It wasn’t the first time Giorgia had been asked to be a guest on someone’s boat. Living near the Amalfi Coast, it was always easy to come across a friend or acquaintance looking to fill up their barca for an excursion. Contrary to what outsiders of the region might believe, Amalfi was not “just for the rich.” It was for those that lived within its reach as well. And Giorgia had been living in Napoli long enough to know that she deserved as much as anyone—if not more—to go on journeys such as the one she was taking today. This early October morning when the sun was still shining brightly long after summer was supposed to have faded out. But Giorgia knew, as well as the next person, that weather patterns didn’t adhere to any one season at this point, and she, like everybody else, ought to stop expecting it to. Which she essentially did as she proceeded to put on her scantiest bikini. A white one with an allover gold fleur-de-lis pattern. The white brought out her bronze skin tone even more, and she couldn’t help but admire her physique in the mirror before applying a dash lip balm to protect from the sun. In fact, that was the only protection she would be putting anywhere on her skin, being of the belief that sunscreen was largely for “delicate flower” types. And the only thing flowery about Giorgia was the fleur-de-lis pattern.
Moving to her closet to find a dress she could put on over her suit, she overheard the usual cacophonous yells of her mother berating her brother for being a strunzo. Staying out all hours of the night doing god-knows-what and not coming home until four in the morning. He was only seventeen, and Marialba was terrified that he might not make it to eighteen at the rate he was going. It was clear he had become involved with some criminal element, though Marialba couldn’t pin down of what variety. Was it stealing, pimping, selling drugs? All of the above? She had to know, but she also really didn’t want to. Giorgia did her best to avoid talking about it, staying out of the house as much as possible with the excuse of her job and university classes. At twenty-two, she dreamed of nothing but one day escaping from Marialba’s house, yet felt the weight of its impossibility. The weight of “realism” crushing down on her every time she walked out the door and was hit over the head with the paucity of opportunity.
This is exactly why she seized upon the chance to have an “Amalfi day” with one of her schoolmates, Francesca, who had been able to secure an invite for her on the boat despite the fact that Giorgia had never met the person renting it, Stefano. Yes, he was a “renter.” Automatically making him “lesser than” to those who orbited the coast with their owned yachts. But Giorgia felt it was important for people like her and Stefano to maintain a foothold, however marginal, in that sea. The wealthy needed to be reminded that there were still “other kinds” of people living here, in Italy and on this Earth. Giorgia felt obliged to be part of that reminder. Regardless of how nominal it was, and how nominal it made her feel.
Upon arriving at the Port of Sorrento, where Stefano and the “skipper,” Aldo, would be waiting for them, Giorgia suddenly felt a rush of nervousness course through her body. She could scarcely say why, but so profound was it that she stopped in her tracks long enough for Francesca to turn around and ask, “Are you okay?”
Removing herself from her daze, she replied, “Uh yeah. I just… I don’t know. I got a strange feeling.”
Francesca scoffed. “What? You worried we’re gonna capsize? Come on, Giorgia. Aldo is very capable. I should know.”
Indeed, this entire trip was in part due to Francesca’s bid to get Aldo to sleep with her again. Not that it would be very difficult, it was just a matter of getting back into his line of vision—wearing next to nothing. Men needed everything laid on thick, after all. And that saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” was oh so true. But Francesca would be very much in sight today. Except that she didn’t account for Giorgia taking up most of the space in Aldo’s purview. And Stefano’s, for that matter, with both of them practically falling over themselves to “help” Giorgia with every little thing once her dress came off and they saw what was underneath.
The boat could be described as small at best and medium from a delusionoid’s perspective. “The girls” decided to take up the front portion of it—the aspect that offered the only source of “lying down and tanning” capabilities. Even if it was impossible to lie down comfortably as the boat jostled their bodies to and fro at the slightest advent of a wave, putting both of their necks and spines at risk. And sure, Giorgia thought her body to be rather resilient, but this was getting ridiculous. A revelation that cemented itself as her thigh was slammed against the side of the boat, leaving an instant bruise. But that would be nothing compared to the bruise left upon her mind by the events of the day, which were quickly unraveling to become a grave mistake on Giorgia’s part. She was starting to wish she had just stayed in Napoli, where things are exciting enough without adding a boat into the fray. And her regret was mainly because of how oddly Francesca was acting toward her. Flashing her dirty looks and guffawing at everything Giorgia said, it was making her increasingly tense and uncomfortable. For a second, she even thought about putting her dress back on to mitigate some of the tension. For it was obviously her body that was causing all this controversy amongst the group.
That all-too-brief pensiero was ruined when the dress, which she had asked Francesca to put safely away in the storage box so that it wouldn’t billow away, shot up into the air from the ground where Francesca had carelessly placed it. As though she wanted Giorgia to lose her dignity by losing her sole “cover-up.” For, as everyone knows, the rules of bathing suits are: they’re only non-scandalous when worn in beach settings. But when going into a public venue like a shop or a restaurant, it becomes, all at once, forbidden—worse still, trashy—to “dress” in such a way. Thus, with Giorgia’s frock given as a sacrifice to Poseidon (or Neptune, as the Italians prefer to call him), it was going to limit her ability to join the rest of the group at any outposts they wanted to pop into along the way. For instance, Francesca was mad about the idea of going to Ravello for lunch (she declared that Positano was much more expensive, though not really). How would Giorgia be able to participate? She didn’t have the money to buy new clothes, and no one on the boat was offering up a loan. It was almost like this dress snatching had all been by Francesca’s carefully-crafted design. That she had deliberately not put the dress away for safekeeping so that Giorgia could suddenly be “shamed” for having her body on full display at a location that wasn’t the boat or the beach.
This is precisely why she did not join Aldo, Stefano or Francesca in Ravello when they went to lunch. Instead, she lied that she was “perfectly fine” just tanning on the sand and waiting until they returned. But the hours went by, and they still hadn’t. Despite the barrage of text messages sent and phone calls made to Francesca (she being the only person whose number Giorgia had), there was no answer. The sun was starting to set, and Giorgia was on the verge of commandeering that goddamn boat herself as she started to shiver with the chill that came whenever the sun was dimmed by the quickly-shifting clouds. Clouds that appeared as mercurial as Francesca’s mood.
Wrapping the towel she had brought along for warmth around her shoulders, Giorgia rose from her spot and walked toward the boat just as Francesca and the others showed up all smiles, with Francesca’s arm linked into Aldo’s. Clearly, things had gone her way with regard to that intention. The trio glanced in her direction innocently as she glared back at them.
“Where the fuck have you three been?” she wasted no time in demanding.
Stefano and Aldo looked perplexed, with the former responding, “Francesca didn’t hear anything from you, so we thought you must have still been enjoying your beach time.”
Giorgia shot a look of sheer contempt at Francesca. “You didn’t get any my five thousand text messages or missed calls?”
Francesca fumbled through her purse in search of her phone, pretending she didn’t know already that she had purposefully left it on the boat. “Oh my goodness Giorgia! I didn’t even have my phone with me this whole time.”
“Really? You didn’t notice it was gone right away when you wanted to take a picture and post it?”
Francesca shrugged. “I was just so in the moment today.” She then gazed lovingly at Aldo, who returned her googly-eyed glance with a reciprocal smile that made Giorgia want to puke.
“Get me the fuck out of here!” she screamed, drawing the attention of the few remaining bathers. That got all of them to wipe the grins off their faces real quick as Aldo led the way to the boat.
The entire way back, Giorgia was ignored by her so-called clan while she shivered and her teeth chattered uncontrollably, with no offer of assistance from any of the other twats she had chosen to piss the day away with (or really, apart from). As she looked over at one of the yachts passing them by, she espied an elegantly-styled woman bringing a jacket over to her friend, who was visibly cold. It was then that Giorgia had to wonder if money actually made people nicer, less competitive and combative. If it was a myth that the rich were assholes. For when you don’t have to worry about basic livelihood or resources, maybe you’re more prone to give some of what you have to others. Prone, in short, to generosity rather than jealousy. It was only a passing theory, but it lingered in Giorgia’s mind for the rest of that interminable boat ride.