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Cathy Alter

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Ciao, Baggage

Posted: 05/20/2012 6:36 pm

They just kept going around and around on an endless loop, the same red knapsack, green duffel bag, and bungee-corded brown box circling the room like refugees stuck on a Ferris wheel. My husband Karl's suitcase appeared immediately, loaded with Etro striped shirts,
Ferragamo loafers and his prized Dries Van Noten sports coat. But after two hours of waiting, frantically jumping from one baggage carousel to another as a smattering of arriving flights touched down, it became painfully clear that I would be spending the next ten days in
Italy stuck with the clothes I had on my back: a BO-infused green T-shirt with a pink heart silk- screened across the front, a pair of jeans that were decorated with various in-flight meal mishaps and highlighter-yellow slipper-sneakers. Not even my carry-on bag could save me -- all it contained, besides my wallet and passport, was a handful of Dramamine, a horseshoe- shaped neck pillow and a dogeared copy of Thomas Mann's appropriately titled "Death in Venice. "

It wasn't like this the last time Karl and I were in Italy. Two years earlier, I had an entourage of luggage when we made our way from Rome to the Amalfi coast to attend the wedding of Karl's good friends, Eric and Shana. Back then, my multiple bags were jammed with everything from the filmy peignoir set I had planned to pull out on our first night in Rome to the full-length judge's robe I had volunteered to transport to Positano, a favor to the Officiant (who later admitted he wanted the extra space in his own suitcase for a postwedding shopping spree in Milan). Instead of asking myself, 'Do I really need all those shoes?' I told myself as I demolished my apartment in a state of packing frenzy, 'You'll be ready for anything' -- from a freak snowstorm to the sweltering heat that this new love held for me.

Of course, all this overzealous preparedness was probably a way of managing my anxiety, a belief that as long as I packed that pair of silk cargo pants, those fourteen tubes of lipstick, and, I'm embarrassed to admit now, a spare roll of toilet paper, I'd somehow manage
to avoid another kind of travel emergency, one where my new boyfriend decided he didn't really care for my company after spending five consecutive days with his plus-one wedding date. Karl and I had been seeing each other for only a few months, and up until our Italian
getaway, we had spent only a handful of weekends together, lolling around in bed or on one of our respective couches watching reruns of "Family Guy." This trip required putting on actual clothing and remaining upright for an extended period of time, negotiating territory beyond our regular haunts in D. C., and sharing a bathroom with a handheld showerhead and a door that did not lock or do much to block out certain, er, noises. It could be, as a friend so helpfully noted the night before my departure, "a make-it-or-break-it test of our relationship."

The full version of this essay was originally published in "Wedding Cake for Breakfast: Essays on the Unforgettable First Year of Marriage."

 
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