I woke up to the sun's rays dancing across the wood floor of our hotel room. Our balcony doors were open and I could see the deep blue of the ocean from bed; glistening and diamond like gleams were cascading off its surface. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.
I stretched and smiled, remembering where I was and how lucky I felt to be in Italy, far away from home and my ex. For awhile when I was living in Las Vegas and knowing that M wasn't right for me, I still couldn't imagine breaking up with him. The longer we were together, the more abusive and destructive he became, and oddly enough, the harder it was for me to book a flight and return to New York. I liked being on the west coast and away from everything that was always familiar to me. I enjoyed my new life and when I tried to picture going home, staying felt better than leaving.
I would hold on to our good moments and believe that M changed after a few peaceful days together. I forced myself into trusting the lie that I wouldn't have to worry about him returning to his bouts of anger and sparks of rage. This lasted a week or two until I'd say something that flicked a switch inside of him where he'd lash out and blame me for his violent mood swings. I was still clinging to the charismatic, Hawaiian boy who made me laugh all throughout senior year photography class and who when looking at me, made me feel seen for the first time in my life. How could someone change so drastically in a single year?
Now, being across the world, with two of my favorite people and in the most gorgeous place I'd ever visited, I couldn't believe how long it took me to get away from someone so disastrous. When you're really in the thick of something, it's hard to see any way out. The comfortable always seems more appealing than the unknown, but what we don't usually realize is that there's no security in what's no longer meaningful. There's more promise in the uncharted, the new and the chance of something more.
Naples, Capri and Positano had already shown me that there was something more, and if I kept following my instincts and believing in the serendipitous, then I'd continue to meet enchantment. It doesn't always take traveling across the world to one of the most romantic countries to discover this either. It's simply becoming more aware and attuned to the magic that's already present within you and around you. When you start seeing it, you begin believing it, and when you have a strong belief in something, it becomes part of who you are. You then attract more of that to you simply by your faith in the intangible.
Katie and Suzie met me on the balcony with their espressos in hand. We sat in the wooden Adirondack chairs, staring out to the magnificence of the ocean and the allure of the island. It was our first full day in Positano and we already had plans for a private tour of the village on a Ducati with a gorgeous Italian man. So far our trip was going better than we could have ever anticipated. We drank our coffees, ate our croissants and planned a day at the beach so we could be back by 4pm for Antonio.
After making the long descent down twenty or more flights of stairs built into the mountainside, we threw our belongings onto lounge chairs and headed straight into the water. We noticed how we were the only people swimming and couldn't understand why on such a balmy summer day there was no one else cooling off in the ocean. There were men walking around in speedos, women lying on massive rocks scattered along the shore, kids throwing balls back and forth to one another, and waiters running around serving cocktails to reclined tourists.
"Well, I guess it's nice to have the ocean to ourselves!" we beamed, laughing and floating in the large expanse of water, staring up to the sky.
As we drifted along with the tide, Suzie gasped and yelled, "Fuck, I just got stung by something!"
We dispersed and tried to search the water for the culprit until Katie and I screamed in pain too, our legs burned by a gooey substance swimming against us.
The transparency of the ocean transformed into diaphanous shades of pink and yellow, where an abundance of jellyfish glided by, undisturbed by our movement and ethereal like in their journey through the deep blue sea.
We slowly made our way to shore, careful to avoid any further encounters with scathing injuries, which was nearly impossible to do as the ocean was now more jellyfish than water. After a few more stings, we made it to the rocky shore and fell onto our chairs. We looked back out to the ocean and noticed a large, yellow sign in bold, capitalized letters: "BEWARE OF JELLYFISH! GO TO THE SNACK BAR FOR JELLYFISH STING OINTMENT."
At this point, people on the beach who were already watching us from their chairs in confusion, noticed our pain and walked over to us pointing in the direction of the snack bar and making motions with their hands of spreading ointment on our burns. One kid walked over to us and said, "Pee on it!" and then ran away.
We grabbed some beers along with the ointment and enjoyed the rest of the day from the rocky shore, staring out to the waves and making a mental note to look for the signs in our future travels. An hour later, we saw a man walking up and down the beach with blow up floats around his arms and neck, talking to tourists and locals who ran up to him with Euros to purchase the colorful floats. Soon after, the ocean was teeming with people safely laying on their blow up cushions to avoid any rendezvous with jellyfish. If only we had arrived then, we could have saved ourselves from multiple burns. But, this is what traveling and memories are made of, and this particular story certainly makes for a humorous retelling when sharing vacation tales with others.
When 4pm arrived, we were dressed and waiting at the pick up spot for Antonio. Even though I was going for a ride on a motorcycle, I still wore a blue, strapless dress that I thought accentuated my green eyes and would impress Antonio.
We were standing by a bar where two men in their seventies were sitting at a table drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, and engaged in passionate conversation. Italians know how to embrace a moment and live for the present. Relaxation and rest is just as important, if not more, than working and hustling toward an end goal. Just like Spain has siestas, Italy has what's called riposo, where workers go home for a long lunch or nap before going back to work in the late afternoon.
I admired this way of life and couldn't understand why Americans glorified a busy lifestyle. At the end of our lives, will we look back and wish we put more hours in at the office or will we wish we took more breaks, went for long walks, had meaningful conversations, drank wine, and watched the sunset?
Katie, Suzie and I had a buzz from our drinks on the beach, so what would have normally been anxiousness for me was replaced by tenacious confidence. We waited only a few moments before a Ducati made its way around the corner and parked directly in front of us.
Antonio took off his helmet and was wearing sunglasses with white pants, a blue collared shirt and black leather shoes.
"Ciao girls, you're looking lovely. Danielle, are you ready to see Positano?" he said, running his fingers through his hair and staring directly into my eyes with sincere fascination.
"I am," I replied, returning his gaze. I walked over to the motorcycle and shifted myself on the back of his seat in such a way that my decision to wear a dress proved practical yet sexy.
"Alright then, let's go." Antonio said putting his helmet back on, winking at Katie and Suzie, and letting them know we'd be back in a half hour to meet them at the bar down the road.
It was at this precise moment that I realized I was all the way across the world in another country, far away from home, and on a motorcycle with a stranger I had just met the night before, who seemed to be well known and liked by the village, but was now in full control of me.
Was this blind naivety or daring adventure? Was I taking too much of a risk trusting someone I'd only known for 24 hours or was this just the amount of excitement I needed after feeling trapped for so long?
I put my hands around his waist, took a deep breath and then exhaled, as I took in the grandeur of the sea and the vastness of the mountainside.
This is exactly what I need - an escape with a stranger into a new world I'd just embarked upon. I'm ready to take chances. I want to feel more than I've allowed myself to experience in the last two years.
I told myself this as he took his hand off the break and propelled us forward onto the sunlit road, brimming with vespas, beautiful Italian couples and the thrill of the unknown.