Giovanni, the burly moustachioed Sicilian sat across from me, is bellowing while he spits food out of the side of his mouth. He makes grand gestures as he sucks in air to describe a taste without words.
Mario, the morose Romanian, munches on a salami smothered with mustard while taking another swig of his cheap white wine. He constantly repeats a single word in his language like a mantra. Castravetsi! This word, whatever it damn well means, is the thing that keeps him alive. He repeats the word around once every two minutes, he giggles and takes another drink. The word is his Pater Noster.
Down the corridor, I hear Fabrizio, an over-worked alcoholic chauffeur for rich tourists, singing an old Talk Talk song as wanders from his bottle to the shower. He is the only one who speaks English here.
These are my temporary flatmates in my new adopted country, and as usual, I understand diddly squat of what is happening around me.
Outside, klaxons are blaring out and the locals are shouting at each other out of habit as a heavy downpour washes away another day in the beautifully chaotic city that is Florence.
I have moved on again.
Three weeks earlier:
There was a fly in my Leffe outside the bar in Paris. I fished the buzzing pest out of the beer and, thinking it was a goner, left it to go the way of all things on the table in a tiny puddle. I continued reading the criminal autobiography You Can’t Win by Jack Black, glancing every now and then at the odd mademoiselle that floated into my slightly blurry field of vision.
As I went to take a sip from my beer, I noticed that the puddle had turned into a tiny path and the wee desperate creature, full of Dutch Courage, had dragged itself out of the alcoholic mire and was making its drunken way to drier climes.
I rolled and lit up another smoke and watched, as the pest pulled itself to safety with an iron determination. Once free of the liquid, the insect set about cleaning and drying its body and wings. My murderous tendency towards flies was completely subdued and I watched, spellbound, realising what a fucking hero that creature was. The Chuck Norris of the insect world.
The resilience to survive by any means necessary.
The need to get on and adapt to whatever situation life shits down in your way.
As I write this, before I stumble out into the world that I have created for myself, surrounded by new stinks, sounds, and qualities of light, I, once again, am reminded that a life spent travelling is a life of permanent cultural adolescence.
The ability to watch and listen is paramount. Silence as a way of expressing oneself in a world where the noise of one’s uninformed opinions is the common denominator.
Who knows, by listening, I might actually learn something?
Many people might feel envy at this vagabond of a life, with its sense of discovery, but you lose as much as you gain. Contact with family, friends, and your own culture, suffers.
Many people might think that it is bravery to be able to pack a bag and move to a place where, at the beginning at least, even going to the supermarket is an adventure. Well, every single time I have gotten on a plane or train to the next place, I have been frightened to my core. Frightened of losing the comfort, no matter how staid, of all that I have left behind. Of losing the one or two people who made that place special. Of the unknown.
Yet, despite feeling the fear, I crossed the threshold from the old to the unexpected.
Once a decision is made, there’s no turning back.
Just stubborn, I reckon.
As the great Stoic Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius once said:
“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
Life is as unstable as Donald Trump’s wild and fascinating hairpiece; more than ever it seems, with the fear of eco-catastrophe, war and a collapsing financial system, sucking the blood from us.
So, why not embrace that inevitability?
A friend once asked me what I was escaping from. I could not answer, although the response was just on the tip of my tongue.
Just past the horizon where the tough guy flies buzz in my ear.
NEWSFLASH! : CASTRAVETE means GHERKIN…