c o u n t e r  s e r v i c e


josh hamlet 


At 9am we drank coffees.

We drank them quickly standing at a bar just a block from my apartment. I can’t remember now if she drank one as well but she stood next to me and recounted the last things she thought about before she fell away to sleep. From the coffee shop you could see the cobble stones and yellowed buildings with terracotta roofs and the wall protecting the rising waters from the river and the Arno. You could see the Arno as you sipped the last sips of coffee leaving the foam and a euro on the bar.


At 12:30pm we sat on the stoop and she rolled a cigarette. I thought of what I might want for lunch — a quick snack before diving back into the dark room. She was working on a painting. And a book. And anything you could image that was creative. I was drawn to her, immensely.


At 4pm we left the studio and strolled down the streets past piazzas and statues that had stood the test of time, the test of 600 years of rain and wind and political upheaval and drunk college students on Spring Break and young couples hiding behind them to snag a quick kiss. We stopped by gelato shops and tasted the Italian language as it slipped between our teeth from our tongues and tasted the cinnamon gelato that was my favorite. She got pistachio. I was jealous every time, but always thought cinnamon was my favorite.


At 7pm we met up again at the bar. She didn’t drink anything but soda waters and took frequent breaks outside for cigarettes. I would stand with her. We bought admission to the aperitivo hour, where drinks are more expensive but come with a buffet of snacks, to keep you slightly sober before making your way to dinner. We called this dinner and stood at high topped tables and joked with and about our fellow studio-mates and planned trips overseas. She heard about an overnight boat you could take to Croatia. A month later we were on that boat.


At 10pm or 11pm or 1am we left bars with me slightly sober. We went in search of the midnight bakery that sold those sweet rolls and ham and cheese croissants and cookie-rejects for the bakeries the next morning, the night before. There was always a line and we never remembered exactly how to get there. We went home together. We made jokes and laughed and talked about fur coats and New York City and our art and slept side by side.


At every moment, I savored her wit and critiques. I devoured her laugh and humor.  I loved her. I love her still.