Adventures with Dani Bello, Part I: Coming to America, Winky Face

photo (10)The foreigner living in my dorm had called me “Ans” for the first two months of the spring semester. He tried defending his pronunciation when I caught him saying my name without the “h”.


“But, see, the ‘h’ is silent in Italian.” I pointed out that we were speaking English.


“But, see, it’s so much easy to not pronounce the ‘h’.” I told him that waving his hands around wasn’t making his argument any stronger.


“Okay, fine, but honestly—“ I interjected that the “h” in “honestly” is silent.


“Oh—my god— are you kidding me!” cried out Dan.


Daniele, or the Americanized “Dan” for short, is my foreign exchange roommate from Italy. I’ve had the pleasure of coming home every day to his one hundred megawatt smile, which borders on the goofy, and his poofed-up Italian hair, blow-dried and styled to perfection, since January.


I never signed up to live with a foreign exchange student, and if I had any say, I wouldn’t have agreed to it. My roommate of two and a half years, Mike, left for Jordan for the spring semester to study abroad, and I had hoped that I would have the double for myself, as opposed to having to share it with anyone, foreigner or otherwise. Because the dorm was a double, meaning there was only one bedroom for two people to share, Mike and I decided that he sleep in the room and I move the bed out and sleep in the living room. We were fed up with sharing the same bedroom for two years, and we figured the situation would work itself out when he left for Jordan, leaving the bedroom available.


It wasn’t meant to be, however, and I received an e-mail from Penn in December, informing me that I were to receive a new roommate. Attached was a message from Dan:


“Hi! My name is Daniele Amarossi, I am Italian and I will be your roommate for the spring semester at Upenn! If you have a Facebook account and want to add me, just type my first and last name and you should be able to find me (I think there’s no one else named like me) So, see you in a month ;)”


“What kind of a creep sends a winky face in an e-mail,” was my first reaction. That abominable Frankenstein, created from a semicolon and a closing parenthesis, worried me more than any unknown aspect about Mr. Amarossi. I could have cared less if he was a drug-smuggling, thieving, murder-and-pillaging marauder from Italy – it was simply unacceptable, if not downright despicable, that he would send a winky face to me, a person he had never met.


The second reaction was coming to terms with the sleeping arrangement. I didn’t want Dan, winky face-dishing creep or not, to be forced to sleep in the living room during his abroad experience. Thus, I yielded all the holiness that comes with a private, eight-by-fourteen room, but I didn’t inform him of this decision– I simply left the room untouched, except for one of the closets in which I hung my jackets.With about a month between our initial contact and his arrival, I spent hours contemplating every possible worst-case scenario I could imagine, until he finally walked through the door of my –our- dorm.


I met him for the first time in early January, a week before the spring semester started and a steady stream of students had begun making their way back onto campus from winter vacation. He sat on his bed in our dorm, a suitcase and a small bag by his feet, with his iPhone in his slightly hairy right hand. He wore a medium-sized grey jacket over his broad shoulders and a white t-shirt, which wasn’t enough to cover up a small tuft of chest hair from sticking out under his neck, and his white Nike Air Force Ones complemented his slim and long faded jeans. His face screamed “Italia!”, and some stubble covered the lower half of this Italian face. A more fashionable person than me may have found him as “very well put-together.” I found him to be the roommate who could make or break my last semester of college. He noticed me and got up, I cleared my throat, and we formally introduced each other. I thanked Dog that no winky faces were involved this time around.


Dan’s English flowed out of his mouth with ease, which was a stark contrast between the times I had introduced myself to German students in Berlin this past summer. I pointed out how well he spoke, which he immediately denied out of humility, but that was all I needed to respect the hell out of my new roommate.


It turned out that his luggage had gotten lost on his way here and that they would not arrive for another two or three days. I told him he could wear my clothes if he were to run out of clean ones during the wait.


“Oh, no, thank you, I’m fine. I should have enough clothes to last in the meantime,” he declined, but his face expressed that he appreciated the offer.


Still no winky face. I made a mental note that this new roomie situation might not be so bad after all.


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