Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Alone for the holidays
Nearly a year later, I’m far from empty piazzas shimmering in wet moonlight and hushed medieval allies. I’m home in West Virginia. I stir my multi-grain cereal with milled flaxseed and soy as it bubbles on the stove top. “Tastes like something they’d feed you in prison,” my mom says after I offer her a bite. After breakfast, I pop in a yoga DVD, trying to concentrate on broadening and lengthening as I stand in Proud Warrior. But while yogi Rodney Yee instructs me to empty my mind and be in the moment, I’m thinking about Thanksgiving next week. I resist the urge to press pause and light my new cinnamon apple candle. Bring on the tree trimming, pie baking, and carol singing, I think.
A December night last year I entered a dark and empty hostel dorm in Florence after lugging my suitcase up three flights of stairs. I left my bag on a bunk and went outside in search of an Internet café so I could Skype my family. Soon I was cold and lost. My desperation to talk to someone I knew turned into a panic. An hour later I found an Internet café in the back of a convenience store. The aggressive fluorescent lighting made my head hurt. After I’d paid and sat down at my assigned computer, I realized the settings were in a language consisting of foreign symbols rather than Roman characters. I tried to explain to the Indian owner. He didn't understand but pointed to the other computer. I logged onto Skype and soon heard my mother’s voice in the headset. “Hello?” But she couldn’t hear me. My microphone didn’t work. "Hello?" she repeated. I could hear my brother laughing in the background. I hadn’t seen him in a year. Hearing the familiar voices but being unable to communicate was agonizing. Click, my mom hung up the phone. I rushed out so no one would see my tears.
These days I sigh with nostalgia when I see photographs of bridges I walked in Venice or paintings I admired in Rome. I wouldn’t trade the three weeks I spent exploring Tuscan countryside and wandering Veronese Christmas markets for anything.
So why now, as I curl up on the living room couch by with my cat at my feet and my parents on either side, do I think of Italy and feel a pang of solitude?