When and where were you happiest?

Alone.  Cycling back from Miriam’s new apartment in Friedrichshain, half drunk on Rotkäppchen and over-boiled glühwein.  It was cold.  The streets smelt like rain and wings of water extended in perfect semi-circles on either side of my bike's wheels as I careered through the puddles.  I was wearing my black riding cap, bearing a bavarian insignia and and a collection of feathers, pinned above my right ear. The bike rattled over bumps and the whole of Berlin winked at me.  I read the names of the shops out loud in German as I rode by:





And giggled to myself.  The angry finality of German words implied order.  And a pornographic image of someone of authority pushing important papers off the table and taking you right there on the desk.  It was ugly.  But it wasn’t just the sound of the words I was falling in love with.  It was the whole country.  It’s repressed and ancient culture.  And my beautiful boyfriend, who I assumed I would marry, being 23 and in love in a city of gruff men.  His green eyes sought me out through 82 million other Germans.  I was lucky and naive.  And all I could do was smile and think how much I loved riding home on brisk November nights, over the silver road, to my tiny apartment in an old brewery.  In my Berlin.

Or was I happiest that One Night in Italy.  A Monday night, my last in the small town of Macerata.  When I sat, dolled up like a tart, at that tiny restaurant in the alley way.  Perfectly cliche.  The air was made up of hot grass and sizzling flesh.  The breeze served to set me alight, and I relished the feeling of a thousand fingers pawing at my sweaty skin.  I fought the urge to roll my deliciously imperceptible pizza up like a crepe.  And ate my prosciutto e melone with care.  Playing the part of the typical tourist, daring an Italian man to come up to me.  It is a challenge that every stallion will take up.  It’s the secret of why women love Italy so desperately, because you are reminded that your special brand of femininity is beautiful.  And you are wanted.

Challenge accepted.  I was asked if I was American to which I laughed and said “No, Australia”.  We looked past the obvious things about each others eyes, me - green, his - brown, and acknowledged more carnal intentions.  He would sit beside me and we would drink more wine together.  A carafe of Sangiovese in the balmy starry breeze.  I would smoke more than I ever did and click my heels like dorothy when I wanted to leave.  We drove to the beach in a black fiat and somewhere on the road I’d realise he could rape and murder me there in that field if he wanted to.  And would it be so bad, to be taken forcefully in the tranquil fields?  But, instead, we kissed on the sand over cocktails.  Talked about the kind of things you only can with strangers.  Relish in the touch of his hand.  And I grinned like a crazy: this was Italy.

Or maybe it was in Perth.  When I had a yard so big I got two chickens.  That clucked and strutted all through the garden.  How their clunky affected movements tickled me.  My two proud hens.  The cheeky bitches would hide their eggs all over the garden.  And every Saturday I woke up and looked tirelessly for them.  Sometimes it took me half an hour hunting in that mess of a yard.  And I’d almost give up, thinking the stroppy things must have had it this week, and decided they didn’t feel like laying me my breakfast.  Then, cosy as a picture, I’d find 14 oval eggs in a nest made on the run.  Sprinkled with a couple of downy feathers, to make it realistic.  

Then all my frustrations evaporated and I’d pick one of the old girls up.  She’d gargle in protest and I’d hold her ginger wings firmly.  Sit on some broken down chair amid my housemate’s cans of beer, derelict tombstones on lonely graves. And I’d stroke the lucky chicken until she was silent.  I’d go in to some happy farm-like trance amidst the ivy and old bike frames.  The whole weekend ahead of me.