###> It's going through memory boxes in the middle of moving that has left a lump too stiff to swallow in the back of my throat. I find a picture of you and me and the tears weld to my cheeks. I am wearing a green jogging suit, the same one you met me in. The material is some cheap, green terry cloth from target, but it's comfortable. We were so young and so full of opportunities. The summer of 2005 rests in the back of my mind, in the epitome of my soul. It was a summer with plenty of history for some and unforgettable for many. It's astonishing how much one can age in 7 years. My beautiful Emilio was wrinkle free. The skin on his face was just getting rough. His eyes were happy and liberated. What happened to that sweet, innocent, young man that I once admired? He was given responsibilities that should have never been bestowed upon him. I will always love you, Emilio! I hold you deep inside where your eyes burn. Oddly enough, we have the same almond, cut eyes. You once said that it drove you crazy because you couldn't read me. Humurously enough, every one else could. My eyebrows always arch up with my expressions. Our eyes both are so easy to read. Each time that we cross paths and speak, we find ourselves in our own little worlds. The truth, so easy to see. The pain lingering in my face. My teeth clench together and my cheeks stick in between. They say when you truly love someone, it's impossible to detect inconsistencies. You see the person the way you want to. I'm not sure if you just didn't want to see me. I often wish that I was invisible, but in many ways, I was to you. I won you over so many times with my words. Somehow, I managed to captivate your inner being. I'd hope it wasn't pity. I'd hope it was a true sense of honesty. Each time we spoke of Flavia, your eyes would widen. The creases on the sides would disappear. It was as if you instantly rejuvenated your self. She brought a shining light in the center of your eye, which was the center of your universe. My sweet Emilio, you are in my thoughts and prayers. You were once my only reasoning in the center of this corrupt world. My one and only soulmate does exist. In another life, my love, my one and only, we will dance on the moon, hand in hand. You, in a white button down shirt and loose, matching silky pants. You will my wrist and pull me close. My skinny, long, fingers will fit into your pudgy, small, squared hand. The callouses will not scratch me. They're proof of a working man. We will dance until the stars disappear into the dark sky and the moon swallows the sun. We will find ourselves in a sweet, slow, dance and I will bend my knees to your height. You will grab my dark, long, curly hair and rest my face on your chest. For now Emilio, I say goodbye. Whenever you think of me, that's where we will be; on top of the moon, floating in the air. For now, my tears will corrupt my cheeks. For now, the dark circles form. For now, I begin to mourn. I mourn our sweet youth. I mourn the complete loss of you. I am only as strong as I am because I was able to let your hand slip away. I was able to let you live the life that God had intended. I wish you nothing, but the sincerest smiles and all of the joys you believe you don't deserve. You do deserve it all! Believe in your self, my sweet olive skinned, Angel. I gave you the purest laughter your heart will ever recognize. My only wish is that when you close your eyes and ponder about me, you reminisce with the smiling times. When you discover that I have written a book about us, about you, I hope that you will let go of any resentment and read it. I once said that the only way that I can truly express my self is through my words. I know that they have forever entranced you. Please do not be offended as some of this is dramatized and most of it is true. Cammat misto (I truly care about you)! Aminat (I love you)! O'ciau romirro (Oh, my poor baby)! You have taught me well! I can pretend to forget. I can destroy all of the pages, but my heart can never do the same. Our past will never disappear. My name is Alessandra Toreggiani and I fell in love with an Italian gypsy. These pages will fill you all in on the truth. I can't help, but thank the Lord above, our God, and our savior, Jesus Christ for the magic you introduced into my soul, a lesson learned!
###It must have been the way he grasped my body and turned my skin a light shade of blue that left me gasping for air. I had other boyfriends before him and while I was seeing him, but none of them impacted my life as deeply as he did. I give every individual that I meet all of the passion that exists in my heart, which is more than you can ask from a teenage girl. I may have been immature and easy going, but that was the only way I knew how to give. Every man in my life before him left me fearless and emotionally drained. I was terrified that he would do the same. In the depth of my anima, I knew he would, but I never evaluated how extensive the damage could be. The love I had for him trapped me in a world of oblivion. Many have described the feeling as a mere infatuation, but does that dwell for 7 years? True love is said to persist for an eternity. People warned me of what he was, but that didn't define him in my eyes. Prior to our first engagement, I heard the word that classified his "kind" in The Hunchback of Notredame Esmeralda, the main character was one of "them." I yearned for her wavy, dark, black, smooth, straight long hair, blue eyes, and caring personality. As I think of the reference that distinguishes between "them" and all of the other beings, I want to hurl. I find it extremely tedious to roll the word off of my tongue. I assumed that if this categorization existed, "they" would be like Esmeralda, but I was severely mistaken in more ways than one.
### The way he affected me was life threatening. My body tremored when he approached. To save him, I would die if necessary. To this day, I don't think he really understood my inner affection or admiration of him. He might as well have been blind. I was a naive teenager who fell in love with a gypsy. The word burns in my chest like a bushel of fire incinerating my heart to dust. With time, my life progressed and I have avoided all regressions that plunge me into his arms. I stand firm, shackled with a brick of cement to the ground. I will not allow this being to annihilate my dignity any longer. Don't let me confuse any one. There were good moments and bad as in every relationship. Unfortunately, the awful times became more memorable. It was those few blissful memories that are the most cherished. My expectation for this story is that people will find compassion in their hearts for a culture that is so critically judged, frowned upon, and automatically ridiculed in every country. It is essential to remember that the word, "gypsy" doesn't define a person. I know that I contradict my self on occasion, but it's because of the wounds that I was left with. The characters in this novel and all gypsies on the planet are human, worthy of a chance for acceptance. Many of my loved ones will be offended or saddened as an outcome of this publication, but they must remember that it wasn't my intention, I have done this to help them all move on from the dark hole we found ourselves in. We all deserve to taste the light. I love you all! Please, never, forget that!
### The sound of his name sent me straight to the nearest trash can, a feeling of unsettling nausea occupied the pit of my intestines. It never failed. Every time I heard it, a cold sensation traveled through my veins, causing the hair on my arms and legs to fling straight up. It honestly felt like I was dead. No matter how diligently I tried to avoid it by pacing back and forth, by humming blank tunes that only my brain could register, I could never escape the cruel downfall. I was constricted to a world consumed by him. He was what I breathed in and out, what I ate and what I pictured when I opened and closed my eyes. He was my poison. There was no escape.
### My body begins to shake as the laser penetrates the sensitive skin on my left hand; distasteful memories of my haunting past leave my palate dry and sour. They flash through my mind like a slideshow. I feel my stomach growl in disgust. A mark from my quirky adolescence is beginning to disappear. It resembles a rooky jailhouse tattoo. I can't help, but laugh at the recollection of the day it was branded on my hand. I was 15, carefree, a true "dare devil," fearless of incoming pain, and on an unforgettable vacation. The idea of rebellion spiked my adrenaline as Enrica, my Italian best friend dipped the steralized hospital syringe in black Indian ink. She pricked at my hand until a little trickle of warm, red blood made its way to the crease. She went deeper as she pricked. It was never continuous. She just went by her own notions. She continued until she thought it would stick. Boy, did it ever stick. It resembled a variety of birthmarks conjoined together. If anyone really wanted, they could play connect the dots. Over the years, the color faded to a dark shade of blue. It's location faced me. A perfect, "E" in between my thumb and index finger, where a pen would lean if I was a lefty. It actually connects to a brown beauty mark already present on my hand and the grooves a palm reader may glance at when she's doing an evaluation. It was never a perfect tattoo. It was a sloppy mess of uneven love. I wasn't the sole owner of a tattoo that day. Enrica had gotten one as well. Hers was darker and more crooked than mine. A "T" for a best friend she no longer speaks to.
### When I arrived at my first laser consultation, the technician glanced at the small mark and gave me a stupid smirk. "What does it even stand for?" Her words stabbed at me like a sharp knife swirling around my heart. How dare she question something I want erased from my hand and memory? I want to strangle her, but I manage to contain my self. I give the woman a wicked and intense glare that made her fragile, thin, pale lips turn to a frown. Her ocean blue eyes curiously search for a reaction. I sigh. "Emilio." I manage to whisper as if the name was a sin. Tears instantly fill my eyes, but I stretch them wide open to avoid the unwanted trickes of wet, salty water. It's a difficult task, which burns the sockets. The technician can surely sense the tension. Her bright eyes turn to a cooler shade of blue as I examine her with a grimace. She starts to stutter and quickly changes the subject. I am so pissed that my ears turn red and my jaw hurts from forcefully locking it to prevent unwanted words from spilling out. I hate remembering him. It would have been easier if he was never nice to me. If he always ignored me, I never would have become so attached. I have heard that tattoo removal is more painful that the actual tattoo. I admit it slightly burns, but nothing can compare to the sharp sensation of the needle tracing and retracing the 7 other tattoos that rest on different areas of my body. I am numb and resilient to it all. I am surprised I didn't actually die from the tattoos. My skin is so delicate that I break out in a rash with the smallest bit of irritation. I have shocked every tattoo artist that has ever concocted a piece of art that fits my body. I can sit in a chair for an hour and a half without a break, which is torture for normal people, but not me. I enjoy the brutality of it all. I must be abnormal.
### My stomach jiggles and sends thick vibrations to the edges of my fingertips as I remember the first time I laid eyes on Emilio. He was incredibly charming and a year older than me. His smile revealed two perfect dimples in the edges of both his cheeks. We had many things in common, which included our attitude and the shape of our eyes; the color of licorice, our pupils barely visible. Oh, his eyes, my eyes! I find my self in a bitter sweet trance, frowning at the reflection.
### I get through the fourth treatment without any adverse reaction from the blonde, bimbo bitch that ensured me it would only take two treatments to remove the "E" because it was the size of a dime. Needless to say, I have spent $400.00 enduring four treatments and it's slowly fading. I know that I am insane and I have wanted to cover the tattoo on numerous occasions, but no artist will assume that responsibility. I can't bare the thought of peering at that initial for the rest of my life. I already know he will be on my mind at every relevant occasion of my future. I will remember him when I get engaged, walk down the aisle, and when I give birth to my first child. Yes, Emilio has that affect on me. Memories are all I have and it has been 7 years too long. It's difficult to let go of someone that has made a lasting impression on my life. Sometimes, we have no choice. It's not goodbye, but I will cross your path somewhere. If not, I will cherish the imprints that have been left behind. I'm sharing them with you, world. You can laugh, cry, scream, and die inside when I have.
### It was the summer of 2005 when my family decided to take their yearly trip to Italy. We have an apartment in Falconara Marittima, the province of Ancona, along the Adriatic Sea in the Marche region of Italy. Many have called it the city a "hidden treasure." My father spent the first 23 years of his life there. The apartment was built in the 1950's by my grandfather, Pasquale for Jus wife, Annamaria and There four children. It lied on Via Salita and is directly across from the beach. When my grandparents passed away, my father, the oldest inherited it in 2004. It was immediately remodeled because of earthquakes and monumental damage sustained through the years. It was an extremely difficult process to reconstruct because of the hefty reparations necessary and slow construction rate. After a long agonizing year of shipping condiments, such as furniture and kitchen supplies from a storage unit in South Florida, where we primarily reside, that apartment was finally complete.
### It was the third year in a row that I would spend my summer in Falconara. I was eager to take a break from the "sunshine state," or as I would like to think of it, "home of the palm trees." I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a similar setup compared to Falconara, directly across from the beach. The difference between the two is that Fort Lauderdale beach is vaster and further spread out. Falconara's tightens up and is often polluted by the main gas line in the city, Api. If Api catches fire, the whole city is bound to explode and will become non-existent. The most amazing aspect of Fort Lauderdale, is the seventh floor of my building where our condo rests. I enjoy meditating on my balcony, closing my eyes and feeling the ocean breeze spread and penetrate my inner soul.
### I had already made a friend in Falconara with my sister as we walked along the coast in the summer of 2003. I was 13 and Gemma was 10. Erica was a year younger than me. She had long thick legs, a robust behind, light brown, wavy hair, and brown eyes that matched the color of her hair. It flowed down her back in the creases with the sway of the ocean wind. Coincidentally, her family owned an apartment directly beneath ours in the brick building my grandfather built. She lived there year round and was an only child, happy to have girls her age under the same roof. Throughout the years, as you can imagine, she has become more than a friend. She is our "sister."
### My sister, Gemma, is an innocent 12 year-old girl in the summer of 05.' She enjoys the sounds of pop music from Vanessa Carlton and Kelly Clarkson. She has the voice of an angel. When she lets out a tune, it silences a room with sweet melodies. Her hair is straight, full, and shoulder lengthed brown with kisses of blonde from the sun.
### We quarrel for the aisle seat on the plane. I feel the need to stretch my legs because they're long. Many have compared them to skinny, chicken legs; thicker on top and slim from the knees to the ankles. I lose the fight and give into my sisters demands. I am the most easy going person that I know and I don't want to cause a scene. Gemma sticks her tongue out at me as she takes her seat. I frown and take a deep breath. Continental Airlines provides us with inflight movies and a chicken or steak dinner that tastes like cardboard. We are flying direct; from New Jersey (EWR) to Roma (Fiumicino). All of our family lives in Jersey and we are visiting. I have mixed feelings about this flight. Unwelcomed tears trickle down my face as I think of leaving my boyfriend behind. He is two years older than me, 17, and my best friend. I have been there through the roughest patches of his life. I know I will only be away for 2 1/2 months, but I feel that tingling rush of nausea spread across my stomach and thrust it's way up to my throat. Somehow, I feel as if my blonde haired, light honey eyed, boyfriend won't be there to greet me when I return. My tears flow uncontrollably down my cheeks. Steven comes from a disrupt home. He has an alcoholic mothers and an irresponsible father. He is third from last of 8 children. His mother had the audacity to get evicted from her home and leave her 17-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter on the streets. I think I love him. He makes me smile and a sweet sensation rises in my stomach twisting to my heart. I have never had sex with him or anyone before. It came close, but I could never go through with it. I am secretly a virgin, but like the rest of the people my age, I have lied and said I wasn't. Of course, Steven knows, but we haven't done anything, but swap spit. He respects me and appreciates everything I have done for him; totally opposite of the boys I usually fall for. I like tall, dark, and handsome; the usual stereotype. Steven is broadly shaped and wears his hair, spiky, but short. A smile always runs across my face when I think about his passion to strive, despite all of the obstacles in his way.
My mother gives me an awkward glare and I know she's going to ask if I am okay. I glance in the opposite direction and ignore her. I turn the volume up on my iPod. "Have You Ever," by Brandy is blasting through the rectangular device; a Christmas present from my parents. It's silver and easy to carry around. I dose off in my seat and awaken to drool sliding down the side of my cheek and a bright red imprint of the chair on the left side of my face. I feel a sudden burning sensation, which tingles my bladder. "Oh shit!" I have to pee and I'm trapped against the window. My mother was in the middle seat sprawled out and my sister was on the aisle. She didn't get up once and I would have loved to have been on that end, considering my weak bladder. My father has upgraded to first class because he's terrified of flying and we make him paranoid. I roll my eyes at the thought. I gently tap my mother on the shoulder. She sighs and moves her legs to the side, so I can get through. It's easy to step over my sister and not startle her. Her lips are full and her mouth is slightly open, so that she can breathe. Her nose is flat to her face and small, but wide. Her eyelashes are oval shaped. The only thing we have in common is the dark color of our eyes. Her legs are shorter than mine, she has a round, firm rear end and broad shoulders. She has an athletic build without trying, much like my fathers.
### I struggle to slide the bathroom door open. It's dark on the plane and it's the only sign that's lit up. I am extremely claustrophobic and I feel like I am in a closet. I can barely pull down my lime-green terry cloth caprees. I thank God that I am wearing sneakers. It reeks of urine and Clorox bleach. I bend my knees and stand, careful to avoid the seat, which would be devastating. I extend my right leg to the button that flushes the toilet and tap it with my red and white adidas sneakers. I am surely a fashion disaster, but who cares? The toilet swallows my pee and toilet paper like a famished grizzly bear. The sound is similar to a blow drier in action. It makes my ears pop. I decide that I must wash my hands. The sink is filthy; water, soap, and toothpaste occupy the silver metal spaces. I find myself grabbing the edges of the sink as the plane begins to shake with turbulence. Of course, it happens while I am in the bathroom. I stare at myself in the mirror. My hair is the shortest it's been in awhile; barely touching my shoulders and highlighted; all golden blonde. My eyes are red, flustered all around the edges and my long eyelashes are crusty from dried tears. My curls twist perfectly around my cheeks. My nose protrudes from my face; the only confirmation of my Italian heritage. My cheek bones rest high and two lines crease perfectly from beneath the edges of my nose to the top of my upper lip. Lines are the same as my mothers. I hate my nose. I always have. "It gives me personality," I joke to myself. I am impatient because my feet want to touch solid ground.
### It's 10:30 am CET when we board the second flight. We have to take a shuttle bus to Alitalia's small cargo plane. There are two seats in each aisle. They check our second carry-on automatically to the bottom of the plane because there is no room for it to fit above our seats. Our flight to Rome was extra vacant compared to this one. I remind myself it's only for an hour and take a deep breath. The air is hot and dry. My body is sticky and I smell foul from the last 8 hour flight. I am determined to resist sleep, so that I can explore Falconara with Gemma and Erica. After all, it's been a year from the last time we were all together.
My father gathers all 6 of the oversized luggages that my mother insisted we needed for the trip. Ancona's airport is a clutter. There's only a few entrance doors and one baggage claim machine. Apparently, we were the only arriving flight. Falconara is surrounded by green mountain tops, an extremely old castle rests on top of one of the hills, visible from the flat airport. All of the windows are broken in and no one has vacated it for centuries. I tap my father on his shoulder and ask it's name. Monte Domini, he says in a thick Italian accent. Although he's lived in America for over 30 years, it has never left him and never will.
### Customs consists of two men standing at the middle door and the only entrance into Falconara. They are in blue uniforms and armed with two large rifles. Erica, her cousin, Dario, his parents, and a few of my fathers friends eagerly wave at us through the thick, green, translucent glass. The officers ask my father how long we will be in Falconara and why. He lies and says a few weeks. "We are only visiting."He says in perfect Italian, which is also a lie. My father never reveals too much. They will make us pay them if we tell the truth. One officer takes our passports, glances at them one by one, and let's us all through. It's a relief! Everyone runs to embrace us all and they pop open a bottle of "Spumante," an Italian champagne. In Italy, the drinking age is 18, but no one ever checks. We make a toast to our safe travel, take group photographs, and reminisce from our past.
### When we arrive at our apartment, it looks the same. The black glass tinted door stands there on a tiny, marble, brown step, waiting to be opened. The key to the house is extremely old fashioned with two loops at the end and long teeth that enter the key hole. As we swing the door open, the marble, peach tinted stairs sparkled in the touch of sunlight. It's as if they've been cleaned in our preparation of our arrival. There are three apartments in the building, one in the middle half of the building on the second floor, across from Erica's belongs to Indians from Bangladesh. I can smell the garlic and curry mix as I climb up the stairs to the top floor. It makes me want to vomit because it reminds me of someone marinating in body odor. It stuns me that people don't notice they smell of what they eat. I quickly turn to my parents halfway up the stairs to leave the door (il portone) open. I notice a Winnie the Pooh sign that reads, "Welcome home," which was designed by Erica hanging on the white walls, crooked from many difficult torrential years.
### Erica is eager to show Gemma and me off to her friends. We barely have time to leave the luggages in the house. I feel nasty from the last 24 hours, but we have no other choice, but to give in to Erica's wishes. Gemma is wearing a jogging suit identical to mine in hot pink. We instantly grab sunglasses and our purses and bounce out the door. Gemma's shoes match, like Barbie, appropriate for a 12-year-old. Erica hasn't changed much from the year before. Her hair is blonder and layered; shoulder-length.