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Welcome to Love   
by Andrea Lee


I am in Love. If Love was a city (citta) in Italy that I had longed to visit all my life (but didn't because it appeared too perfect and it seemed too expensive, like there might be a lot of hidden costs), it would be Roma.

Suppose I had read stories set in Roma, looked at pictures of the Pantheon, and studied the Italian language; I had studied this city of my dreams. Suppose I had even visited cities in other parts of the world that people said were better than Roma, or at least similar...  and I enjoyed those cities. They were nice, some of them.

Johannesburg is a beautiful world city which is completely unique in one way:  it is the only major city NOT settled on a river. It was settled only for its gold. There was no real food source, no flow, just the greedy energy that still defines it today. It is said by many that Johannesburg was founded on greed and that is why it maintains the highest level of violent crime in the world. That was an interesting city, but it was not Love.
Through the years I spent time in various places, giving my all and trying to make them be Roma, convincing myself that they were Roma, that they could offer everything Roma had to offer! But they couldn't be Roma. Much later, when I had forgotten my longing and given up hope, much to my surprise, I found myself in my dream city. Although I had done the planning to get there, it seemed all along like it might never happen... and then there I was. And with all the reading... with all the movies... with all the fantasies and daydreams about what Roma would be like... I was completely unprepared!  Here I could just walk calmly and comfortably down a quiet narrow road and find myself next to the Pantheon! This exquisite wonder is plopped right down in the center of things - not over there on a hill, away from all the action. And then, BAM, Trevi Fountain nearly trips me in my meanderings, showing up unannounced. All these pearls, these rich beautiful places I've dreamed of for so long, they are just here; they're just integrated into this ancient mysterious citta, without all that much fanfare and no banners announcing what they are -- they are just sitting there waiting to be recognized. They've been there all along.
Being in Love is exactly like that. I have chased it, I've chased it away, I've fantasized, I've believed I had it, I've thought I knew what it looked like... and now it has shown up and it surprises me around every corner. It feels both ancient and brand new. Its splendor blends seamlessly into an average day, changing the texture of everything without disrupting the pattern. It's a place where the elusive orgasm can sneak up just like that sharp tube of soft heavenly light in the Pantheon and change Wednesdays forever. 

It feels safe to walk the streets at night and discover things about ourselves and one another - spanning lifetimes - without fear of being mugged (not like those other cittas!) It can have its hairy moments... like visiting the colosseum, where we both have been love gladiators in the past, and have both hurt and been hurt. In Love, though, I am learning, it is safe to visit those dark corners, with my lover's hand in mine it feels safe, because he always brings a flashlight (and I always forget). We are not fearless explorers exactly, but we stare fear in the face when it comes. We might shake a little as we explore the catacombs, but we are comforted knowing we have each other, and we press on. We are as honest as an exasperated Italian donna when you try to give her a credit card for an 8 Euro purchase. We do not shy away from the mystery.  We embrace the adventure. Love looks nothing like I thought it would look. And yet it is everything I gave up hope it could be...



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About the Author

Andrea Lea is a writer who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she's not painting, taking photos, writing, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks.




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