Three funiculars leave from the Vanvitelli area of Naples, where our hotel was located, and descend the mountain in different directions towards the downtown area. As fate would have it, we took the wrong one and ended up a good three miles from the main port, where we were supposed to board a ferry to the island of Capri.
Mr. T grumbled for a while as we walked by the water towards the docks, but my happy chatter and the beauty of the city soon put him in a better mood. Who could possibly be angry in such lovely surroundings, I thought to myself.
About halfway to the port, I saw in the distance a funny-looking light post. As we approached it, I could tell that it was heavily marked with graffiti. A thick chain was wrapped around the post, and attached to it were at least twenty locks of all shapes and sizes! Upon closer inspection, we noticed that each lock had the names or initials of a couple. A few had been engraved, but most were labeled with permanent marker or even nail polish.
Mr. T and I spent a few minutes looking through the locks, wondering out loud about this curious tradition. We took a few pictures and continued on our way, so as not to miss the ferry.
“We should do that,” I told Mr. T, tugging childishly at his arm and pointing back to the post with the locks. My dear, sweet, but oh-so-practical boyfriend just grinned and sighed at the hopeless romantic walking next to him…
Several days later, I spent the morning alone in Naples while Mr. T went to work in Salerno. I was to meet him at the bus depot in the afternoon, upon his return. I wore my cutest miniskirt and a brand-new skin-tight shirt, thinking that it would make him happy to know I dressed up for him.
All morning long, as I shopped in an upscale district, I noticed the appreciative glances and smiles from charming, well-mannered Italian men. However, by the afternoon, as I approached the neighborhood where the bus depot was supposedly located, the crowd became sketchy. Appreciative glances became inflaming catcalls, and polite smiles turned into sinister jeers. The heat was oppressive, cars honked and swerved for no reason, and twice I stumbled on the uneven cobblestones. I forged ahead, knowing that in just a few minutes I would be safe with Mr. T.
I reached the main train station, where Mr. T said he’d be arriving by bus, and started looking for signs to the bus depot. Not a single marker indicated the location of the incoming regional buses. I walked outside and asked a kiosk attendant in Italian where the buses arrived. He told me to go out to the front of the train station. When I exited, I saw only two private tourist buses parked by the curb, loading Japanese tourists.
I found a police officer and asked him where the buses from Salerno arrived. He pointed across a large parking lot leading to the back of the train station. I started walking but the lot eventually turned into a row of warehouses. I stopped to ask a group of men where the depot was. They told me I had to cross the street. I did this, walked about five minutes, and found nothing remotely resembling a bus depot. I entered the lobby of a hotel, and a porter kindly took me towards a parking lot full of buses. My hopes soared until I realized the parking lot was devoid of people. Not a single passenger was boarding or exiting the buses. I found a bus driver and asked him to point me towards the bus depot. He gestured roughly with his hand in the general direction of the train station and barked, “It’s across the street.”
Frantic now, knowing that Mr. T had arrived 30 minutes prior, I started walking as fast as I could back towards the train station. A young man in a Vespa stopped and inquired if he could help me. I asked him if he could point me in the direction of the bus depot, and he told me that it was around the other side of the train station. He said in Italian, “It’s a bit far, why don’t you jump on my bike? I’ll take you.”
I smiled cautiously and took a step back. “Thank you,” I replied. “I’m not in a hurry, so I’ll walk.” I turned and took a step away from him. As I did, he leaned over, reached out, and in a split second… GRABBED. MY. ASS.
It took me a moment to absorb what had just happened. I looked over my shoulder, my mouth frozen in a perfect “O” of shock and indignation. He quickly steadied his bike and revved the engine to leave, but I managed to give his helmet a hard whack before he drove away.
I stood on the sidewalk, one hand holding two shopping bags and the other clenched in an infuriated yet impotent fist. I knew I had to keep moving, had to find Mr. T, so I turned in the direction of the train station and started walking. With each stride, an inordinate amount of rage built inside me. My breath came in short, nasal huffs as I re-lived what had just happened.
Was I mad at the guy? Hardly… Yes, he was a creep, a loser, a pathetic excuse for a man. But these men are everywhere in the world and we must co-exist with them. No, I wasn’t mad at him; I was mad at myself! Why had I not fought back? Why hadn’t I clawed his face to shreds with my nails? Why hadn’t I swung my leg to kick him, as I had practiced countless times in karate? Why didn’t I hurl myself at him, knocking him off his bike in a tirade of rage?
As I approached the train station, I saw a group of blue regional buses, and next to one of them I spotted Mr. T, waving wildly. I walked to him, gave him a quick hug, turned away, and said in a tight voice, “Get me out of here, I want to go home.”
“That’s quite an outfit,” he said before realizing my discontent. “Honey bunny, what’s wrong?” he quickly asked, following after me as I charged into the metro station.
I tried to modulate my tone, but my words came out faster and more frantic as I relayed my story. “…And then the cop told me to go across the lot, and the guys at the warehouse told me to go across the street, and the bus driver didn’t even know where the depot was! The bus driver! How fucked up is that??”
“It’s ok, baby,” he consoled me. “You’re not the only one who’s upset. I’ve been waiting here for over half an hour, it’s really hot, and I couldn’t leave because I knew you wouldn’t be able to find me.”
At that moment, the dam burst. “WELL, AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T GET YOUR ASS GRABBED!!!” I cried, burying my face in his chest.
“Oh… Honey… I’m sorry that happened to you! Who did that?”
“Some asshole,” I muttered into his chest, willing the humiliation and rage to leave my body. I looked up into his eyes and whimpered, “I just wanted to look pretty for you, so I wore this outfit, but then all these guys started looking at me funny and saying stuff, and then I got lost, and then…” I buried my head back in his chest, running out of steam as his arms wrapped around me.
“It’s OK now, you’re with me and nobody will hurt you,” he reassured me. “If we walk back up this street, we’ll be in the shopping district in no time.”
I held tight to his hand as we crossed the street and started heading back towards civilized society. Every time a man neared us, I grabbed Mr. T’s arm and gave my best “don’t even think about it” icy-cold death look. Mr. T tried to distract me by asking about my shopping experiences, and as I recounted my fashion finds, we walked by a locksmith shop.
“Hey,” Mr. T said softly, nudging my hand in the direction of the store. “I think I know how to cheer you up.” We walked into the store and in faltering Italian purchased a gold-plated lock.
“We’re too far from the port right now,” Mr. T told me as we exited the store. “I have to work all day in Salerno tomorrow, so you’ll have to spend our last day in Italy alone. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to buy a permanent marker, write our names on the lock, take it down to the lamp post, and attach it.”
The next day I walked down to the port, excitedly clutching a lock with our names on it. I reached the lamp post, found an available link on the chain, and carefully attached the lock to it. As I snapped the lock shut, an overwhelming sense of joy and love arose within me, squeezing out every last bubble of hate that had fermented inside me a day earlier. I gazed at the lock, more precious and meaningful to me than all the gold in the world.
I grasped the keys tightly in my left hand, closed my eyes, and made a wish. I opened my eyes, gazed at the horizon, and threw the keys into the ocean.