meal, I felt some of the tension ease from my shoulders.

I took the remains of my wine up to my room, read emails – still flooding in from Canada – and almost relaxed. Only one little incident marred that first night at La Collina. I woke needing to use the toilet in the night and tripped on the step up into the bathroom. There was a similar small step up to the balcony – made from the same hard red tile as the bedroom floor, these steps were almost invisible.

the step out to balcony

the step out to balcony

I did not sprawl or hurt myself but decided from then on – recalling my mantra (Jay is incapacitated. I cannot be) – I would turn on the light before taking a single step in that room at night. The last thing we needed was for me to sprain an ankle…


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