13 March 2015. Monza, Italy
The sun had finished it’s job for the day as the night sky overtook Monza.
Paola and I were walking along the Royal Villa of Monza, an enormous building that once served as the home of the royal family of Savoia. That is until King Humbert I was murdered there.
Paola had offered to give me a tour of the Italian city while we waited for her sister and her friend to meet us for dinner a little later on. We were going for pizza, the Italian staple, as I wanted to see how it compared to what I knew to be pizza based on my experiences in New York and Chicago.
As we rounded the corner of the Royal Villa we took a right. Along our left was a nice lighted path, so cool that I had decided to take a picture.
Around that time, as I stopped to get out my phone to snap the image, Paola got a phone call. She picked up and “ciao’d,” as they do in Italy, and started speaking in Italian. Finishing my picture, I started to walk down the path of the lights when Paola motioned over to me.
It seemed we weren’t going to be taking the lighted path I had snapped a photo of, but rather we were going further to our right, into a lightly forested area. That lightly forested area quickly became a heavily forested area, with the tree branches above obstructing any lights coming from the night sky.
Before long, it was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything.
I’ve never been much of a fan of the dark. I blame my two older brothers, one who made me watch scary movies like It and Candyman at far too young of an age. The other who used to “prank” me by jumping out at me. I’m not entirely sure where a “prank” becomes psychological warfare, but when you’re 8 years old, the two seem pretty interchangeable.
Paola and I continued to walk towards the black and I started to get just a little teensy bit nervous. There was, of course, no real reason to be nervous at all. I mean, I knew Paola.
If I was there with a stranger at this point, I probably would have freaked out, considering she was on the phone next to me speaking in a language I didn’t understand, in a country I’ve never been, heading into the darkness of a forest.
But Paola was someone I knew. She was the ex-girlfriend of a friend of mine. She had lived in New York for a while. I had hung out with her on a number of occasions. She’s actually one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She was the person I was staying with while I was in the Milan area. She’d offered to take me on this tour…
We continued walking and my heart started beating a little bit faster. With each step we took, we were getting a little further into what I was starting to assume was a murder forest.
Paola, unaware of my increasing heartbeat, continued to talk on her phone, and the paranoia started to slowly set in.
Wait, did she get a phone call or did she call someone?
Initial thoughts of “This isn’t safe for either of us” turned into, “Maybe this just isn’t safe for me.”
Maybe she’s on the phone with Italian hitmen who are planning on shooting me (or stabbing me, depending on how strict Italian gun laws are), and stealing my kidneys.
It was completely irrational, of course… Or was it? Had the breakup between Paola and my friend not gone that well. Was this a long seeded plan for revenge? Or was this an anti-American thing?
It was my first day in Italy, the first time I had ever been, and I was fairly certain that Italians didn’t really care one way or another about Americans. But maybe they weren’t over World War II or had been offended by the success of The Italian Job.
We continued to walk further into the darkness, my heart racing faster than Usain Bolt. I was moments away from turning around and running when Paola wrapped up her phone call.
“Oh, that was my sister. She’s going to be a few minutes late so we can walk a little bit further,” she said, as we made a right down a moonlit path.
In front of us was a clearing and within a few seconds, I realized that we were just on the backside of the palace.
“On this side, you can see there’s a restaurant in here,” Paola continued, pointing. “You can kind of look through the windows. It’s kind of cool. But this my favorite view of the palace, from the back. Anyway, what were we talking about before?”
And just like that, everything seemed normal again. We were no longer in murder forest and Paola was no longer a potential kidney-harvester.
We picked up our conversation where we had left off: on her possibly wanting to live in an RV for awhile because then she could drive to wherever she wanted and sleep.
After all that worrying, I wasn’t murdered in Italy. But I might get kidnapped…