We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience. ― Joan Didion, The White Album
Last night I slept on pavement, a sliver of concrete that is a terrace that overlooks the Ponte Vecchio. My journey started one way and ended in another. I tossed. I turned. I fluffed and punched pillows. I read Susan Faludi’s searing profile of the radical feminist, Shulamith Firestone, a woman who sought an unimpeded love but would never find it. I tongued pills and spit them out again. Until finally, I made a makeshift bed on my postage stamp of a terrace and fell asleep.
This is what happens when you allow things to consume you. All this anxiety over two bags making their way, albeit at a snail’s pace, to my hotel in Florence. All the while I convinced myself I was fine, just fine, and I’d prove it by going manic on social media. The equivalent of throwing a blanket over a fire, who knew my thumping heart would be composed of kindling? Who knew I’d burn from the inside out? Who knew the whole of the past two months would plague me, like swallows, and I’d drown in the swarm. Water. Fire. One tends to oscillate between the extremes.
But. But. I refuse to let this happen when I’ve made this brave decision to leave a job that was killing me, when I finally pried open my eyes and mouth, and let all the moth balls flutter out. Then I let all the right people in. No way will I be my own ruin. So I did what I know best to do and took some time, and will continue taking it. We often want to create tremendous noise — a holocaust of sound — all because we’re frightened to hear our own voice. We’re terrified of the words we might say, thoughts that give shape and form to our singular experience. When we say it out loud it suddenly becomes real, and can we bear it out? Can we endure the hours after?
So this is what I tried to do. I spent the early morning hours in the Uffizi, wandering the galleries. What a joy it was to ghost the rooms of a near-empty museum, a place free of phones, cameras and the hoards of chattering groups. It was just me, my own footfalls, and a considerable amount of Botticellis.
Later, tipped off by Lauren, I checked out Trattoria Sostanza (read Elizabeth Minchilli’s astute review). Tucked away on a side street, the eatery is nondescript, homely even, but the word-of-mouth on the pollo al burro was too formidable to dismiss.
I NEED TO PAUSE HERE AND SIMPLY STATE THAT TODAY I’VE EATEN THE BEST CHICKEN I WILL LIKELY EVER EAT. IN. MY. LIFE.
Two breasts are charred while butter browns. The meat is dredged in egg and flour and cooks in cast-iron pan in a pool of sweet butter. The result are tender breasts steeped in butter and thawing the iceberg that is my heart. One would think that the dish would be heavy, fatty, but this is not the case. The technique locks in the flavor, and the chicken is neither greasy or heavy, but rather tender and yielding. OBVIOUSLY I DIPPED EACH PIECE OF MEAT INTO BUTTER. OBVIOUSLY.
And can we talk about the butter lettuce salad? Normally, I’m all blase about an appetizer, but the leaves were so fresh and the oil so perfect I nearly cried eating my salad.
The seating is communal, so I queried folks around me and everyone was thick in the business of cleaning their plate. From thick slabs of beef steak to stuffed tortellini to rich soups, everyone was lapping it up with the fresh ciabatta.
I left, satiated and calmer than I was the following evening. The rest of the day was spent napping, walking, climbing 436 steps to the Duomo cupola and reading Joan Didion.