The Lisa Diaries

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The Lisa Diaries by Lisa Carver  

Men in Uniform

April 15, 1999 ~ Rome

Simone left. Without her to distract us, Dave and I start worrying about whether he should sign a new contract that would keep him away for six months a

year with his band. In the middle of a distressing phone call about the pros
and cons of life in L.A., I say, “Let’s go to Italy!” We leave the next day.


When we land in Rome, I am excited by the Italian workers — small, lithe, uniformed men with mustaches. So many of them. How can they all have mustaches like that? And the cops! Everywhere I look, I see young, firm Italian men in black and red uniforms (tight), big uzis dangling. There’s a fountain in the middle of town in the form of immensely muscular women and men, naked and entangled with enormous swans, fish, horses. Water shoots out of all the holes. The whole thing is wet, writhing and wrong. Right next to it is the most beautiful church, filled with golden paintings and stained glass renderings of the agony of saints. From inter-species fucking to upholding your purity and faith in the face of torture and death, it’s all done passionately in Rome, and, more often than not, it’s done naked.


And then there are the gypsies. An old woman in rags and a veil, with bandaged stumps for hands and feet, lurches toward us. Her eyes meet mine for a split second and I realize she’s not old at all, nor is she bent and deformed; she is a young, healthy woman whose real (pick-pocketing) arms are held close to her body. A woman pushing a fake baby in a carriage creeps up on us. We run away.


We bump into an American who was on the plane with us. She is in Rome for just twenty-four hours — a last-minute deal like ours. She tells us how thirty gypsies descended on her in the Coliseum, squawking and then dispersing in thirty different directions, taking her wallet with them. She yelled “Policia!”
and handsome, young, uzi-ed men rushed from every corner. They ran after the gypsies, but they had all disappeared into the twiny alleyways of Rome. We
walk the girl back to her hotel and discover her room has been broken into. I

have a sudden fantasy about taking her back to our hotel and tying her up and raping her, just out of a sense of completeness — to make this nice young girl’s twenty-four-hour stay the very worst, the most violating. I confess my horrible thought to Dave; he says he had the same one.


The next day we visit Dave’s relatives in Busalengo, where we are interrogated — with the aid of a computer translator that gets half the words wrong — about our marital plans. Since we’ve never discussed marriage before, doing it in a language we don’t speak with people we don’t know is startling. It seems the whole town has come out to meet Dave. They spill out into the hall and then another room and eventually the whole house is filled. Two old maids with dyed black hair have staked out their spot early; it seems completely natural and necessary that they are there.


That night a conspiracy of matriarchs keeps us from fooling around. Every time a light goes off or a door is closed for long enough for us to think it’s safe to start, another light goes on, another door is opened. It continues at irregular intervals deep into the night until we finally give up and go to sleep. The next morning we visit Dave’s cousin Franco the harmonica-playing rebel at his parents’ house. He tells us that Italians usually live with their parents until they marry. This is why, he says, you see couples groping and half-naked in public places — they have nowhere else to go. We leave for Venice.

Lisa Carver and