Dave was staying in one of those big Italian camping grounds on
the west coast of Toscana. He'd been travelling alone for
awhile, young American bumming around Europe for the summer with
backpack and guitar. After being worn out by all the Toscana
cultural hotspots--Firenze, Siena, Volterra--he'd crashed to the
beach for a while to take it easy, physically and economically.
The campground was huge, like a city, a world of its own. Lots
of Italian families had permanent tents standing, with wooden
kitchen huts, fences and gates, flowers, big tables for big
families, where they gathered to eat and watch TV. It wasn't
camping, it was their summer home, a lifestyle.
There was also a smattering of Germans and Dutch campers, but
otherwise not many foreigners. As far as he could tell, Dave was
the only American around.
He had a little tent but few other luxuries, camped in a row with
the other small tents. He had expected the usual crowd of inter-
national travelers, but almost all of the campers here were
Italians. And while he had learned some phrases, he was by no
means fluent in Italian, so he passed a few days without ever
really talking to anyone, other than saying "buongiorno".
A bickering older couple were in the tent to one side of his own,
an enamored young couple on the other. There seemed to be only
couples or big families here, very few single guys...or girls.
Actually, of the bickering older couple Dave had never seen the
woman, only heard her arguing with her husband, who looked about
50, balding with classic Latin moustache, and evidently somewhat
more stressed than most of the happy campers, according to the
permanent sour expression on his face. He would nod curtly to
Dave every time he passed by, consistently saying either
"boungiorno" or "buona sera", depending on the time of day,
nothing else, very seriously and businesslike, no smiling.
One evening Dave was sitting in front of his little tent, having
eaten his proscuito & formaggio sandwich and some grapes,
drinking a little sambuco mixed with acua minerale frizzante,
watching the full moon work its way up through the trees which
gave the campground shade in the day. He considered playing his
But the neighbors started another family row inside their tent.
There's not much privacy in a campground, so although Dave
couldn't understand their words, it was clear by tone that she
was complaining, that he was denying or making excuses, then she
was getting emotional, he was getting irritated. Finally he left
in a huff and she was crying alone in their tent.
Not just sniff sniff but boo hoo hoo. Dave had his guitar in
hand, but trying not to make a sound because he didn't want to add
embarrassment to her miseries. Everything had been overheard--she
couldn't know that he hadn't understood a word of it. So he politely
waited for her to stop sobbing.
But she didn't stop, just kept on and on. Dave sympathized, but
he also got tired of keeping an awkward silence, so he started
playing the guitar he had been holding in his hands all the
while. He figured maybe take her mind off her troubles, cheer
her up. If nothing else, remind her that she was sobbing her
heart out in a very public place.
He strummed softly at first, as if to warn her that he was there,
but she seemed not to care, just kept crying. So he played
anyway, played for her. He liked having an audience. He'd been
earning money as he travelled, playing and singing in the streets
of Europe: London, Paris, Copenhagen. Usually 60's rock--
Beatles, Dylan, Kristofferson, Simon--he earned more money when
he played stuff people knew.
But he wasn't playing for money now. So for this sad lady, his
audience of one, he turned to his Latin repertoire, the romantic
and moody stuff, figuring it close enough to Italian music. Dave
took his music seriously, had studied classical, flamenco, bossa
nova, Mexican rancheros. He did his best to turn on the violins
inside his guitar.
She did stop crying. In fact, she came out of her tent and sat
there smoking a cigarette in the moonlight. Dave still hadn't
seen her, just her knee around the corner of her tent, but he
knew she was listening.
So he played his heart out. Trying to transport this unknown
lady, whoever she was, to a higher state of mind on wings of
song, hopefully inspiring her with his masterful finger work,
blowing her away with his impeccable tone. Anyway, he got off
on it himself.
Finally, after about an hour and a half, he burned out. He had
to stop. His fingers hurt. His bottle of sambuca was empty.
And he had to pee.
He slid the guitar into his tent and got stiffly up to go to the
toilet facilities near the center of the campground, glancing
back to see if she was still there, but couldn't see around her
tent without going the wrong way.
The toilets were 50 meters away, which brought him nearby the
camp's commercial hub, where the shops and swimming pool were.
There were also lots of people there just then, music playing,
bright lights. He went that way to check out the scene.
The shops were closed but the bar was open, so he got a can of
coke. A cluster of Italians were playing a game, bocchio,
rolling balls down a concrete trough. A crowd was watching so
Dave joined them, leaning on a fence and drinking his coke. It
was very laid back, very social, very Italian, families, kids,
people talking softly, teenagers flirting. Everyone seemed to
know everybody else.
Then he noticed a woman also leaning on the fence, ostensibly
watching the game, but who seemed to be looking over at him on
the sly. She'd be looking his way, then turn her head away
whenever he caught her eye. Then she left.
Dave didn't think anything of it--he was a foreigner, people
looked at him all the time. People yes, but Italian women, no.
Until she came back again a few minutes later and stared at him
again. She seemed indecisive, irritated, flighty, left again.
Came back again.
Suddenly Dave thought: is that her? The sad lady? Had she
followed me here?
But no, couldn't be. She was too young, early-middle 30's he
assumed, and the man in the tent next to him was in his 50's.
She was short and slightly plump, with an also nicely plump
bosom, curly black shock of hair, pretty cute face. Not bad at
Couldn't be her, unless the man had a much younger wife. If they
were married, that is. Could be a mistress, of course...or maybe
a daughter, but he knew better than that, their arguing had
sounded neither fatherly nor daughterly.
However, Dave had never seen her, only her knee. He had no
picture of her in his mind. This could be her, it WAS possible.
But why would she follow me? Dave asked himself. Because she
liked my music so much that she wanted to see who I was?
Because she was lonely and felt a contact with the fascinating
stranger who had played for her? Because she was angry with
her husband/boy friend and wanted to use someone (me) to get
Obviously, Dave's mind was beginning to run with the idea that
this woman was actually interested in him. And why not? He was
alone, hadn't even spoken with anyone in days, and after a few
days on a beach full of healthy young semi-naked Italian girls
(even topless) he was getting pretty horny.
Dave had no special faith in himself as a seducer of women,
especially Italian women, since he couldn't speak the language.
However, he had lots of faith in his guitar playing--it seemed
that every time he got lucky with girls it was because they
thought he was a cool musician.
If this was that sad lady, then he didn't need to speak Italian--
his guitar had already said everything needed to say. But if
this wasn't her, then he had to be fooling himself about her
being interested at all.
But wait: what if she was married? What if her man came back?
Dave was a stranger in a strange land, who might get lynched if
he broke some Sicilian code of behavior--maybe she was a devout
Catholic, a virgin, a nun...
Dave didn't know what to do, so he didn't do anything. Let her
make the next move. And she did: she left again.
He waited for a while, but she didn't come back. So he went
past the toilet facilities on the way back to his tent to avoid
having to get up in the middle of the night for that long walk
back and forth.
It was quiet in that tent next to his. In fact, it was quiet
everywhere since it was well after midnight. Dave was tempted to
play one last number on the guitar, to see if there was any
reaction, but decided against it--he'd just piss off all the
other sleeping neighbors.
He got into his sleeping bag but lay there listening, wondering
if she in the next tent really was that cute woman he'd seen.
The one who seemed interested in him. Silly, he knew, but he
couldn't help it: he was turned on by the idea of having won a
woman with his music.
The more he thought about her--and her plump breasts--the cuter
she seemed, the more desirable. Fantasies ran through his head,
erotic scenarios in which she made passionate latin love to him
without ever speaking a word; or in which she actually spoke
English because she'd been an exchange student in Ohio or
somewhere; also negative fantasies in which the sour-faced old
man returned and caught them doing it and violence ensued, or the
caribinieri were called in to deal with this foreign devil who
had soiled the honor of a good Catholic girl. Dumb stuff.
Anyway, it took a long time to fall asleep.
The next morning the neighbors were already bickering again,
enough to wake Dave up. The man had evidently returned in the
night. Dave nudged the flap of his tent slightly open with his
foot, resolved to see the woman next door this time.
The man came out, dressed in shorts, towel over his shoulder, and
went off to the toilets without ever looking Dave's way. He
could hear the woman rummaging around in the tent, and then she
came out. Dave pushed the flap farther aside.
It was definitely not the cute plump black-haired woman. In
fact, this woman was...well, ugly as hell. She had a hawk nose,
no chin, thick stubby body, and to top it all off, pink hair in a
crew-cut. Dave let the flap fall back.
No wonder the man was so sour-faced, no wonder they bickered.
And now that Dave thought about it, he realized that he had been
ignoring how irritatingly stupid the woman's voice had sounded
while they had argued. Suddenly his sympathies shifted from the
woman to the man.
He had to laugh at himself. He'd been turned on all night about
a fantasy. The cute woman was probably just as bad in the light
Actually, she wasn't. He saw her later that day, sitting with
her husband and four kids at a big family table, eating and
watching TV. She was still cute, but Dave felt no interest other
than amusement at his own folly.
Later that day he took his guitar to the beach and ended up
meeting the most lovely girl from Verona, two years younger than
himself, who even spoke fluent English.