My hayfever had never been so bad,
messy, out of control even with the medicine.
I wouldn’t have gone, but he wanted me to.
His family was all there, where they work,
at his Zia Rosa’s restaurant. They were
very quiet when we came in. They gave us
a table by the kitchen, where they could watch.
We didn’t order, they just brought us the food:
antipasto with perfect vegetables and cheeses,
bread that crackled when I bit into it
but soft and melting inside,
the best chianti. And then the pasta–
homemade spaghetti with sauce rich
and thick as blood.
Three perfect meatballs, Rosa’s specialty.
Then it happened–with all that beautiful food
in front of me. I sneezed so hard I blew a meatball
from the pile of pasta, off the tablecloth
and down onto the terra cotta floor.
And since the floor wasn’t level,
that meatball rolled across and out the open door.
If that were to happen at my mother’s club,
no one would notice. Not even me.
But suddenly they were there,
the whole lot of them, laughing,
and hugging him and me,
saying loud happy things to him
that back then I couldn’t understand.
Then they were all quiet
while shyly he pulled a box from his pocket
and offered me his nonna’s diamond ring.
When I said yes, they all laughed
and cheered again, and kissed us both.
Zio Antonio went out into the street
and retrieved the meatball,
put it on a little plate next to the cash register
with a sign on it that I couldn’t yet read.
So that’s how it all began.
An old one. Name that tune.