The power of words. It is all about context, is it not? Your first words in your mother tongue tend to be “mom” and “dad”, filling their brimming hearts with pride, while uttering the same word “dad” in the ear of a boyfriend can spark a heart attack of the more fatal kind. Her first words in Italian had been a string of curses. No news there. Foreigners are the newly found kids, eager to please and perfect parrots. The guys would egg her on, falling into fits of laughter at the contrast between her blond hair and those sulfuric words, her glossy pink lips turning into the mouth of a volcano, her puzzled expression at the miracle of it all, the attention. When she started to juggle the language more skillfully, the curses became less colored, no longer ostentatious, like chameleons curling into the background, signaling now that she was one of them. They shared cappuccinos in the morning, the trams that were never on time, the tedium of a student’s life. They shared the cold beer and the free food on which they dined going out for an aperitivo. “Hey, let’s get a plate of those mini pizzas they are bringing out”. Her Italian hunk of a boyfriend faced the bar, and was already pushing back his chair. She turned around, her manicured fingernail getting caught in her finely knitted scarf, tearing at the threads. “Cazzo.” “A decent woman does not speak like that”. She froze as if he had thrown vitriol at her, the taut skin over her high cheekbones melting away, clinging to her lips as lampreys, sucking at the blood, sucking, sucking her words away. Silence. She picked up her bag from the nearby chair. “I need a cig, a cigarette”, she said, and went outside.

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