Seduction Pronto Lang Style

“Learn another language! Experience other cultures! Become a citizen of the world!”

“Learn another language and meet people from different countries!”

“Learn the language of your ancestors! Discover your heritage!”

“The easy and fast way to learn French is to meet a Frenchman!”

“Octoberfest! Join us! We will teach you how to order a beer in German!”

“Feel like dancing flamenco? No need to go to Spain! Come to Pronto Lang, and we will describe it to you in Spanish!”

“Learn Italian in two weeks! When at the Vatican, you will be able to speak to the Pope!”

“Welcome to Pronto Lang! We will teach you any language you want!”

“Don’t worry if you don’t have an ear for foreign languages! We’ll convince you that you do.”

“You will move at a fast pace from beginner to intermediate and advanced courses in two weeks. You will become fluent and will not need us anymore. In case you wish to continue with our services, we can translate for you from any language into one of your choice. We’ll provide you with a copy of our translation in any format and media you wish.”

“Come to us, we are wonderful!”

Mrs. Simson loved foreign languages. Every fall she would enroll in a different language course at the Pronto Lang, a language school nearby her house that offered evening classes. She had a job, a family, and limited free time for herself, thus being able to take those classes made her happy.

“Once a week, two hours, I can do that,” she thought.

Learning world languages challenged her because she had to master diverse linguistic skills from pronunciation to understanding, to speaking, and to writing. At the same time, she was excited to broaden her knowledge of other cultures. This experience took her to places that she knew could never afford to visit. Last fall she decided to learn Italian because an Italian family moved next door. Their last name was Agostino, and Mrs. Simson refused to accept the fact that they were third generation Italian Americans, who didn’t even know the basic greetings in Italian such as “good morning” or “see you later.” For her, they were Italians.

“I must learn Italian because I am sure that at least one of the Agostino’s speaks Italian, and I want to be able to talk to my neighbors. Besides, it is such a beautiful sounding, romantic language. “Verdi and Puccini composed the best operas,” was her rationale to sign up for a beginner course.

The class was held from 7-9 pm each Thursday. There were fifteen students in the class ranging in age from seventeen to sixty-five years old. The high school kids were all first born Italian Americans, whose parents wanted them to learn Italian to be able to talk to their grandparents in Abruzzi and Calabria whom they had never met, but surely would in the future. Their parents worked multiple jobs, spoke in broken English, and were too tired to teach them their native dialect after dinner. Mrs. Simson’s other classmates were housewives who preferred Pronto Lang over Thursday Bingo in their church; a math professor who suddenly had the urge to learn something not connected to algebra and geometry; a retired auto mechanic with a last name Settepani who decided that it was about time to learn the correct pronunciation of it. He also hoped that its etymology would lead him to the discovery of a place in Italy from which his grandparents had emigrated a century ago. Mr. Badel, a real estate agent in his late forties, was another of Mrs. Simson’s classmates. He wanted to learn Italian because the area that he serviced had a vast Italian population that included recent emigrants from Italy with a limited knowledge of English, thus knowing Italian would help him in his business.

Mrs. Simson was a freelance photographer working for a local newspaper. She was a handsome woman in her late thirties, 5’9” tall and underweight for her height, which made her look fragile. Her brown, round-shaped eyes were the dominant feature on her pale face framed by mahogany dyed shoulder length hair parted on one side. She wore discreet makeup to add color to the plainness of her visage. She preferred to dress in understated outfits as if avoiding being noticed. Her demeanor and appearance somehow contradicted the common assumption that most artists, and she being a photographer was one of them, walk around clad in provocative clothes. Instead, one could easily imagine her wearing a white apron while making an apple pie or old jeans and a hoody hiding behind sahuaros in the Arizona wilderness while taking pictures of rare birds. She spoke softly and slowly, carefully choosing her words. When she laughed, she muffled its sound by covering her mouth with her right hand to not disturb those around her. Mrs. Simson was one of those people who avoided taking part in any public happening because she preferred her privacy. She strived for anonymity and enjoyed life by being invisible. She was also modest to the point that she seldom showed her own family the newspaper issues that featured her photos. However, this self-protectionism of hers did not preclude her friendliness toward others or being above approach, but people needed to seek her out first.

Mrs. Simson married her high school boyfriend soon after they both graduated from college and adapted quickly to her wifehood and subsequently to her motherhood. She lived an ordinary suburban life, undisturbed and protected from existential problems that afflicted some of her friends and colleagues. Her husband worked as an accountant, and their combined income enabled them to buy a small ranch style house and two cars and to take week-long vacations visiting national parks. Their three children practiced different sports and went to summer camps. She sailed through life as if pushed by a gentle wind across the sea. She felt fulfilled and at ease with herself.

After the first two weeks of classes, Mr. Badel approached Mrs. Simson during ten minutes of a class break.

“Mrs. Simson, would you mind practicing the conversation in Italian with me because I have a difficult time inventing my sentences during a dialogue? I noticed that your fluency is better than the other people in our class. If you agree, we could meet once a week and talk in Italian. I could use your help.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Badel?”

“Mrs. Simson, I also noticed that you have almost perfect pronunciation. My American accent is so strong that even our instructor often doesn’t understand what I am saying in Italian. This is a real handicap when I try to converse. If you can spare some time, I’ll be grateful to meet you at any place any hour that is convenient for you.”

“I am not sure how I can help you. My vocabulary is extremely limited. I am a beginner as are you!”

“We could invent short dialogues with topics of common interest, and search for the vocabulary needed for a basic conversation.”

“I am sorry. You better ask somebody else to help you because I honestly don’t know more Italian than you do.” She was trying to get herself out of Mr. Badel’s proposal.

“Don’t be modest! You did learn more than I did. Why don’t we give it a try? What do you say?” he insisted.

Mrs. Simson looked at her classmate’s gentle and honest face and said, “I guess we can try.”

“Which day is good for you?”

She thought for a few seconds about her weekly commitments, and said, “Next Wednesday early afternoon.”

“Great! I’ll get out of work a bit earlier and schedule my clients for the morning showing.”

“Where are we going to meet?”

“There is a donut shop close to my house. On the south side of Joy Road and West Chicago. Do you know where it is?”

“Yes, see you there at 3:00.”

“Perfect, at 3:00 next Wednesday.”

In the meantime, Mrs. Simson didn’t give much thought to the meeting with Mr. Badel. She wrote the practice dialogue, fare la conoscenza (Meeting Someone) by using the simple vocabulary that she found in her English-Italian dictionary. The following Wednesday they met at the donut shop full of noisy teenagers. She handed her typed text to Mr. Badel.

“Buon giorno, signora Simson!” (Good day, Mrs. Simson)

“Buon giorno, Mr. Badel!”

“Come sta Lei?” (How are you?)

“Grazie, bene, e Lei?” (Thank you, I am well, and you?)

“Grazie, anche io sto bene.” (Thank you, I am also well)

“Che cosa prendiamo, signora Simson?” (What are we going to take, Mrs. Simson?)

“Per me un caffè. Grazie!” (For me coffee, thank you!)

“Anche io prendo un caffè.” (I have coffee as well)

“Signora, che cosa fa oggi?” (What are you doing today?)

“Leggo un giornale.” (I read a newspaper.)

“Che cosa fa Lei, signor Badel?” (What do you do Mr. Badel?)

“Io guardo la televisione.” (I watch the TV)

Mr. Badel pulled a sheet of paper out of his briefcase and gave it to Mrs. Simson. She looked puzzled, and he explained, “This is my contribution to our conversation. I spent the past weekend collecting words from my pocket size dictionary and trying to create a dialogue with them. Please don’t laugh at my mistakes. I hope that my sentences make sense. Here goes:

“Signora Simson, andiamo a casa mia, è vicino! È più quieto lì.” (Let’s go to my house, it is close by! It’s quieter there.)

“Va bene. Lei vive da solo?” (Ok. Do you live alone?). She read from the given text.

“No, io sono sposato. Mia moglie si chiama Meggy.” (No, I am married. My wife’s name is Meggy.)

“Mio marito si chiama George.” (My husband’s name is George.) She added her husband’s name that Mr. Badel didn’t know while writing his dialogue.

They stood up ready to leave when she improvised her lines:

“Paghiamo prima il conto!” (Let’s first pay the bill!)

“Pago io, signora!” (I’ll pay!) He remembered the first-person conjugation of the verb pagare.

Mrs. Simson drove behind Mr. Badel’s car. They reached his one-story house in ten minutes. He parked his Toyota in the two-car garage and pointed to her to leave her Mazda in the empty spot next to him. Mr. Badel unlocked the front door and they walked into a small living room. She noticed the gaudy furniture and decorations. The sofa upholstered with loud floral fabric leaned against the wall with a large picture window looking out at a small front yard. Two rocking chairs next to it were covered with mustard-colored worn out velvet. On the opposite wall stood a rustic looking oak dining table. The living room was adjacent to the open kitchen with several of its shelves lined with different size colorful figurines. On one of the counters, she spotted a vase with red artificial flowers. A gray color dominated the walls and the kitschy landscape paintings hanging on them. The light green wall-to-wall carpet added to the overall atmosphere of the space that had not been changed in years. She found it oppressive because it also emanated a moldy odor. In Mr. Badel’s house everything was simultaneously in perfect order and in terrible disarray.

“Dove è sua moglie?” (Where is your wife?) Mrs. Simson continued to improvise their dialogue.

At her surprise, Mr. Badel without hesitating answered in a correct Italian, “Visita sua sorella.” (She is visiting her sister.)

“Dove ci sediamo?” (Where do we sit?)

“Sul sofa. Si accomodi signora!” (On the sofa. Please, sit down!)

Another grammatically correct answer and the use of a reflexive verb,” she thought.

Mr. Badel sat close to Mrs. Simson. His knees were touching hers, and he stretched his left arm across her shoulders. She remained motionless puzzled by his intimate gestures.

“Oh, signora Simson, non posso più, andiamo a letto!” (I can’t stand it anymore, let’s go to bed!)

This sentence, pronounced in a strong American accent, sounded to her to be rehearsed many   times, but she played along with her part.

“Perché, signor Badel? Non capisco!” (Why? I don’t understand!)

“Because I have wanted it for a long time, and I cannot translate this in Italian!”

He squeezed her hand and leaned toward her trying to kiss her. His face became red from excitement and his heavy breathing. She turned her head away from his, and calmly continued to speak in Italian:

“Dove è la camera da letto?” (Where is the bedroom?) She didn’t know why she asked this question. She felt like she was being pulled into another sphere of reality, unknown to her that this situation was about to uncover a daring side of her that she didn’t know she possessed.

“È a destra del bagno. Andiamo!” (It’s on the right of the bathroom. Let’s go!)

“Questo è sciocco, signor Badel!” (This is crazy!) were the only words she uttered while slowly walking through a dim, narrow hallway toward the bedroom.

“No signora, è eccitante!” (No, it’s exciting!)

She entered it first feeling his hot breath on her neck as if he wanted to make sure that she would not change her mind. He was gently pushing her from behind. The bedroom was small and could accommodate only a regular size bed. She noticed that the sheets were changed recently by someone not used to doing it because they were not properly stretched over the mattress. It must have been Mr. Badel, she concluded. The only light in the room came from two safety nightlights plugged in opposite walls. They illuminated the bed and a framed photograph on the nightstand featuring a happy Badel family: Mr. Badel flanked by two young men smiling broadly and a cute, petite woman whose grin showed her protruding teeth.

“You can put your clothes on this chair,” he told her in a soft yet commanding voice.

Grazie!” (Thank you!)

Mrs. Simson stood on one side of the bed facing Mr. Badel across from her. They began to take off their clothes slowly and methodically without looking at each other as if each of them was alone in their own bedroom. Dead silence enveloped the place, interrupted only once by Mr. Badel pulling down the zipper of his pants. He neatly folded his clothes on a stool in front of a closet while Mrs. Simson hung hers on the offered chair making sure that her blouse and skirt would not wrinkle. They both stood naked on the opposite side of the bed. Mr. Badel was the first one to resume their role playing by showing Mrs. Simson each piece of clothing he took off.

“Ecco la cravatta, la camicia, i pantaloni, le mutande, le calze e le scarpe.” (Here are my tie, my shirt, my pants, my underwear, my socks, and my shoes.)

She followed his suit: “Ecco la blusa, il reggiseno, la gonna, le mutandine e le scarpe. Adesso ho freddo.” (Here are my blouse, my bra, my skirt, my panties, and my shoes. Now I am cold.)

Mrs. Simson looked at Mr. Badel’s face tense from eagerness to possess her. She, on the other hand, was blushing as a newlywed not knowing what she was supposed to do. She felt like she was in the “Twilight Zone” and on the verge of fainting.

“Signora, Lei ha un bel corpo.” (You have a beautiful body.)

“Grazie, anche Lei.” (Thank you, you do too.)

She was being polite because this was part of her upbringing. Never tell the truth if it would hurt somebody’s feelings. Mr. Badel was just a few inches taller than her, a stocky build with his chest and legs covered with thick, black hair. She saw him as being too massive for his height. The checkered boxer shorts he showed her made her think how they perfectly matched the totality of the image he projected. The colored briefs below his belly button would destroy it. Looking at his nude body and his flushed face disgusted her. She felt her stomach turning but was uncertain if it signaled vomit coming up or her desire to make love to him despite her feelings of repulsion toward him. People sometimes do things for no good reason because they find themselves in situations that defy all logic, and yet they proceed to act on them as if assessing their own limits of tolerance for the inconceivable.

Mrs. Simson and Mr. Badel simultaneously removed the upper sheet from the bed. They pulled it back up all the way to their chins and lay motionless next to each other wondering who was going to make the first move. It was Mr. Badel. She felt his heavy, furry body rolling on top of her making her disappear under him. He held her head in his hands trying to kiss her on the lips. When she saw his gaping mouth full of yellowing teeth, she turned her face toward the happy family Badel photo. From that point on nothing mattered to her any longer. He tried to animate her by sucking her nipples and sliding down to massage her clitoris, to no avail. She remained unmoved, but Mr. Badel was a practical man, a realtor, who didn’t waste his weekend for not getting anything in return. After having written his seduction dialogue in Italian, convinced his wife to spend a day at her sister’s, and put clean sheets on the bed, he expected a token of gratitude from Mrs. Simson. Not paying any attention to her facial expression telling him to stop, he pried open her legs and penetrated her. It was not a painful intercourse; she even climaxed at the same time he did. Nevertheless, that was the saddest episode of her entire life. To make the whole experience even worse, Mr. Badel quickly jumped out of bed, stretched his arm high above his head as a gesture of his complete satisfaction with himself.

Then matter-of-factly he spoke. “Facciamo il letto!” (Let’s make the bed!) He made sure that his wife wouldn’t see that somebody had already been lying in it.

They straightened the lower and upper sheet, adjusted pillows on the headboard, and put the chair and the stool in their original place. He quickly began putting his clothes on without looking at Mrs. Simson, who was imitating his rapid movements. Her body and her clothes smelled like Mr. Badel, like decay.

On the way out of the bedroom Mr. Badel blew a kiss to his happy family photo. Fully clothed he said with a smile, “Grazie mille, signora Simson!” (Thanks a lot!)

“Non c’è di che!” (You are welcome!) She tried to keep her composure.

“Oh, I forgot to describe what I was doing five minutes ago. Here it is: “Mi vesto, mi pettino e ritorno al lavoro.” (I am getting dressed, I brush my hair, and go back to work). “Ci vediamo il prossimo mercoledi!” (We’ll see each other next Wednesday.) He said it very sure of himself as if he had just sold a million-dollar house and earned a nice commission. He accompanied her to the door.

With her hand on the knob, she turned around and asked him, “Mr. Badel, come si chiama Lei?” (Mr. Badel, what is your name?)

“Mi chiamo Jack.” (My name is Jack.)

“Jack, you are a jackass and a jerk, and I am sorry for not knowing an adequate Italian translation for it,” she calmly said and slammed the door on her way out.


Romana Capek-Habekovic was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and received her BA at the University of Zagreb. She earned a PhD in Italian literature from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she taught language, literature, and culture courses. She published college level textbooks Insieme and A vicenda (McGraw-Hill), Parola a te! (Heinle Cengage Learning), and her book on Italian culinary traditions, In cucina! is forthcoming (Hackett). Her articles on twentieth-century Italian authors have been published in many scholarly publications. Along with her academic career, she continued to write fiction and non-fiction. Her stories appeared in New Reader Magazine, Passager, EveryWriter, Fauxmoir, The Common Dispatches, and one is forthcoming in Bright Flash Literary Review. She is in a process of finishing her third short story collection. Her other interests include hiking, swimming, and she is an enthusiastic cook.