San Diego commune, 2006
“Angel help me, Michale is hitting on me and I really don’t want to have sex with him! I know he’s going to ask me, but I only want to have sex with Nick”
It’s my friend Nina, it’s 6 pm and we have spent the day touring wineries with three siblings visiting from a commune in Italy, one woman and her two brothers, one of which was Michale.
“Okay, is nick coming over tonight?”
“Yes, I told him what’s happening but he won’t be here till 9!”
She is frantic and rightfully so. She had just started seeing Nick last month but if Michale asks for sex- or as we called it in our cult a “date” -it sets off a chain reaction. First, she would have to say yes even if she didn’t want to do it, second they would both need to go pray about it and get permission from Jesus, (Jesus would never say no either) then they would arrange a spot to have sex in. Sometimes communes had a “date room” sometimes it was a spare trailer.
This chain reaction could happen in the span of 15 minutes. Sometimes longer if no date room was available or you had to get permission from your spouse- who also couldn’t refuse but could prolong the process.
We both knew there was an available trailer so Nina wouldn’t be able to turn him down if he asked. It would be selfish of her to not share her body, and if she said no she would be ridiculed and prayed over, then made to do it anyway as penance and to humble herself.
But this isn’t my first rodeo and my mission is clear, distract Michale from asking Nina for sex for 3 hours. We all planned to hang out in the dining room where Michale had invited us to taste “real wine, not this American stuff”.
I tell Nina,
“Get there in like 10 minutes, let me start talking to him first that way he has to stay in conversation with me even after you show up”
I walk into the dining room to run recon on Michale, he is wearing dark blue jeans and a black T shirt, he also has on shoes, a thin brown belt and a silver chain. Those are all things I can ask him about but I decide to save them for later and start with the wine.
“The only Italian wine I know is Chianti, the Carlo Rossi one, that’s Italian right?”
He is aghast
“No, that is not Italian, that is American and no, no that is not anything like this” He pulls out a beautiful almost black bottle of wine with a chestnut colored label and a gold seal “you see the seal? this seal promises this was made in Italy, grown there, pressed there, everything Italy”
“Well lets try it then” I say, and he begins pouring glasses as Nina walks in. He notices and offers her the first glass.
“Michale I was here first!” I say.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just think Nina is so beautiful so I serve her first”
“Excuse me what about me? Actually are your shoes from Italy too?”
“Oh” He looks down as if noticing his shoes for the first time, “yes these are also from Italy”
“That’s awesome, what part of Italy?”
His sister walks in and Nina and I exchange looks, Nina strikes up a conversation with her and they sit in a corner of the dining room while I learn about shoe leather from Florence.
We make it to 7 pm with Nina and Michale safely apart, but the wine is beginning to catch up as Michale calls to his sister “why you guys over there, come join us, we are going to open another one”
I snap back into preservation mode and when Nina walks up I ask her to massage my neck, she immediately obliges and stands behind me. But 5 minutes in Michale makes his move
“Nina, I need one of those too, come here and do me ” He pats the back of his shoulder. Shit. The neck massage was a bad idea, Nina laughs nervously
“No this is something I do only for my friends”
“No, you do it for guests too I’m next, okay everybody?”
It was not a request and I feel her fingers lose strength. After a few more rubs of my shoulders she reluctantly walks over to Michale, he is seated and grabs her by the waist “You know I want a happy ending massage” Everyone at the table laughs, his sister, his brother, and me “Hahah, don’t be gross” even Nina laughs, she has no option.
“Oh I will give you my special massage “ Nina says and begins using her elbows to massage his shoulders, he winces in pain
“No not like this! Come here”
He pulls her onto his lap and clamps his arms around her, holding her in place. “I like you Nina, you know what comes next, yes?”
“Michale why does this wine taste exactly like coffee??”
It’s a Hail Mary, but I throw it
“No!” He shouts “Which one are you drinking?”
Perfect, this is offensive enough for him to release Nina who runs straight to the bathroom. He leans over to look at the bottle I am drinking “No this one is not coffee, but there is acid sometimes in coffee and maybe you taste it also in the wine”
“It’s the tannins probably” I agree “Hey tell me about that necklace I just noticed it, is it Italian silver?”
“Yes it is, but everyone in Italy has something like this” He says, looking around for Nina. His sister confirms this by taking off her silver necklace to show me, I put it on and bring the conversation back to acid.
“Yeah sometimes the coffee is acidic but I know if you put a little salt in, the acid goes away”
“I never hear of this” He says, “but Italian coffee is better so we never have to put salt” they all snicker and begin speaking in Italian and I think they are mocking American coffee.
It’s 8 pm.
Nina is back from the bathroom, we’ve moved to the living room and where-ever Nina goes Michale is following her. He is not shy about it, it’s like he’s a shark circling.
“Stop following me”
“Why? You are single no? And I like you, so why are you resisting me”
“I want to hang out with everyone and you’re making it hard to talk with them”
“Then talk to me yes?”
“I want to talk to other people too”
“Angel!” Michale calls to me “come be close to your friend Nina”
I am two glasses of wine in and weave my way over
“You guys, are we talking about his belt?”
There’s no Segway, it’s out of context, but I am quickly losing ability to have quality conversation.
“YES your belt” cries Nina, it’s much thinner than American belts”
Michale rolls his eyes “Of course, it is less gaudy” He launches into the difference between American and Italian fashion. I listen and ask questions as I start backing towards the dining room hoping he will follow me, he is so bothered by American women’s lack of taste that he doesn’t notice we have left Nina in the living room. I know it’s only a matter of time before he realizes this so I ask him “okay how would I make myself classy ?”
He looks me up and down, I’m wearing flip flops, a short skirt and a t-shirt with an owl on it.
“You, this is too much” he says, one hand making it to his head as he shakes it. “You know I cannot help you, but maybe I can help Nina, if not with clothes on then clothes off!” he turns back towards the living room and grabs Nina by the upper arm. “Nina, we have one more glass” She is resisting as he drags her into the dining room where he puts her in a chair, she looks at me frantically and I know there is not a lot of time.
“Michale I want another glass too!” I say holding up my still half full glass. “No, you finish that one” He responds, while pouring from a new bottle, “This one is the best for last and you don’t mix” He is pouring a big glass of wine for Nina and one for himself. I chug the rest of my wine even though I know I will regret it in the morning, I hold my empty cup out with glassy eyes “I finished it, now pour me!” He is annoyed but pours me a normal size glass and sits on the same chair as Nina.
“Cheers yes?” He says holding his glass up “To good Italian wine, and American women who need to learn a good time” He is holding Nina in a vice grip with his free arm and I see his fingers digging into her leg. I’m running out of options, I sip the wine then make a face
“wow that’s bad”
“Oh wow thats so acidic, I can’t even drink it”
“No, this one is the best one, not like that”
“No it’s terrible, but don’t worry I know how to fix it”
“There is no fixing, how you think you gonna”
But I am already walking to the cupboard where the salt is kept, I shake some into my hand and begin walking back towards my cup.
“No, no you cannot, this is the best bottle of wine and you don’t”
I shake the salt from my palm into the wine, Michale shrieks as I stir it with my finger and taste it again. It’s salty and horrific.
“See that’s better!” I exclaim and look up to see him with both hands over his mouth, they transfer to his hair and he pulls as his siblings come running in. “why are you screaming Michale?” He is pacing now and bursts into Italian as he describes the atrocity I just committed. They look at me in disgust as I drink my salty wine, but I don’t care what they think of me I just wanted his hands off Nina.
The sound of Nick’s voice slices the air and I hazily look at the clock. It’s 9:03. Mission accomplished.