Typically when you decide to move into a small apartment with other people you meet them first. This was not the case in Florence. Sharing a three bedroom apartment with four other random American Girls was a pebble in the shoe of my “get out into the world” version of myself. I was hunting down personal transformation and was anxious about sharing the chrysalis.
I had avoided the “dorm experience” due to a brilliant plan on my mother’s part to keep me in high school – between the ages of 16 and 18 I completed my freshman year of college while simultaneously attending two hours of high school and working full-time. Happily I spent most of my high school years with university friends and as a result of the hours spent in the dorms, never wanted a first hand experience of living in one. This was not to say I was unsociable, the hours were typically spent in transit while raving – dark, humid, bass-pulsing warehouses filled with thousands of costumed strangers. Following a code of egalitarian ethics while experimenting, in every ecstatic sense of the word, I had been very social.
I spent five days alone. I drank Tuscan wines, explored the vegetarian options in the Chinese restaurant downstairs, walked along the river and learned NOT to ask Italian men for directions. Then one afternoon as I was barefoot standing on the marble floor drying my hair after another cold shower, the doorbell rang.
Immediately it was clear that I had missed the secret “roomie” memo as they all arrived in practically the same taxi and I found herself explaining… “No, we don’t have any hot water yet, the grocery store is around the corner but the small shop in the other direction also has a good selection of chocolates and Chianti, the patio is a great place for drying clothes except if the girls upstairs are home and then they drop cigarette ash onto the laundry, there is a cheap but decent bar across the street that plays reggae… and Yes, I have the private room with the largest bed …”
Following brief introductions I began to imagine a dark office somewhere producing “U.S Girls Go to Italy” – my life as a reality T.V show and I was tempted to look for cameras, or museum flyers, it was like a British “Cabinet of Curiosities” with strange and exotic female species arriving to represent their particular U.S stereotype. Growing up at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in a town with a flourishing caucasian Tibetan Buddhist community several fine dining Vegan restaurants, it would be reasonable to have called me a “hippie”. I got up every morning to do yoga, listened to Vietnamese monks lecture and had already infused my bedroom with the scent of fair trade, organic essential oils. The next roommate, or specimen, was studying in Texas and she had voted for Bush. She identified herself as a Conservative-Republican-Christian and was an artist. The third – Miss Southern California, was outgoing, light-hearted, non-political nor opinionated. The fourth was from Wisconsin and shortly after her arrival we found ourselves in a discussion about the term “shining” which entailed the use of truck headlights to stun deer in order to shoot and kill them with ease. The final member of the house was from New York by way of Canada, she was reserved and had a long term Japanese boyfriend.
Whoever was watching could expect a great first season.