Sitting in a doctor’s office outside of Naples to discuss a stomach issue, I heard a man screaming wildly from the next room. My doctor explained: “He’s getting a gastroscope, a tube down the esophagus. It’s a bit fastidioso.” Now “fastidioso” means bothersome of annoying. I wondered if that’s what an English soldier told Joan of Arc: “You’ll experience a fastidioso sensation of heat.” Imagine my delight at the doctor’s prescription: a gastroscope. “With anesthesia?” I asked hopefully. No, anesthesia “wasn’t done” for this procedure. Non si fa: it’s not done. I’d lived in Italy long enough to know that there’s no sense arguing with non si fa. No anesthesia for gastroscopes was in the same category as mixing meat and fish in the same meal, shaking hands with your gloves on, whatever the weather, serving salad before the main dish or other offenses to civilization. So, a garden hose down your throat and you’re totally awake and aware.
In the week before my appointment with the hose, I tried to buck myself up with nationalism. Very few Americans used our local hospital. I didn’t want to be immortalized as “that American coward.” But actually lying there with a gorilla tech standing over you holding what now seems like a sewer line is disconcerting. Never mind America, I’m thinking. I’m screaming. But our man was prepared. He made himself even bigger and announced: “Signora, I’m going to insert this in your throat as far as your stomach. Do not talk. Do not move. Do not vomit. However,” he added kindly, “the procedure doesn’t last that long.” Like Joan’s appointment at the stake. Maurizio was with me and the tech, in a great lapse of forethought, had not said, “Do not crush your husband’s hand.” Too bad for Maurizio. I don’t know which of us had a more fastidioso experience. It’s true though; the procedure didn’t last that long. “Nothing “of interest” was found in my stomach, and in a day or so, Maurizio could write pretty well.