Wednesday, October 20, 2010


For a few months now, I have been considering developing a friendship with my Italian artist ex-boyfriend, l'Artista. To that end, I wrote him a friendly email back in August telling him about my new job, my new bird, etc. I fully expected an email back immediately telling me how happy he was to hear from me, could we talk on the phone, and he misses me, but instead I heard nothing. That didn't bother me; in fact, it made me think that if he is less emotionally invested in me a friendship might actually be possible.

So a few weeks ago when I came across an antique French postcard that reminded me of him, I bought it and sent it to him for his 41st (!) birthday. It was a photo (not this one, but a similar style) of Marseille, a city I've never been to but one of his favorites; furthermore, the bridge in the photo was taken at an angle that is reminiscent of shots we took years ago during an early visit to New York of the Brooklyn Bridge. It felt strange to address the postcard to the same address in Florence, Italy where we lived together so long ago.

After l'Artista received the postcard, he finally sent the email I had been anticipating in August. He told me that it felt like he was hearing me talk to him as he read it, and asked if I'd like to come to Italy for a visit before he moves out of the apartment (his landlord is planning to move in, so after 13 years there he has to leave). He's an incredibly heartfelt, affectionate person, and just as he said of me, I could hear his voice talking as I read his email. I know him so very, very well, despite the five years that have passed since I last saw him, and I miss him and care about him. At the same time, I absolutely cannot let there be any romantic overtones to a correspondence between us, and I'm honestly unsure if he's capable of that.

Then this morning, before I had responded to the last email, I got another one. This one sent a chill down my spine. He's never taken very good care of himself; he smokes and drinks a lot, consumes strong coffee all day long and late into the evening, and doesn't exercise. Last week, he had to go to the emergency room because of pain in his stomach, and they told him that his stomach lining is seriously damaged and he absolutely has to change his lifestyle.

In order to begin going about this change, the first thing he thought to do was to unearth a book I made for him on October 26, 2000 -- almost exactly ten years ago. It's called "l'Artista's Cigarette Book," and I made it for him to keep track of how many cigarettes he smoked. Apparently, I painstakingly decorated every page and made little charts by hand for him to check off how many cigarettes he smokes. I have no memory of making it, but apparently he used it for quite a while -- he said more than half of it was already filled out. All these years later, he knew exactly which drawer he had tucked it away in.

I don't really know how serious his health is, but it doesn't seem like a good sign if someone has to go to the emergency room at age 41 because of damage they've done to themselves by living unhealthily. It's hard for me to imagine a world without l'Artista in it, and I hope that we are able to develop a platonic relationship. I also feel very grateful that my life doesn't center around someone who makes such poor choices.

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