I haven’t been to the market in three years. Not the cute, daily markets that happen in a few piazzas, but the big, noisy, in-your-face Saturday market on the outskirts of town. I chalk up the absence to a panic attack I had there back in my anxiety days. But it was so sunny, and we were up early and the bikes had air in the tires. So there was no excuse. We were going to the market.
We coasted past the throngs of cars lining up to park near the market entrance and the hordes of moms and strollers and old ladies with their carts on wheels for easy produce purchasing.
“Alright, here we go,” our glances almost seemed to say to each other as we locked up our bikes on a fence. Manu’s smile lit up immediately when he saw my eyes open wide at the first food stalls.
The noises at the market are distinct: the fruit vendors, mostly men, shout their prices at the passersby, imploring them to buy “15 artichokes, one euro!” or “one kilo of broccoli rabe, 50 cents!” or just simply, “50 cents!” over and over again in the hopes that the curious Nonnas will approach and fill their rolling carts.
[rolling cart, twelve o' clock!]
I walked along, silently, taking it all in, millions of photographs happening in my mind but no courage to take them. Those fruit vendors are intimidating! Manu urged me, “Just take some pictures, I bet you anything they’ll love it.”
I stepped in front of a stall, where a waterfall of green poured off the vendor’s table. I shot. He turned immediately and said, “What about a picture of me, miss? I’m just as beautiful as the berries!” Guffawing, his friend next to him said something about being as ugly as a cauliflower. Manu was right, as usual.
At the next stall, the sun was shining on a cart of apples, and permeating their sweetness in the air. “Let’s buy some!” I said to Manu. We got close, and picked two almost-red beauties. The young fruit vendor saw us searching for change in our backpacks and said, “Just take them, my treat.” We insisted on paying and he said, “Get outta here!” (I love it.) We washed our free apples underneath the public fountain (thank you Roman aqueducts) and sunk our teeth into the crisp skin, juice spraying our cheeks and running down our chins. “This is the best apple I’ve ever eaten.”
“You said that about the kiwi you had yesterday!” Manu added.
”Oh yeah,” I said. “Mm, that was a good kiwi,” and I closed my eyes for a second to remember it.
“You’re like Homer.” laughed Manu in English. God, he knows me so well.
I think this is going to become a weekly thing.