There’s something funny that happens when you are a foreigner living in another country. The excitement, frustration and general coolness of life experiences increases tenfold, simply due to your surroundings. For me, every aspect of living these days has become magnified by the fact that it’s “in Italy.” Normal, everyday things become an “experience” because it’s in a different language and a different country. And since it’s “in Italy,” the chaos of the situation is usually amplified: a normal trip to the bank takes 1 hour and leaves you flustered, the post office was so confusing, you leave and dread going back, and you have to take a xanax anytime you even think about going near city hall.

That being said, I would miss it all in a second if I had to leave it.

Then there is my living situation. I always imagined living in a quaint apartment in Italy with friendly, borderline intrusive neighbors that bake goodies for the sweet little American girl down the hall.

Instead, I live in a university-grade shoebox apartment where the kitchen is in the bedroom, the hot water heater SOMETIMES doesn’t feel like working and a real life prostitute lives down the hall.

Let’s just say that Nicoletta keeps the fourth floor of my apartment in Via San Gregorio, very interesting. And no, I don’t use that term prostitute loosely, this is nearly 2 years of gathered evidence to support my reasoning:

Steady flow of foot traffic: any day or night of the week there they are. Men coming and going. After two years, I’ve come to see some repeat faces as well. So she’s got regulars. Must be doing something right. Sometimes I get into the elevator with one of them and by now I know, “Fourth floor, right?”

Neighborly gossip: I actually do have a sweet older neighbor who lives down the end of the hall. Hasn’t quite baked me cookies, but she did bring me a jar of capers from Pantelleria. Such a sweetheart. And a gossip queen. She’s dropped hints on more than one occasion about our neighbor during our elevator rides, and you bet your ass I was fishing for more info.

Laundry: It’s not common to have a dryer here, so everyone uses a drying rack. She keeps hers in the corridor. Why? I don’t know. She explained once, but her Italian always sounds like she’s drunk to me and I only catch about 50%. I smile and nod. But every day she’s washing and drying a different pair of sheets and a different bed comforter. EVERY. DAY. She’s clean, I’ll give her that.

Caught in the act: Well kind of. A couple years ago on a Saturday night, my friend locked me in my house (separate blog post to follow) and had to go ask my neighbor for help. When she opened the door, low and behold, she was standing with another young girl, both in bathrobes, hair and make-up fully done. (and a guy had just exited the house). Maybe he was helping them get ready to go out? But I’m pretty sure….no.

Like I said, she keeps the place interesting. She’s also a creature of habit. Every Sunday night she goes to her Romanian club. And at least a few Sunday nights a month, she’ll see my light on and come over to ask for help zipping her dress or closing the clasp of her necklace. I mean, what are neighbors for, right?

Every time I get off that elevator, I’m bound to witness something bizarre. One time there was a caged bunny outside her door. Just appeared. One day it’s there, the next, gone.

She particularly likes to leave her apartment door open while she lounges in her underwear and watches TV. I feel like we’re in the college dorms again. Except she’s pushing 45 and I do not want to hang out on her bed and watch Desperate Housewives. Nooo thank you.

She’s got a hell of a sense of style too. I always enjoy seeing what she’s got on. Her club nights are particularly great as she’s usually donning something outrageous that goes really well with the black eyebrows she pencils in. Oh yea, subtle is not her thing. Neither are bras. I’ve seen her on more than one occasion at the supermarket, tank top, no bra, nipples ablaze. One time I saw her walk out of the supermarket in her fuzzy pink bathrobe. I shit you not. Like the kind I live in on a Sunday in winter during an SVU marathon.

Now remember, this is not America. It is not acceptable to go out in public in your Sponge Bob pajamas. That is frowned upon here. But Nicoletta proudly sported her cotton candy pink robe to the market. No shame in her game.

And that mantra goes for everything: hanging her laundry in the hallway in her underwear. And smoking cigarettes….everywhere. The hallway, the stairwell, one time in my house when she came in to borrow chairs. Standing in my bedroom, puffing away. No, no, it’s fine. Please, ash on my floor!

Here’s the kicker though:

She comes to my door the other day, interrupts me waxing my legs, to ask if she can borrow 100 euros, because (in her words) she “really really wants to buy something.”

Well yes, I’d really really like to buy things too. I’d like to treat myself to an appointment at the esthetician, but as you can see, I’m most likely going to pull a muscle from attempting to wax the backs of my own thighs because I need to scrimp and save and having someone else remove the hair from my legs is a luxury these days.

So to be clear, dear neighbor, I don’t exactly have 100 euros laying around, and if I did, I’m not sure I’d entrust it in the hands of a woman who’s next paycheck is coming from a balding, middle aged man looking for a quickie on his lunch break.

Sorry, sistah!