Project Regurgitation: The Perpetual Guest

Our kitchen | September 2010 | Milan, Italy

Penne con Store-bought Pam Pesto

I woke up on one of the first actually-independent days of my semester. This was my life now, I thought. This is what you wanted. Parents were gone, tourist obligations were done, the niceties of orientation had faded… Okay. Okay. …Okay.

“So, do you like pasta?”

I blinked. I realized I had been pacing the sunlit living room when the voice of Chiara, my live-in RA who was born and raised in Milan, gently tapped me on the forehead. She was standing there with a half-bemused, half-you-shouldn’t-disturb-a-creature-in-the-wild face; she’d probably been watching me for a while.

“Uhh… Yes. I mean, IcametoItalyofcourseIlikepastahahayeahIlikeeverythinghaImeanit’sItaly, haha.”
I rant when I’m nervous.

She wordlessly swept into the kitchen and started… to cook my breakfast. For me. She was cooking it for me. My misplaced American reverse-ego and panicked Filipino good-guest genes shoved me skittering into the kitchen, waving my arms around like a dodo bird, and I sounded something like, “NO youdon’thavetocookformeitsfineomgnoit’stotallyokay!”

“Oh. Do you have other plans?”
“Do you not like pasta?”
“I, no.”
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Flhr, yes.”
She raised her palms incredulously, like she was holding out two trays.
“Okay. We eat.”
I didn’t really know what else to do, so I took pictures.
Cause that didn’t add to my weird-American antics.

I spent the rest of the semester trying to use my Made-in-the-USA values of independence and etiquette to fight Chiara’s… logic. I lost a lot. She cooked many meals for me and always laughed when I tried to resist but seemed to have no good reason why. I blushed my way through many pestos. I included her laundry with mine whenever I could. It was hard to shake off feeling like a perpetual guest — Chiara seemed to want to always move past that, cause what does it all prove, anyway? Doesn’t it just waste a lot of time?

If hospitality is logic, than what reason do we have for the distance that “good manners” create?


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