There’s the usual babble of noise in the classroom. I pull up a chair and settle myself down directly in front of the five teenagers that have come to school today. With my hands clutching the edge of the seat, I lean forward, kick my legs straight out in front of me like a child, look up and take a deep breath.
“I’m going to tell you a story!”
Alessandra perks up, clapping her hands with glee. I’ve hooked my first fish.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” I scan my audience, teasing them. “This is the story … of my top.”
As expected, they fall about laughing. “Does it smell?” cracks Gaia. I wave my hands in front of my nose, playing the clown to keep them sweet. “Yes, probably. Sorry about that.” My ploy works. Gaia’s eyes continue to dance, but they are fixed on me, waiting for the story to continue.
“Anyway, as I was saying … This may look like an ordinary, plain black, poloneck top,” – all five nod in agreement – “but in fact it’s very special.”
I pause for a moment to gather my thoughts. Carlotta looks quizzical and rests her chin on her hand.
“I bought this top when I lived in Puglia two years ago. When I first arrived in Italy, I spoke no Italian. Ciao … grazie … – e basta.” As I say the last two words, I make the corresponding ‘that’s all’ hand gesture, poking fun at my uselessness. There’s an appreciative chuckle from Giorgio. I glance over at him. He’s listening intently, chair pushed back, his head resting on his arms, which are folded on the desk. He raises one eyebrow at me, in a mute, ‘and so …?’ You could hear a pin drop in this classroom right now. I smile and carry on.
“One day, I decided I needed some new tops. I knew what I wanted, and I knew where I could get them: at the market. So I looked up all the words that I needed in the dictionary,” – I mime flicking through the pages, pulling ‘help me’ faces as I do so. A giggle ripples around the room. Francesco and Alessandra lean forward.
“Then I went to the market, and I asked the man for what I needed.”
Carlotta’s eyes are sparkling with excitement above her hands, which she has just clapped over her mouth.
“I asked for what I needed, and he understood me.”
Giorgio sits up and grins.
“He understood me, and he gave me exactly what I asked for – a plain black, poloneck top.” I look over at Gaia, who is bouncing in her chair. “So this top is not just a top – it’s a representation of the first time I not only understood, but was understood by someone else. In Italian.”
There’s a moment of silence. Then all five of them break into spontaneous applause. I couldn’t ask for more.
Image by joelwh (Creative Commons).
This post is a response to the Scintilla Project‘s day 8 prompt: What are your simplest pleasures? Go beyond description and into showing the experience of each indulgence.