22 December 2014

That time I was shady

Last summer while traveling around Europe with my family, I caused an incident that I, ashamed, have failed to recount. I am now prepared to mock myself.

In brief, I jammed my key into the wrong door and it got stuck. My family was not present to witness the fiasco that ensued, as I had decided to spend our first day in Rome on my own. (I had been quite moody from the lack of solitude, the constant presence of familial others, so all parties agreed this was the best course of action.)

I pulled and twisted the key in a desperate attempt to wrench it from the lock. Soon, recognizing defeat, I surrendered and rang the doorbell. A surprised-looking Italian man answered. Behind him in the kitchen doorway, two elderly women peered out at me warily, like I might be an armed robber  with the politeness to knock.

Reddening, I explained my situation to the man, who spoke enough English and French to understand me despite my lack of Italian language skills. Within a few minutes, he had called over the building manager, the two wary women, and one very curious neighbor. The five of them discussed the situation in noisy Italian, occasionally glancing in my direction.

The building manager retrieved a wrench and ripped the key from the lock. With a friendly smile, he handed me the key, hopelessly bent and damaged. I would have to wait for my family to finish their visit to let me into the apartment. The curious neighbor, a sociable lady, offered to host and feed me in her apartment, but I declined, embarrassed by the mere thought of that awkward social interaction.

I decided to take a walk down the street. When I was half a kilometer away from the apartment, I heard my name shouted from behind me. I turned to see my parents and my brother, hands full of plastic bags, staring at me in confusion.

Reluctantly, I approached them and asked, “What’s all this?”

“Groceries,” responded my father. “Where are you going?”

“Going?” I echoed. “Oh, uh, nowhere. To the apartment, I guess.”

“The apartment’s the other way,” my brother stated.

I blinked, frozen. “Yes. It is. Well, let’s go then.” I proceeded to walk back to the apartment, avoiding their distrustful gazes.

“You’re acting shady,” my father observed, to which my response was a nervously forced scoff.

“What is going on, Kristen?” asked my mother.

“Nothing,” I told her, my voice a pitch too high. I had never been a talented liar. “You guys are being paranoid. I just wanted to get some air.”

Her voice was stern now. “Kristen.”

Barreling ahead, I said dismissively, “What’s with the third degree? Can’t a girl go for a walk?”

The three of them exchanged apprehensive glances but asked no further questions. As we neared our building, I fell behind to let them open the door, so as not to arouse suspicion. On our floor, we found the curious neighbor in the hallway, apparently having been searching for me. When she saw that I was with my family, she smiled and said something in Italian.

“Everything is good,” I told her in English with a smile. “My family is here now.”

She nodded, pleased, and said goodnight. My parents and my brother turned to gawk at me, bewildered as to why I was acquainted with this elderly Italian woman.

“What the hell was that about? Do you know her?” demanded my dad.

I shrugged and hurried into the apartment. “Can’t people be neighborly anymore?”

Eventually I confessed what I’d done. I was not trusted with the keys again.