It felt like she was pretending to be my shadow. The woman, probably in her early sixties, followed closely behind as Ada and I played on the statue in one of our favorite piazzas, our friends near the steps at the base. Eventually the woman asked me if I lived in Bologna and I told her I did. She said my accent was good; was my husband Italian? No, but he could probably pass for one with a more European wardrobe. I told her we were just here for a short time while my husband studied at Johns Hopkins. We were going home in two months.
"Don't go!" she raised her voice a bit. I can't describe the change exactly, it was like tempered desperation. But that sounds too severe even. Her long, dyed blonde hair, her neatly pressed suit, her silk scarf, her Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses. She was the picture of the quintessential Italian woman to me. Put together. Polished. Carrying a handbag that accented her seemingly brand-new shoes. But the sudden unevenness in her voice seemed American to me—a little less careful about appearances, a little quicker to speak up.
"Don't go." She repeated, level again, "We need more of you here. We need more beautiful mothers and beautiful babies. Stay in Bologna."
Don't go. But we have to. And I'm starting to fear the inevitable jostling and discomfort of uprooting (even if your roots are shallow) and trying to sink them some place new.
Stay in Bologna. Some days, I think I could.