By Alison Satterwhite
Part 8: The “Feast”
It was late in the evening when we arrived at the restaurant. Soft light crept out of the tiny, dark space before me. Sasha and I unloaded from our cab onto the cobblestone road and peered through the front door as we stood nervously under the awning. Dressed in our smallest black dresses and 4 inch heels, we teetered into the mysteriously charming Italian restaurant, not knowing what to expect. Sasha had given me a brief run-down of the evening as we were en route, but our teenage minds couldn’t grasp the real meaning of it all until the night had run its course. All I knew is that I was going to have dinner at a fabulous restaurant, on the house, followed by a night on the town.
image courtesy www.thebittenword.com
“Ciao, bella. Come on it! Have seat!” said a rich older voice lit with the abandon of alcohol. Seated at the end of a long table was an older gentleman with gray hair. We were fashionably late and coolly made our way to the two remaining seats. The air was thick with smoke and laughter and I could barely make out the people around me through the flickering candlelight. We found our seats as I casually tried to interpret and take in my surroundings. I was unaccustomed to the attention and special treatment I was receiving; the entire restaurant had been closed down for us and I was still trying to figure out why we were there. Seated at the table were mostly young models and a few older men placed strategically between them. A feast of fresh cheeses, breads and delicious ripe beauties lined the table while the wine flowed freely amongst them. Feeling displaced, I desperately wanted to blend in and tried my hardest not to stand out from the crowd. I was uneasy and decided that anonymity would best be accomplished by limiting what I said, putting on an air of aloofness, and laughing when the others laughed, despite not understanding most of their English. After all, I was 18 and had nothing of the life experience these grown men had. I had nothing poignant or interesting to say. It felt as though I were a hovering and annoying fly; I was part of this trite and forced conversation–but then again, not really. Did they take me as seriously as I did them? Overly self-aware, I didn’t realize that my intellect and comfort were the least of their concerns. I was beginning to catch glimpses of their motives and couldn’t wait to question the other models afterwards. Dinner was finally served and I was relieved that the pressure to perform like a circus animal would be alleviated.
After what seemed like the longest night of my life, dinner was over and the group was finishing up their last round of coffee and cigarettes. Private limos were waiting outside to take the group to a local dance club. This seemed like a welcome relief after the awkward social setting in which I had found myself. We excused ourselves from the table, thanked them for dinner with a kiss on the cheek and hopped in our car. “Who were they and what was that all about?” I questioned with a nervous laugh. “All the agencies in Milan are run by the Mafia,” Soleil, the ring leader, who was now with us explained. That statement had no bearing on an 18-year-old from an all-American family with no exposure to the “real” world. “It’s no big deal,” she said brushing off the concern I inadvertently expressed. All I I knew is that the Mafia was “bad” and I struggled to piece together the relevance of it all. “They just like having young, beautiful girls around,” Sasha snickered. The exploration of this topic stopped here, and I chose to ignore its possible implications. It was all so foreign to me and I was on the adventure of a lifetime.
We pulled up to another darkened venue and were immediately received by the club owner. The line to get in extended down the street and I was unsure of what to expect. This was my first time dancing somewhere other than a church dance. He escorted us past the crowd, through the front door, and directly to a section of the club set aside just for our group. Stunned at our commanding ability, I sat down on the red velvet couch and tried to take it all in. The stares and admiration of predators seemed flattering to a young girl. The techno music blared incessantly while half-naked bodies clamored for space on the dance floor. It was a full house and the energy was only magnified by the exuberance of the DJ. We had barely arrived when another group of random older men sat down in our section. I assumed it was more Mafia and steered clear while remaining on their good side. A scantily clad waitress brought endless bottles of alcohol to the table. We hadn’t requested them, but someone obviously had. Sasha and I stood up to go dance and were immediately followed by two of the mafia men. I continued to feel uneasy and was grateful the volume was piercing enough to negate any conversation they would try to pursue. We danced to our hearts content, all while trying to avoid physical contact with these strangers. As the evening wore on, we made our way back to our section and within moments, one of the men pulled at my arm. “Do you want some cocaine?” he asked. I stood paralyzed in my tracks. At this point, I realized the urgency in getting back to my apartment and out of this particular situation. I politely declined and he continued to offer. “Nnnnn…ooo,” I stuttered. Feeling numb and in shock at the surreal and unparalleled experience I was having, I slowly, yet deliberately urged Sasha out the door. Although there had never been a temptation to try hard drugs, I realized that my need for approval was dangerously close to overtaking my budding moral voice. I felt the warning voice of the Holy Ghost in my heart that night. Deep down, I hoped I would be able to weather the storm raging around me.