On Italian translations

“Jessica wants to go to Italy for vacation,” I tell my friend Mary.


“I know. Maybe I can talk her into Key West or something.”

“You would love Italy. Italians are brusque but friendly.”

“Um, okay,” I say. Then: “Oh. You mean like me.”

“Exactly. You will fit right in.”

“Except I don’t speak Italian.”

She waves this off. “You’ll be doing touristy stuff, right? ’Cause you’ll be with Jess. All the tourism people speak English.”

“Right. And Jess has her . . . challenges.”

“It’s not a third-world country,” Mary points out. “They have hospitals. Get insurance that covers emergency transportation back to the States.”

“Sure, and I know how to say ‘she has tuberous sclerosis and a ventriculoperitoneal shunt’ in Italian.”

Mary waves a hand. “You know people.”

This is true. “Hmm,” I say. I call up Randy, who does translation work for multinationals. “Do you know someone who can translate the phrase ‘ventriculoperitoneal shunt’ into Italian?”

“Yes. Damiano. Why?”

“Because apparently I’m going to Italy. With Jessica.”

“With Jessica.”

“I know. Maybe not.”

“No, no, it’ll be fine. Italians like kids.”

“Jess is not like other kids.”

“She is better than other kids,” says Randy, which is why she is possibly the best friend ever. “You can reason with her.”

“Sometimes. Sometimes you can’t reason with her.”

“Well, sometimes we can’t reason with you. Human condition,” Randy points out. “And if you go to Italy, then you will have to fly to a big city to get there, and New York is a big city.”

New York is where Randy lives. We’ve been friends for years and have never actually met, and this would give us a chance.

“And who knows,” she adds. “Maybe you’ll meet a Paolo there. Wouldn’t you like to meet a Paolo?”

“Yes,” I say immediately. “If Paolo is a gorgeous man who wants to have a fling with a middle-aged woman, I’m in.”