As I begin sketching out posts for this blog, I notice that I’m not consistent in my first-person pronoun. Sometimes it’s “I,” other times “we”. There’s a reason for it. My dear friend Antonio not only pulled the house from the clutches of disaster, but is my man on the ground there. He’s usually at the house when I’m in town, and he’s in and out when I’m not. He’s so integral to the place and to its maintenance that I consider him a kind of unofficial co-owner.
A lot of the experiences I have in Abruzzo include Antonio, and I don’t know what I’d do without him. Suffice it to say he’s like a big brother to me now, my only “family” and my only close friend in Italy. That said, I’ll probably poke a lot of fun at him because he just gives me too much good fodder.
Antonio’s a sweet-tempered, lovable, and brilliant guy — scientist, inventor, academic, dreamer. He’s also an absent-minded professor, amateur exasperator, part-time chauvinist, oft-times Dutch uncle, and a Mr. Magoo.
One of our ongoing skirmishes concerns the chaos he creates in the house. He’s too busy pondering bio-renewable energy generators to master the concept of a sock drawer.
(And we’re off…)
Antonio can’t put anything away. He hangs his clothes from backs of chairs and on door handles, wall decor, and radiators; he piles them onto dressers and end tables. He’ll hang shirts and trousers almost anywhere but inside the closet. He’ll lay socks and underwear and t-shirts almost anywhere but inside a drawer.
For that very reason, he can never find anything. I spend a part of most days circling the house to locate a pair of light grey trousers or a Burberry baseball cap. If I don’t find it for him, he buys a new one. And if he can’t find that new one after he’s buried it under 12 other items hanging from his desk chair, he’ll buy another. As it is, he buys socks and underwear practically every time he leaves the house because he can’t find them and so is convinced he doesn’t have them. And so the chaos grows.
Upon entering any given room, I might find plastic bags tossed around that are full of socks, t-shirts, razors, towels, shoe polish, vitamin supplements, tissue boxes, crumpled shirts, caps, and light jackets.
It’s ironic, too, because, like many Italians, his toilette is meticulous. His shoes are always freshly polished, his beard shaved twice daily, his clothing layered in studiedly unstudied fashion. He goes through several costume changes a day. There’s the look for around the house, the look for strolling, the look for going out in the evening, the look for sitting, the look for standing.
I’ve tried time and again to demonstrate the science of putting things away. “Look, Antonio,” I say. “This is your bureau. This is your closet, full of empty hangers.” I open the drawers to show him the spaces inside are real and how easy it is to reach them. I explain that it’s much easier to find tees and socks in drawers designated tees and socks drawers, to find towels in designated towel drawers. He always greets the idea as if it’s news. “Wonderful, thank you,” he’ll say distractedly. He’s not paying the least bit of attention.