Posts Sicily on Fire

Sicily on Fire

by treenaorchard

We’re five weeks into Covid-19 and I’m writing, thinking, feeling endless. It’s like the boundaries between what I know to be true, what might happen and what is taking place are invisible. I too am without the usual beginnings and endings, the familiar ways of knowing where I am, who I am. It’s strange and my feelings about it change like the weather on the east coast, where you can have all four seasons in one day.

For this blog I have mined some of my archives and selected a juicy, reflexive set of paragraphs written during my second trip to Sicily.

This glorious island abounds with stunning weather, architecture, and gorgeous men who freely say, “I love you.” I met one of these Sicilian studs in July of 2018 while in the capital city of Palermo for a conference. One hot thing led to another and he proclaimed very big feels the night before I left (insert DRAMA) and I did too, although I knew I didn’t really feel it.

It was fun and sexy to be caught up in it all, and we decided to rekindle our passions. This meant me returning in a few months, which I was more than cool with. I was single, Sicily is affordable and beautiful, and I had a work break coming up in October- why not? Darling, be very carful what you wish for. We exchanged WhatsApp messages when I got back to Canada and agreed upon the dates for my October return. Then, when I sent him my itinerary all communication ceased.

I was mortified and felt like such a fool.

I had cancelled a trip to see a lover in Peru many years prior and got my money back by faking irritable bowel syndrome. I shit you not. Anyhoo, what to do this time? My heart was broken, and I was angry AF. I called the nice Australian girl at Flight Centre, the same one who was so excited for and booked my return trip. I explained my situation through embarrassed tears. Then when the insurance guy asked why I was cancelling my trip, I said: “COERCION.”

I had no idea that was going to come out of my mouth, but there it was. I filled in the forms and sent the insurance guy the evidence to support my claim, which consisted of Messenger screenshots between me and exasperated friend after exasperated friend saying: “What??!!! He ghosted you. What an asshole.” When I got my money back, it didn’t feel good though because it wasn’t all HA HA. I was hurt and felt stupid, yet another foreign love romp gone awry.

But then…he got in touch and, of course, I rebooked. Two days before I was to arrive, he informed me he was stuck in Milan and didn’t know when he would be back in Palermo. OK, MF, my ticket is booked and mama is coming. But, I had to scurry to find a place to stay and didn’t think I should have to pay for it when I was SUPPOSED to be staying with this fricknn guy. SO, I reached out to my other Airbnb host from the first Sicilian trip and called in a favour. Is there room at his apartment for one more? 

Of course, things got weird and although they were weird, they were also wonderful. New men were met and new, and familiar places. visited. Palermo is one of my top five favourite cities in the world. It’s tough, old, filled with glorious food and healthy people who live well. Enjoy this excerpt from October 17, 2018, my fourth night in this stupendous city.

How can everything be about sex? It just is. It’s the space I’m in and it coats the walls inside me that heave in and out and the familiar questions that grow in my head. How did I get here? Why are men so hard? Why do I allow myself to get pulled into the jittery unfairness? How quickly things transpire from that singular purpose of getting inside to the swampy steps beyond the fragile unity of sex.

It happens in less than 24 hours. It was so fun last night as I drifted home on shaky legs in the blur of Via Roma and my sandwich dinner: smiling, feeling good. Then a shift, the questions and usual labour of marking myself out to this new person. Arranging the next meeting becomes heavy and is punctuated by irritating messages and a wrinkled face in the light of the Indian takeout. Whaaat? Fuck you. Whatever.

It hangs above my head, the sex that didn’t happen with the friend who agreed to host me but then propositioned me. “It’s just sex,” he said. I said no and so we both slip around each other and down the hallways quiet as mice. I watch to see if the bathroom light is on and retreat inside my room if it is, gently pulling the door shut. When we made the bed up two days ago, he said, “It’s like a prison bed and with your tattoos, it’s perfect.”

Why do I stay with my friend, who was helping me out yet keeps trying to sleep with me? Is he my friend?

Do I stay to save money? Because it’s familiar? Which part is familiar? Then there is the in between man from last night and the other one from before who I promised to meet tomorrow. My lord, they’re piling up like bricks around me. Bricks of dicks and I am the mortar.

Like millions of us, I have long known that sex can bring me things I want. But it never comes clean like that. So very rarely do you get only one thing from such exchanges. Bodies have people inside them that are made of sinew, many teeth with long roots and they run with blood that moves in two directions. The flesh stores it all.

We’re very tricky beings, trickiest of all in our imagining that we have it down. That’s a laugh. Some of us have it down for a fraction of the time, that’s the best we can hope for.

How to stop working so hard at affection? I want one of them to be nice and good, not to make up for what I didn’t get when I was small, but because I just want someone. I push and reach out in the ways I know, but don’t seem to get it right. It’s them too, though. How to get what I deserve? I have so much to give and need more than the scraps I’m used to.

I’m in Sicily juggling 3 or 4 men because I can, because it’s familiar. It’s fun I say. Is it? Parts of it are, but not the heavy stomach and sore feet walking past the cathedrals and through the disappointment alone.

What do I want? I write it out, type it out to see it on the screen; to see ME. The page is my flesh, the words, my skin. I write myself until I no longer look for the flashing light on my phone. They go away, and I stay in my prison bed until tomorrow, when it starts all over again. It’s perfect.

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Dr. Treena Orchard

London, Ontario

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