Can’t help it. It happens every year.
Late January, the sounds and images of those chilly, gray winter days in Italy come back to haunt me.
Still unfinished business, I suppose. I was never able to reach a satisfactory closure of that stressful, exhilarating, magic, grievous period of my life. When I had made the decision to move to the US. For love (or that sensation that closely approximates it, when you are very young and still believe).
The blow to the family had mercilessly been delivered a few days before Christmas, that is “I’m leaving for America, I’ve fallen in love and I’m getting married, already got the (one way!) ticket and that’s the end of it”. Gotta be strong, hard, when you administer an emotional death sentence to someone, no time for examining feelings, regret, or any kind of thought. One just doesn’t look back, blocks all sentiments and proceeds as planned. Survival.
After the initial pandemonium, my dear ones painted a coat of acceptance on their faces, and it was only the intense weight of their accusing silent eyes that produced those sharp sparks of guilt that I did my best to ignore, but which still shock my system (and not at all diluted) over thirty years later.
I became the queen of public transportation in those days. Hopping on buses and trains, all over Naples, walking long distances along the chilly yet painfully beautiful lungomare, which I knew I wasn’t going to see ‘live’ again for a very long time. My nose in the paperwork I was gathering for my imminent American wedding, I walked purposefully, ignoring my surroundings, prohibiting myself to feel anything at all because plans and feelings usually don’t co-exist comfortably.
Run to the church up in Mergellina, to collect my baptismal certificate, the elderly priest eyeing me curiously, and even timidly commenting – as he signed the document – ‘figliola, you’re so young to get married…’, but withholding any additional opinion. Maybe he shouldn’t have remained discreet, but should’ve vehemently blurted out – What are you doing at this tender age, young lady? Come now, get back to your studies, you have a lot of life ahead…- But of course I wouldn’t have listened. I didn’t listen, then, to anyone. Fueled by dreams, excitement, desires, the promise of happiness forever and ever.
I held my large manila envelope against my heart, taking comfort in its thickness, knowing they were all there, the credentials that would allow me to embark on my journey of romance and adventure.
It was cold on the sidewalk of Naples, the buses were always late and crowded, the ride slow because chaotic traffic was a given, as was the incessant blasting of hundreds of angry car horns.
Soon, no more buses, but a large car gliding smoothly on orderly American highways, I thought, with the stars and the moon and even all the planets and galaxies in my eyes.
As I walk along the quiet streets of suburbia, a surreal fog blurs my surroundings, damp, infinitely gloomy. I tighten my coat around my body, but the glacial air seeps through. I can’t find, even in my memory, the sea beneath that Neapolitan January sky, but I think it was still blue and cheerful under its veil of winter.
January 24th. Naples was tugging at my heart in vain. I remained rigid and determined. Determined to be happy on the other side of that sea. Or ocean. A plane was waiting for me.
January is always gray and sad, anyway. Melancholy that just comes with the month.
That’s all, ecco.