(and yes, that is a Tupac reference)
I woke my first morning in Rome under, among other things, several effigies of a bizarre celebrity by the name of Renato Zero, who appeared to be Italy’s version of David Bowie, though far less successful at accomplishing androgyny, more likely than not due to his, well, Italian features, bushy eyebrows and all. Then again, women here seem at least moderately likely to shave their faces past age 23, so perhaps that’s not actually too strange. Of all the oddities to greet me at around noon when I opened my eyes, the most conspicuous one was conspicuous only in and of its absence: the sun.
You see, in some Italian apartments, it seems that a utilitarian metal shade on the outside of a given window doubles as a blind—and a screen, which is handy for mornings like these, the latest (at that time) I had woken up since well before I graduated college, though I suppose with the time change, I really woke up nearer to five, which is more typical than anything. Nevertheless, I didn’t see the sun until I had seen the clock (which glowed crystal clear in the shade), and I initially thought said clock was wrong.
That was just shy of a week ago at this point, and when I stepped down into the Rome underground that morning, I felt my clothing stick to me despite the sun that had been absent consisting, at that point, mainly of luminous cloud cover. I’m told that it was pushing 100 degrees then, though I haven’t looked at a proper thermometer in at least five years, so the only evidence I might have to go by is weather.com’s archives, if I choose to pursue that option once I have an internet connection available again.
Today, Milano is waving to me as I shoot backwards out of its Shen-tral-ay Stah-zee-own-ay on the Tay Jay Vay train, the contrast of Dolce and Gabanna models that make David Beckham look like trailer trash, buildings representing the worst of 1980’s mid-rise architecture, and a wintery rain with the Roman May I walked into last week coalescing into a composite of my time in Italy. I’d had extremely high expectations for Italy—mostly as a result of breaking the number one rule of travel—taking other peoples preferences as anything more than free Frommer’s books—and most of them were not met. On the other hand, I was told to expect many things that were not so great—Milano being grey, at best, and Italian men being mediocre lovers, and I’m happy to report that Milano is grey and busy-like, and Italian men are not mediocre (which, in my eyes, qualifies as bad) enough in the sack for me to opine. Let’s just say that I’d like to visit Italy again under different circumstances and in the middle of a summer like the one I thought I’d see throughout. Had I known that the fluke Rome thunderstorm that poured from the sky last Monday was actually a harbinger, I probably would have gotten over my affinity toward summer a few days earlier. It is only now that I shoot backwards from Milano’s Shen-tral-ay Stah-zee-own-ay, a “terminal” stay-zee-own-ay in the sense that you can’t go anywhere beyond on an open circuit, that I am prepared for European winter but hoping that my clothing sticks once again to my body as I enter a given metropolitan subway system.
This is where you come in.
Despite all of our talks regarding the Trans-Siberian railroad and Ljubljana and India, I always see us moving along a desert beach somewhere in Baja, man-planted palm trees replaced by harsh brush that is more than likely indigenous to that area, white Caribbean sand gone in favor of a rockier mix, the larger grains as relatively minute as their third coast counterparts as a result of the breadth—and depth—of the Pacific. I see us mostly naked and in black and white and without speech or sound. Just a silent film of sorts. But no music. Perhaps the sound of waves crashing. I’m not really sure. I actually see one of us with makeup on. But it’s just us. No sea creatures. Lots of seaweed, But only two pairs of eyes.
Well, three if you count the one photographing us.
If that sounds dramatic it’s because it is, because this is a serious subject with serious implications. I used to believe that the world before color pictures and television must have lacked color as well. I believed this until I was at least ten, and even now I sometimes have to remind myself—if only silently—that this is not the case, that the rainforest green of the Italian railway was just as green in 1940 when the railway was new, in 1840 when this particular railway wasn’t here, and centuries ago, when different arteries pumped cargo and people through Lombardy at much slower rates than the one at which the train that just sped by us—with only inches to spare—it traveling.
There will be color in our world, though, once the negatives of the beach scene are being developed by our actions, words, and presences, once the future is present, though I’m not sure what will happen once the present becomes past. My thought is that it might be like a children’s coloring book but it could be a dry-erase board or, worse, a transparency.
As we rise up off the sand at a non-descript hour of a dateless, hourless day, it gains a pale nude color as the half-orange sun de-eclipses pending our backs turning to it. You look at me and open your mouth a few times. I manage to comprehend, and as the last clump of sand crumbles down to grains between the final step of my right foot on the beach and the first step of my left one on to pavement, I respond. “I’m coming back for more.”