I was living alone in a suburban apartment in Rome, my mother, sister and her husband having immigrated ahead of me to the United States. For some reason I was the last to receive clearance. As the youngest in the family, it was also most peculiar that it took longest to check me out. I was going down to the American consulate in Naples by train almost weekly to be run through the investigative process.
Meanwhile, I had known for a week that the porter’s son had been spying on me. My bathroom window was set high up and faced the hallway of the building; he must have had a step stool with him or some such each night I took my bath. I would look up and see a nose pressed against the glass above me, but by the time I got up, covered myself, and went to the front door with the kitchen knife in my hand, he was long gone.
I tried to cover up the window, which was awkward. A piece of cardboard just wouldn’t stay in place without falling down on my head. I taped a sheet of paper across the glass and changed my mind about that. What I really wanted to do was catch the son of a….porter.
One night I drove in a nail on the baseboard across the hall from my door and tied a cord to the nailhead. I ran the cord to my door and into the crack between door and frame. It was the one time I was glad of the drafty construction of the building.
Then I proceeded to fill my bath. When I figured the nose was well pressed against the glass I went around to the front door and pulled up the cord and tied it to the doorknob. I got into the tub, looked up and let him see I had spotted him, and scrambled out of the tub. The sound of him falling hard outside in the hall was most satisfying. I didn’t mind at all having to have the doorknob fixed.
He didn’t come back, and he stayed out of sight whenever I went out. My mother, when I wrote her about this exploit, was not entertained.