Anna-Leena Harkonen


Anna Huovinen 


Moments in the Sun

A few weeks ago, I returned home from Italy, the land of lovers. In terms of age, I’m old enough to be a grandmother, but in Italy I felt like a young donna. “Buongiorno, signora!” men of all ages kept shouting to me on the streets.

When did I turn from a signorina into a signora? Twenty years ago? When I still was a signorina, the attention felt annoying. That was no longer the case.

ONE DAY at a beach restaurant, I asked when it would be possible to have lunch. A chef from right out of a Fellini movie, with a walrus mustache and a huge toque, darted from the kitchen.

“Signora,” he stated solemnly. “This restaurant will open whenever you want it to open.”

THE SERVICE was not equally good in all places. I spotted a wonderful pair of silver sandals, exactly the right size, on a rack in front of a little shop. I asked the shop owner, an elderly man, to come out from behind the counter.

“I would like to buy those silver-colored ones,” I said, pointing at the pair of sandals.

“That is not silver,” he said.

“No? It does look like silver to me,” I maintained.

THE MAN SHOOK his head and dragged me back into the store behind him. He threw a pile of silver-colored leather string onto the counter.

“This is silver! I make you new!”

I was becoming frustrated. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of having a new pair of sandals custom-made for me. I wanted to buy the ones on the rack.

FORTUNATELY, the man’s daughter appeared from the back room. I asked her to come outside and have a look.

“In your opinion, what color are those?”

“Silver,” she said. I asked her to take the sandals off the hooks.

BACK IN THE STORE, the man threw a fit. I didn’t understand a word, but it didn’t sound constructive. He grabbed the sandals from her hands and held them in front of my nose.

“San!” he yelled.

For a moment, I thought “san” was Italian for a tone resembling silver, but then I realized he was talking about the sun: the color had faded in the sun.

I told him that the faded color didn’t bother me. I wanted to buy the sandals; they were perfect for me.

He shook his head and took out a piece of paper, on which he wrote “SAN!” in block letters, and banged his fist on the counter.

I TOOK OUT my wallet and tried one more time. He hissed something in Italian, and I burst into tears.

“He won’t sell them to you,” the daughter said, shrugging in resignation.

“Why not?”

Her response was an ambiguous smile.

Grazie,” I said, and walked out of the store.

FOR THE REST of my vacation, I crossed to the other side of the street whenever I was approaching the sandal store. I didn’t want to face his wrath again.

Why must there always be someone to avoid, in every corner of the world?

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2023

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

This site uses AWStats to monitor visitor numbers. Cookies are not used.