Sure, I've been reading Moby Dick off and on, you know, for pleasure. And of course the diary of an Italian suicide that I'm studying doesn't particularly pop with, let's say, cheeriness.
No, if anything, these are some of my most valuable outlets for self-supervised therapy. To be able to sit in my room, insulated from the lunacy beyond the door, and understand my world. Sadly though, the insulation is but a projected fantasy, for no mere drywall and timber artifice can contain the boisterousness of Italian conversation. Conversation which rises and falls in pitch, rhythm, speed, and volume like so many realizations of Italian sovereignty. It's inescapable.
To tone it out would be a miracle of miracles. It soaks into my mind, muddling rational thought and grammatical structure with absurd expressions and muttered dialect.
There are two approaches I could take, in this situation, both certain to fail yet remain, stolid, as my only options. The third way of indecision is no option itself; for that grey zone, where critical thinking abides, is certainly the most fertile ground for madness.
One option, as mentioned, is to shut the language out. Or at least try. Facebook is obviously the easiest girl on the block, and I've given her more whirls than should be consensual. But the internet is more like a deadening, slow growth zombie plague, that kills the brain cells which would at least make lunacy interesting.
My second option is to boldly admit the conversation, let it wash over me like so many baptismal waters, and try to understand. Drink the Kool-Aid. A novel idea, laudable for its practicality. Just go in there and learn. No big deal. But for argument's sake let's walk through it. I calmly enter the room, smile, take a seat. There's a minor break in the deafening roar, pleasantries. Maybe I light a cigarette to offer a cultural olive branch. I have a comment prepared, a mild joke, well thought out and grammatically functional.
Dead silence punctuated by puzzled looks and annoyance.
It was my fault, I have no grasp for Italian humor and can't even tell a joke in English. I usually forget how, you know, I guess the way it should end. Generally leads to a trailing off effect which doesn't resonate with most people. I suppose. So while I've been grappling with the social ramifications of the “joke” incident, life has moved on. No, not to another topic, but the conversation has returned with full force.
Five people speak at once, two of whom actively shout at one another, while one Italian has the wisdom to cover her ears with her hands. And that is life. There is no victory here.
Another roommate, a Spaniard, sits with me, intently glancing from person to person, grin from ear to ear. In a moment of contention, when we have become, to the others, odd shaped chairs, I glance at him and ask if he knows the subject. In heavy Madrid accent, he replies, “I haff no faucking clu,” and returns his focus to the maddening scene. And these are my options.
Speaking one on one only further ingrains an infantile phrasal system and stagnates your diction. Reading lessens your ability to formulate responses in real-time. And avoidance only provides the Sherman Ave readership with an overly personal, minimally entertaining Xanga post. Let's get this housewife back in the kitchen, shall we?
This is to all you kids out there considering studying abroad: Go for it. Pack your bags, kiss your Moms, shake Pops hand, and get on that plane. Straight for Florence, Dublin, or Barcelona. Go nuts and hang out with kids from exotic places like BC or Penn State, hell, even from UCLA! Every weekend, you'll be in a new city that's so, like, old! Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Prague!
You don't have much time, those 3 months really fly by when you're flying so much! Get fucking heinous! Kiss that beautiful but kinda dirty looking boy or girl! But whatever you do, don't join them. Don't drink the Kool-Aid. You will not become one of them and you will lose your mind attempting to. At the end of the day, if English is goddamn good enough for China, than Europe can just keep on playing with itself.