Glass Doors

Did the owner think of the apartment I’m in now as a sort of gatehouse, with concierge services? The entrance door is glass, although it’s clouded glass. The small window at one side offers a glimpse into the room I inhabit,  and I have hung a Chinese scarf there to preserve my privacy. Privacy? For some reason evidently unheard of in Italy.  Even here you must use the English word. Privacy. Translated as vita privata. Sometimes isolamento,  riservatezza o privatezza. It is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively.


When the rental agent took us to see the apartment which she thought was empty, we discovered it was anything but empty for there were a couple of half-open suitcases, a cat, and its owner, asleep in the bedroom. We quickly retraced our steps and left quietly on tiptoe, hoping the sleeping beauty would not realize that her privacy had been violated.

Curiously enough, the door to the bedroom, open at the time, is also clouded. Whoever designed it must have had some kind of privacy in mind. But only of sorts, for even the bathroom door is only partially obscured and one can see through the glass on either side despite the fact that some things here are best done in private. We hesitate to show others the signs of aging, and even in the mirror don’t recognize that face with its wrinkles as ours. Even twenty years ago, I hesitated to show my lover that I was no longer young. Yet did I think of him as aging? No, not really. A man can still be handsome at eighty.

I now sit at my desk writing. The light in the corridor goes on, footsteps resound as they go upstairs. With its clouded glass entrance door, I can’t help but keep tabs on who comes and goes to the apartment up above. Unwittingly, I am the concierge.

Yet I am also the doorkeeper to the past of the city, with its doors to be unlocked and shared with visitors.

Then there are the doors of memories. They may unexpectedly swim up out of the past and one wonders why. What we have seen, what we have felt, what we have done are all stored away and access is ours alone. Suddenly, unasked for, one that has remained with me for years appears. Why, I don’t know. I was no longer young but went often to the pool, where one took a shower, before and after dropping down into the water for those 20 or more laps. The ladies had their own section and most kept their swimsuits on even as they soaped. But once, in the box next to me, a young woman was showering in the nude, her swimsuit lying at her feet. Rarely had I seen a body as perfect, as beautiful as hers. She was a Venus from the Greek classical age, or perhaps Susannah at the bath, or Diane caught unawares. I could not have looked at her for more than a few minutes, if that long, but those few minutes remain with me now, at least 20 years later. I cannot help but wonder …

Doors that open onto memories.

4 thoughts on “Glass Doors

  1. I love this. Indeed, when I came to Italy I was struck by the absence in Italian of a word meaning privacy. Part of Italy’s charm is its life “in piazza” but this can also be an intrusion. I have always referred to my friend Erika, the doyenne of the expatriate community. Now you are also the nosy landlady! Keep the memories coming. James II

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so glad that you wrote this piece. When you first mentioned it, you said it was just an idea, and you weren’t sure if you would follow through or how it would turn out. Full of hope, I sneaked two photos of you standing at the glass door to your corridor, but I was not happy with the result. The photo you have here is just perfect. Ditto for the accompanying words. Here are some of my favorites:

    “With its clouded glass entrance door, I can’t help but keep tabs on who comes and goes to the apartment up above. Unwittingly, I am the concierge.

    Yet I am also the doorkeeper to the past of the city, with its doors to be unlocked and shared with visitors.

    Then there are the doors of memories. They may unexpectedly swim up out of the past and one wonders why. What we have seen, what we have felt, what we have done are all stored away and access is ours alone.”

    The whole piece is winning, but the image of “the doors of memories” will surely stay with me. Grazie.

    Envoyé de mon Di-Phone

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Erika This is a beautiful piece! It is about all of us… and incidentally we have a frosted glass front door… designed to illuminate entry which would otherwise be a dark box… but useless in seeing who or what the blur is standing outside… sort of like trying to see beyond the human face into the soul of the being…

    Just a note J

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Erika, Perhaps the glass door is a symbolic expression that Italy, like most of the Mediterranean, is a shame culture, unlike Northern Europe and The U.S., which are guilt cultures. In guilt cultures, morality is a personal matter between you and your God, as Protestantism declares, whereas in a shame culture, it is what others think and say about you that matters: gossip is the moral control system.

    Just a thought, Jerry

    Like

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