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That i once ended up in bed with the handsome Anselmo, who after that completely avoided me because he was officially with Lauren, and so i was kissing with Lorenzo for a while, who was so much cuter. It didn't go any further than kissing, and although i found it a bit weird and pleasant at the same time, he would never tell me the reason. It was complicated, he said once, and that was all.

A few years later, i was with Matthieu, who was again friends with Lauren, and so i got back in touch with Anselmo, who seemed somewhat reassured now that i was with someone, but still seemed a bit out of my way. Anselmo and Lorenzo worked part of the year at the blast furnaces, like many other Italians, and they would stay in D4-101; the remaining months they went back to their families on the then island of Sardinia.

Matthieu was a charismatic person, funny, jovial and a great cook. A pity that it turned out later that he abused all his partners, but let's not talk about that now: this story must go on, so let's jump to Sardinia, via a long ride in the car with Lorenzo. Anselmo would go a bit later, in his own car.

Before the boat left for Porto Torres, we climbed huge stairs in Genoa, it was beautiful. And although i don't want to talk about it now, i must say from my burdened heart that actually everything was overshadowed by my enormous fear of Matthieu. Almost literally. In fact, even that beautiful city was ruined by his presence. All my memories of that time are accompanied by the memory of how i felt at the time, which was incredibly nasty. I constantly had to tiptoe around him, for the slightest thing he could ignite in anger. Although that was a lot less on the trip; apparently he didn't feel free enough, was afraid of losing friendships, or how the large group of Italian acquaintances might turn against him. And yet, always there was the fear, which had settled over me like a cliché dark cloud, following me everywhere. It is a memory i prefer to put far away.

It was hot in Sardinia. We had brought a tent with us, and had hoped to camp in someone's garden, but that turned out not to be possible, because the cat was now out of the bag: Anselmo, Lorenzo and all the other young men turned out to be all married, with dozy housewives and with bleeds of children and so on, a mother-in-law living in or a bedridden father. Complicated, indeed. The small gardens were full of laundry and children's toys, sleeping in between was not a good idea.
Although several people advised against it, Matthieu insisted pitching the tent a long way from the village in a low wooded plain. It was a beautiful spot, but with little to no shade, as we were surrounded by wild thyme bushes as far as you could see. It smelled nice there, though. And at night, we slept with our heads outside the tent so we could look at the moon and stars. Semi-romantic, because cliché cloud. But even so, much fun to write home about.

During the day, we usually hung out with some friends, and if they had other commitments, with the friends of those friends. The village was close to the sea, and in the coastal village everyone knew each other too, and we were always received very kindly. There was the restaurant owner, for instance, who thought i was far too skinny (in hindsight, i was), and so he would always serve me overflowing plates of pasta, which i wouldn't finish and then he would be offended, and other people would have to convince him that i couldn't eat that much food with my stature.

Near the beach was a large, high, overhanging rock formation, somewhat like a bridge, on which the young men climbed and then jumped off, into the sea. We once took a long beach walk, and i with my snow-white skin burned my legs in the process. On returning, i turned out to be very red, and someone took me to the local GP, who gave me an ointment to apply on it.
I did so obediently, and we went back to the tent, where i fell into a kind of comatose sleep. I can't remember, but it seems i was seriously dazed, and Matthieu went to get help (there were no mobile phones or internet in those days).
What i do remember is how i was alternately carried by two handsome men to a tiny car. I had to sit on top of the two men on the back seat, which was extremely painful. At the hospital in Oristano i was put in a wheelchair, and at the emergency room they talked over my head in Italian.
For reasons obscure to me, i had to visit the hospital director first. Probably it was something insurance-related, i had to sign something and i collapsed forward onto the desk with the wheelchair and all, which Mr director was very displeased with, and with a hand gesture to the orderlies i was waved away.

In a treatment room, the blisters, which had now grown to grim proportions, were carefully punctured, after which my legs were rubbed with another ointment, which hurt immensely. I was then taken to the hospital ward. The hospital was very busy, so my bed had to be placed in the middle of the six other beds, but slightly on the window side, so there was still walking space.

It was a bit difficult to communicate, with my poor Italian, and the poor English of the other sick ladies. But everyone was extremely kind. And religious, there was some praying for a good outcome to their and my hospital visit. The cook had made potatoes especially for me, and came out of his kitchen especially for me; my attempts to explain that i also like pasta were futile.

The next morning, Matthieu came to bring some clothes he had borrowed from friends. Lorenzo was also along. They immediately brought me the news too, that there had been forest fires the night before, and in the process our tent had also gone up in flames. I was in shock.

One of the women asked Lorenzo what had happened, and so the story soon went all over the ward. A young woman, from halls away, came and told about her car accident; she held my hand. An older woman, also from another ward, came to brush my hair, praying continuously. It was all very sweet, i just let it sink in. Women came and stood by the doorway praying, looking at me and i waved, not knowing how to react.
The nurse told me, i had to get up, and that was terrible hell. As long as i lay on the bed with my legs stretched (under a hood), it was doable, but when moving and standing again on those aching legs, my joints and skin hurt a lot. The first few times i stood, i was encouraged by the whole room. And again, women from the other halls came to watch and started praying as soon as they saw me, so that my going to the toilet became a procession-like scene.

It all became very weird, i wondered what was going on. Of course it was a bizarre story. If i did not burn my legs, we'd been in the tent. Could we've been able to escape? Then we would most probably have been trapped by the fire.
So because I was burned, we were not burned...

A fellow patient explained to me that that fact was seen as a divine intervention by many religious women in the hospital, hence the stares and many prayers. She talked to the nurses, and then the believers were kept away from me, so i could heal in relative peace.

After a few days, i was discharged, and Matthieu and i were invited to move in with the girlfriend of a friend of friends.
As we returned home a few weeks later, and were on the boat towards Genoa, a Sophia Loren-like woman came up to me, she started rattling enthusiastically, and as i stood non-comprehendingly sheepish, she lifted her pretty dress to show the fresh scar on her belly. Ooooooooooooooooo! She was the patient who had made sure i was left alone; i had not recognised her in her beautiful outfit. Her husband was a high-ranking carabiniere, who for incomprehensible reasons treated me very bluntly in the hospital ward, as well as there on the boat, something for which she criticised him loudly. So special and sweet that a stranger, of whom you still wonder why she was married to such a jerk, cares about you so much. I also still wonder, how would all those people be like, how their lives have turned out?

Read more? About this trip i also wrote the story Topfun and Butterflies.

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