At 6:15 p.m. the narrow cobblestone streets are choked with people moving at a snail’s pace. I clutch my empty shopping bag and try to calculate how long it will take to reach the grocery store, purchase the necessary ingredients for the pasta dinner I had planned, and make it back home through the crowd. I crane my neck around the cluster of dark-haired Italian men in front of me, wondering why the streets are suddenly so crowded after being empty for hours.
The barista stared at me expectantly through his thick, black-rimmed glasses, waiting for my order. I felt the familiar flutter of butterflies in my stomach. My palms began to perspire. I gave a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure no one else was within earshot. Then in a meek voice, I told him my order, knowing full well that one mispronounced syllable would be the difference between a low-fat latte and something you might hear in a porno film.
The toothpick slides into the snail shell easily enough, but when I try and pull out the fleshy innards, I am met with resistance. Finally, with a grimace and a suction noise, the pale blob comes free, and I pop it into my mouth before I can change my mind.
My table applauds as I take a gulp of Hite to wash the whole thing down. I keep the chewing to a minimum, taking the easy way out.