I prudently took a phrase book with me to Italy. On the day we arrived I found I had forgotten to pack toothpaste. Over wine and pasta that evening I learned from my book how to ask for toothpaste in a shop, and practised it until everyone agreed my accent sounded flawless; 'Mi scusi. Vorrei il dentifricio, per favore.'
The following morning we all walked into the village. Everyone wanted to hear me ask for toothpaste. All the way down, in the early morning sunshine, my lips were moving. 'Mi scusi. Vorrei il dentifricio, per favore. Mi scusi. Vorrei il dentifricio, per favore.'
We went into the shop. It was a supermarket. I picked some toothpaste off the shelf. I paid for it. When I was given my change I muttered 'grazie'. Everybody clapped.
My unused italian phrase is lodged immovably in my brain like a raspberry seed between the teeth, occupying space that I increasingly need for other, more important things. Like remembering why I have gone upstairs.