Original source material
It pleases me when I am far away from it, to take a little trip through the city that I think of more often than most. Here in the heat, with children whose smiles can break the heart, I choose to go back despite knowing how precious this time is.
However in my memory, the streets do not connect exactly as they do in reality. They intercept each other paradoxically, as is wont to happen when places are remembered. As in dreams when familiar landscapes are reworked, re-imagined, metropolises grow inappropriate meadows, or I find towns I love have red mud instead of pavements, thrown back to another time I could never have known. There are other places that I thought I did not long for until I fall asleep and I feel a great relief to be back, even though I always dream of them at night, in the rain. All these places come back to me like old lovers, locations become my notches in the bed post.
So you must excuse me if my journey seems impossible, this is a story after all.
The first journey is always the most memorable, especially since it was so much more than I expected.
Now I am hungry for the language. It’s amazing to me how, before, to hear it meant to live behind a pane of glass; I could not tell the difference between dialect and the national language. Sometimes I wonder if I have a right to love it and miss it the way I do. To love is to take ownership or at least think you have the right to it. I was not born there; lived there a short time, yet it is so part of myself as only real love can be. And although we are apart, like all loves that are genuine, within minutes of being reunited, the absence will count for nothing. I carry a torch until then and indulge myself with nostalgia, by listening to the music that takes me back and allowing myself to be washed in longing. I could drown in it.
It was my favourite time of day, at least the time of day I liked best whilst living there, as it has changed as the climates I’ve lived in has changed.
Early evening then, when everyone is awake again after sleeping away the heat. Shops re-open, birds loud in the trees ready to roost. The streets give way to people, crowds of them, strolling with their children, friends, sisters or husbands. They stop to chat or look into shop windows. They eat ice cream, they duck into bars for a coffee and a quick cigarette.
I am so happy to be here, I feel everyone should know, that they shouldn’t take it for granted, where they are. I see that to some it’s the place they live, always has been. For me it’s the backdrop to all that I am, my very existence.
As I walk amongst the throng, I feel like an extra on some epic film set.
I always end up in the same places, they draw me to them. Streets that feel; seem to breath, to live and cast something out, something I cannot even begin to define. Surrounded by the dark old buildings, the presipe stalls that fit in, though it’s nowhere near Christmas, the occasional church that sneaks up on you…
I have nowhere especially to go. The dark stones of the streets (slick and dangerous like ice when it rains) hold promise and everything is golden.
At this time you become part of one, great, moving body, each person another cell. You do not choose where to go, you are taken.
But as this is my imagining, I choose Piazza Plebiscita. It used to be a car park, can you believe it? Can you credit it? I’ve seen the photos, a huge car park almost like a field of cars ready to be harvested. That car park embodied the problem that this city has never solved, there is just too much of everything. As the volcanic soil makes it fertile and irresistible and dangerous, it’s pull is undeniable and it’s too full. I love it as if it was my home, it is my home. Whoever is infected with this city talks of it as the passionate unstable lover it is. We adore it but we cannot stay, why can’t we stay?
One dusk in particular I walked with the others, I allowed myself to rest on snatches of thick language to be borne on the wave of the crowd.
And then I feel a hypocrite for reminiscing. How dare I? What can my adoration possibly mean when I have given it up? I worked hard to keep it going; in the end it was dust, ashes, trapped bodies and broken down systems. There were other places I had to be, to feel, to give to and I was man enough, I thought, to be able to move on and if we were really meant to be together, I could always come back. I never went back, but inside, inside, I’m always there.