By candlelight and cajon.

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My eyes took a moment to adjust to the dark when I entered the room. It was a small room, lit with a cluster of candles on a low coffee table, surrounded by cushions, mostly occupied by other people. Welcome, someone said. I took a seat. Liz took a seat beside me. I couldn’t make eye contact with her, knowing that if I did, we would both burst out laughing with my I told you this would be weird facial expression. I looked around at the others who occupied the space, a man with long blonde hair and a ginger beard, a guy with cropped hair which I couldn’t define as grey or blonde in the dim lighting, holding a guitar, a young guy in a toque with a laptop balanced on his knees, and several others, among whom sat our host, perched on a cajon. He welcomed everyone again.

My footsteps echoed loudly on the wet marciapiede, making my boots sound elegant, when in fact they were just cheap rain boots with a very hard sole. I asked through the walls of my hood to Liz, behind me, what exactly he had said when he invited her, what exactly we were going to.

I don’t know, a party I guess! He said it was a get-together, a few friends, some music, nothing particular. For some reason I found myself suspicious. But then again, I’m often wary of unfamiliar social situations.

We rang the bell, and he came to open the gate for us, giving us both a hug, which felt awkwardly intimate compared to the usual Italian double cheek kisses in which you rarely actually made physical contact with the other. Liz was right, he was attractive, I guess. He thanked us for coming. After you, he said, motioning for us to enter.

I don’t hear any music, I whispered to Liz, are you sure it’s a party? She shrugged her shoulders. We hesitantly stepped through the door.

Now in the circle, we were told this was a safe and shared space, where we could say anything and let our creativity roam freely. Improvisation was encouraged. Oh god, I thought. With that someone passed him a guitar and he began to strum. The music picked up, and others joined in. Soon there was a combined cadence…several guitars, some low rhythms emanating from the laptop, the cajon, fingers tapping jars, palms beating laps… not bad.

I began to relax a bit. Okay, this isn’t so strange I guess. An observer, a wallflower by nature, I began to sway, my eyes roaming over each of my circle mates, examining their facial expressions, body movements and where their own gazes fell, as they made music. In between chords, or as instruments were shuffled around the circle, I learned that ginger beard was a busker, passing through, the French boy near me was in Florence perhaps another week, maybe two, and the girl on the cushion next to me tapping a glass jar with her ring was American, studying art. But all conversations were soon drowned out by music.

I was starting to feel almost at ease, watching these people and the ways in which they interacted, those who were strangers, new to the circle like us, and those who knew each other well. The music eliminated the need for awkward small talk. I felt like an anthropologist, observing a strange social ritual of Santo Spirito hipsters. But then…

Never stopping to strum his guitar, our host announced that he would begin a song, which would then be passed around the circle, for each person to add to in turn. Oh no. I immediately leaned uncomfortably back, seeking an exit from the tight space. Could I somehow slip out of the ring of candlelight and remain unnoticed in a corner? Where was the bathroom? Maybe I could pretend to smoke, go out for a cigarette? But it was too late, the song had begun, and our host was making eye contact with me as the tune crept ever closer to me. People sang about their day, they sang about the paintings on the wall, they sang about singing. I wracked my brains for some line I could sing out and pass the tune quickly along, but all that came to mind was I’m not a singer. I’m not a singer.

I’m more of an observer, I stuttered when the lyrics had finally reached me. Never breaking eye contact, he said, we are all observers here, Annie, all on the same level, and continued strumming.

My name is Allie, actually, I mumbled, internally rolling my eyes while averting my gaze and trying desperately to pass the attention to the American artist next to me. My face was burning. After a few moments of failed encouragement, the song went on and I was free.

But it didn’t stop there. Several times we were put in the spotlight and pressured to produce lyrics. Just sing whatever comes to your mind, he said, in what I imagined was meant to be a soothing tone. As he shushed some others who were having a quiet conversation on their side of the circle, telling them this was a place for singing, not talking, an image of the beetle from Thumbelina came to mind… don’t speak, just sing, toots! and I laughed quietly to myself, the absurdity of the situation becoming more and more entertaining.

When we had finally had enough and began reaching for our coats, we were sung at to stay, the group chanting, don’t go until you sing, but we made a swift exit. Our host walked us out, asking if next time he could paint us. Like a portrait, he said.

We said we would see.

We maintained silence until the door was closed firmly behind us. Liz turned to me. My bad… she said.

All the Glitter

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Florence, 2015.

The city was new to me. Or rather, I was new to it. It wasn’t my city yet, though I was arrogant in that new-traveller way that makes one think they know a place simply because they’ve found one bar with mismatched furniture and live-music some nights. I was in one of those bars this night.

The neighbourhood was Santo Spirito, and the bar Volume. There was something that always seemed magical to me about this particular piazza. Perhaps it was the stark, bold and bare facade of the basilica, unapologetically observing the behaviours in the square below; never passing judgment, or perhaps doing so silently, allowing the late-night party-goers to continue sipping and smoking without inhibition.

I was with two friends, and we squeezed ourselves onto a wooden bench behind a large wooden banquet table, already occupied by several groups, enjoying the live Italian music and vying for the attention of the elusive bartender. This bar, once being the workshop of an artisan, a wood sculptor, now paid homage to the locale’s former life with tools, black-and-white photos, and intricate pieces of word-work incorporated into the rustic decor. We chatted over the music, sipped wine and munched crostini we weren’t sure were intended for us, but were nonetheless within reach on the large communal table.

The crowd was thick, and escaping our seat to use the toilet was a fierce battle, the return even more so. I was feeling the rhythms, feeling happy to be alive, to be in this place, to be wearing a dress I loved and a lipstick I had recently acquired, and I reveled in the freedom of being here in this city with no responsibilities, as is the way when you are a twenty-three year old au pair. I felt a warm glow from this happiness, or the wine, or the music, or a mix of all of these ingredients.

I fought my way to the bathroom for the second time, after the third glass of wine, and seeing as there was no clear path back to my seat afterwards, I paused near the bar for a moment to stand and listen to the music, watching the band sweating on the tiny stage. I must say, you are the most beautiful girl in this room, said a British accent into my ear. I turned to see a man retreating, smiling over his shoulder as he did.

My friends came to join me. We’re going for a breath of fresh air. We made our way outside, the cool night air a shocking relief after the stifling atmosphere of the bar. I kept the compliment to myself. Nora took out a cigarette, then turned to a group standing nearby and asked in stilted Italian, hai fuoco? while making a lighting motion with her hand. They passed her the accendino and she lit her cigarette. Grazie.

After chatting for a few moments, the girls decided they would call it a night. It’s too sweaty in there!

I said I would stay a bit longer to hear the music.

Are you sure?

Yes.

I went back inside and stood near the back of the crowd, enjoying being anonymous. No one would notice I was alone, as we were all pressed in so tightly it didn’t matter who was with who.

Your friends left? British accent again. I turned.

Yes, they did.

Thanks for staying. I turned back to the music, and began to sway slightly with the tune. I’m going to a party…would it be terribly strange to ask you to come?

This was one of those clear ‘no’ moments that somehow escaped me, and I accepted with little hesitation. The freedom of being here, that lack of responsibility and the potential Sunday sleep-in had me reckless. I desperately needed to pee, but the battle to the bathroom wasn’t worth it.

He started for the door. I’m coming with you, I said, my voice drowned out by the music. Because why not? He turned to see if I was following.

Outside, the absence of music was awkward and the silence grew as we wound our way down side-streets unknown to me. To fill the silence, I learned he was in Italy marketing wine. A British man marketing wine in Italy.

We arrived at a large wooden door in a tall palazzo. The gold panel of doorbells shone in front of us as we came to a stop. Hmmm, he said, regarding the many names on the panel and scratching his head. Ring them all, I suggested. He did. When nothing happened, he shouted Oi! towards an open window on the third floor. A head appeared. Oi Dario, you wanker, get up here, who’s that?

On the way up the stairs I was full of adrenaline for this unfamiliar situation, my confidence fueled by curiosity. Are you ready?

Yes.

A door swung open and we were pulled inside. There were several girls, faces and arms covered in glitter, swaying on a Persian rug in a high-ceilinged living room. Who’s this?

Allie, she’s from Canada. Another fact exchanged in the intermittent silences during the walk from the bar.

Hi Allie from Canada.

Hi.

I was lead to the kitchen where there was more wine, and the remnants of some sort of a cake. The girls hugged Dario and eyed me suspiciously. They’re jealous of you, he whispered to me later.

Why? I asked.

Because you carry an enigma.

I peeked through the curtains of a window which I remember being floor to ceiling, out into the street below, the golden glow of the street lamps falling on the black stones of the marciapiede. I drank wine. I asked people where they were from and why they were here. There was a surfer from Australia, who my cloudy memory tells me still had sand and seashells in his hair.

British accent walked me home at the end of the night. I don’t remember what we spoke about, but it doesn’t matter.

The peanut butter diet.

Today is the fourth day in a row that I have eaten a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast. Yes, three days in a row now with a very empty pantry, due to a combination of laziness and a lack of cash. My December rent money, due in just under two weeks, is hidden in my bedside table under a note reading: DO NOT TOUCH THIS MONEY, to guilt my desperate-for-a-night-out self from spending it frivolously.

Nido (what we would refer to in English as daycare), literally means nest. And that’s where I’ve been spending many extra hours these last weeks, trying to pick up as much work as possible and keep myself busy. That’s also probably where I picked up this rattling cough, reminding me I should start a DO NOT TOUCH THIS MONEY pile for a new winter coat. I don’t remember my first November here being so cold. I remember it being full of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts and canopies of twinkle lights, but this damp wind is somehow absent from my memory.

IMG_20171106_120225The last weeks I’ve been rushing to all corners of Florence, from the forest school to the nido to various neighbourhoods to give at-home lessons to students whose families now welcome me with big smiles and a cup of tea. I’ve become one of those perpetually-running-late people, always chasing after buses and shamelessly banging on the door even as the driver is pulling away, puffing out a grazie! when he or she reopens the door for me. Coffee or tea in a travel mug is not a thing here, but even if it were, I’m sure I’d be spilling it on myself constantly during this daily chase.

I’ve gotten into the habit of falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, and waking with a start to my alarm the next morning to do it all again.

Vuoi un po’ di tè? (would you like a bit of tea?) my roommates ask me as I rush in the door between jobs or after work. No, grazie, sto uscendo, (no thanks, I’m going out), has become my standard response. Always on my way out.

Yet sometimes, when I’m on my way home from work, my tired feet dragging and the winter sun having already set, I look up into the lighted windows in the palazzos I pass. I see the warm glow of kitchens, the high, wood-beamed ceilings and the artificial light of t.v’s and I wonder what it’s like to be those people, in those homes. I smile. I see tourists in the street, awe-struck by the city I now get to call home. Sometimes as I pass the Duomo and the Belltower, I look up at the regal silhouettes and remember that la bella vita is what you make it. My heart is full.

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When I arrive home, after I’ve forced myself to boil some rice or pasta or whatever odds and ends I may have lying around at home (what can you make with an onion and a half a lemon?), I bundle up in several layers of pyjamas and tuck myself into my single bed with the springy mattress and I wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen differently. But I can’t imagine how things could have unfolded any other way. My life had to be this way. When people ask me how I ever ended up here, I cannot answer, because I don’t recall the moment when this became my accepted reality, when this became my normal. Less has become more. My closet has slowly emptied over the years of travelling back and forth. My roommates laugh at the fact that I have almost no possessions, but somehow own not one, but two Christmas trees (one of which is already proudly displayed in my room). It’s the little things. The things that are small but feel indulgent, and make you smile.

 

Late night cheap wine in piazzas outside of bars with no room inside, mid-day espressos, church bells heard from my bedroom window and weekend trains to see the guy I fell in love with two years ago…this is la bella vita. This is my bella vita.

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Nespole.

We rang the bell at the gate and waited. The sun was beating down on my back, sweat beading on my chest and dripping towards my belly button. The gate buzzed open and we looked up to see Nonno standing in the doorway. Always in a button up shirt, tucked into a leather belt and trousers. I still didn’t know his first name, but I supposed grandfather would do.

It was summer in San Nicola, a small hamlet near Palinuro, in the south of Italy.

Buon giorno.

Buon giorno.

He kissed us both on both cheeks and we entered the house, which was slightly cooler than outside. We headed to the heart, the kitchen, taking a seat on the little red leather couch, cracked in several places, while he sat at the small kitchen table. He regarded us with a grin.

Allora, che dite?

Niente Nonno. Come sta?

They chatted a few moments while I sat politely, hands clasped in my lap. I always found it difficult to follow their talks, with the thick accent of the south and the unfamiliar dialect which I would never understand. I could feel my legs sticking to the couch each time I shifted. My skin would peel away from the seat with a suck as I searched for a cooler, more comfortable position. I gazed around the room: the unlit fireplace telling of cool winter evenings, the t.v droning the news in the background, the spotless tile floors. I wondered if he had a cleaner to help him. The house was always immaculate. My attention shifted back to Nonno as he rose from his chair, shuffling over to the counter where he picked up a large bowl overflowing with yellow fruits. He set them down on the table and waved his hand towards the bowl as he settled back into his chair.

Mangia.

He looked expectantly at us.

Ma che cos’è? I asked, timidly taking one between my fingers. It was about the size of a plum, but soft like a peach on the outside.

Nespole. Non avete queste in Canada?

I don’t think so…I said, taking a bite. I had never seen them before.

Juice dripped between my fingers, running towards my elbows.

Buono?

Si, molto.

We peeled and ate the fruits in silence, punctuated with the occasional mangia! from Nonno if we slowed. My eyes rested on the bowl, where ants crawled freely over the remaining fruits, which had been picked from the garden that same morning. I didn’t know what to do with my sticky hands, so I folded them into my lap once more when I had finished eating.

We rested a few more moments, mouths sticky with the residue of the fruit, before I stood up, following Herman’s lead.

Alla prossima, Nonno.

He rose too, and we all made our way towards the door where we all kissed once more, both cheeks, before walking to the gate. Nonno remained in the doorway until the gate had closed behind us. We walked to the car where we had left it on the narrow street, tucked up against the stone wall.

Nonno re-emerged a moment later, a jacket slung over his arm, and got into his old car.

Where is he going? I asked.

Probably to the bar, to play cards with his friends, he said, turning the key. Nonno started his car too, waving once more as he backed out of the driveway. Heading the same direction, we followed after him. He drove perhaps a hundred feet down the road before stopping in front of the old bar and getting out, while we continued on our way. I craned around to look.

Is that it? 

What do you mean?

He started his car to drive thirty seconds down the road!

Yes, what else is there to do?

I sat back, laughing to myself. This slow, beautiful life was a marvel to me. Eat some fruit, play some cards, call it a day. It was a stark contrast to our racing life in Rome, always on a bus or train, always rushing to work, always counting money for the rent. I wondered how long one could simply live by the sea, before life would catch you. There was beauty in every bend in this place: flowers bursting over gates, trees laden with lemons, rolling waves lapping at your toes. My heart ached for that simplicity, the ease with which these people seemed to happily exist.

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Into the woods.

I stepped off the bus onto a narrow winding road on the hillside. It had been a stressful few weeks, preparing for the move, getting my papers in order, organizing job interviews, taking the long flight… I found my head swimming almost non-stop.

It had taken me just over one hour to get here on the bus, and I still had some walking to do. Where am I? I looked around for the street sign I was told I would see, via Castel di Poggio. Amongst the trees, crooked and faded, there it was, looking dirty and old. I crossed the street, and entered the woods. The road was unpaved, as I had been told it would be. I happily picked my way along, as the road dipped downwards. There was silence. The temperature was pleasant as the late afternoon sun filtered through the leaves above me. Though I wanted to look good for the interview, I wished I had worn my hiking boots. The ones that always made me feel like an explorer, someone who belonged outdoors, unlike this girl now traipsing through the woods in leather shoes and a teacher’s dress.

As I continued along the winding path, I felt my mind begin to quiet. This could be a nice trek once per week. I savoured the smell of fallen leaves, the gritty feel of the gravel beneath my good shoes. I avoided a mud puddle that had gathered in a rut. I heard a small crack ahead of me, and slowed down a bit. Suddenly, a female deer stepped gingerly out of the trees, not fifteen meters away, and crossed the path into the woods on the opposite side. I was shocked for a moment, before a smile spread across my face and I continued on my way.

When the path split, I took the right, as I had been instructed. They said I would see the school, but all I saw were miles and miles of rolling olive groves, and a cluster of trees near the top of a hill. I could hear tiny voices, so, encouraged, I pressed on. A pickup truck rumbled slowly into sight, and I moved off the path to let it pass.

As I crested the hill, to the right I could see brightly coloured little jackets among the trees, and hear more tiny voices, playing and calling to one another. To my left, just behind the trees, I saw a large old stone farmhouse. I hope I haven’t accidentally stumbled into someone’s yard.  But then I spotted a woman approaching from below, followed by a cluster of kids holding walking sticks. Leave the sticks behind, it’s almost time to go home! she said to them, waving at me. The kids all followed a man who had previously been at the rear of the group, and they headed down the path the way I had just come. You must be Allie. Welcome to our forest school!

Moving towards the house we made our way around the chickens, past a brown cat basking in the sun, and into a small wooden doorway. Here we are. Would you like something to drink? she asked, pouring a glass of water. Thank you. 

After showing me the two classrooms with wood-beamed ceilings, and the back sunroom, we sat down at a wooden table to chat. I took in the arts and crafts on the walls, the stone floors. Do you think you would be happy to teach here?

Yes, I think so.

 

Going.

As my toes touched water and we skipped rocks while the sun drooped low,
we saw things like horse-drawn carriages,
heat rising off asphalt,
creeks, marshes and rivers.
Lakes that were really just puddles;
Lakes were were actually oceans.

Under tall, fat, flat-bottomed clouds,
I saw men driving remote-controlled cars
round and round in circles
in a dusty would-be parking lot.

We saw a hippie van,
nestled into the trees.
We saw a lot of those.

I saw a balloon, tied to a fence post
at the end of a long lane, reading
it’s a boy.

A bald eagle soared over Agawa bay.

I tripped my way over pebbles in my bare feet,
stumbling into the icy cold waters of Lake Superior

(one of those ocean-lakes).

There were sunsets and
spluttering, uncertain flames that we coaxed to life with our hands,
and the sounds of rolling waves together with crackling fires and far away voices.

We saw laden-down hitchhikers hiding behind cardboard signs
Saskatoon
West
BC
but we had no room for them.

There were tumbleweeds and thunderstorm threats,
stories of giants hiding silver.
Foxes on beaches
and an inch-worm on my sandal.

I have so many things to tell you.

The prairies were golden flats and sooty skies,
butterflies and not armadillos,
baby sunflowers that were really black-eyed Susans,
upon inspection.

Fast-moving stagnant water,
not recommended for swimming.
Fast-moving turquoise Athabaska.

Motels, hostels and patches of grass or gravel,
the back of a pickup.
Thirteen I wish we could stays while looking over our shoulders
as another temporary home shrank away.

We went away far and then returned back.
The wicker furniture hasn’t blown away yet.

Under Perseus.

I thought there would be better signs marking the trail. I thought perhaps there would be a sign, maybe wooden, maybe peeling, maybe partially obscured by a few pine branches, reading “Dark Sky Space,” with an arrow. Though I suppose in the falling light it wouldn’t have mattered.

We had made it to Gordon’s Park earlier that day, a small independently run camp ground with a rickity For Sale sign staked out front on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

I rushed us along a path I thought could be the one, leading further into the forest, while looking at my watch. 8:54. As we closed the gap between ourselves and a couple walking ahead of us, they restrained their dog.

“She’ll bark.”

I smiled. She began barking angrily, tugging at the short leash.

I shouted, “Do you know the way to the dark sky?” but my voice was lost beneath the dog’s.

“What?” They shouted back.

“The dark sky, we’re trying to go to the meteor shower party.”

“Us too, we thought maybe it was this way, but it’s a dead end,” their voices too, fought to be heard above the snarling dog.

“There’s a path over here,” called my brother, from the trees. “I think this is the way.”

“Good luck!” shouted the couple, heading the opposite direction.

We followed the path up some rotting log stairs and into the brush for perhaps ten minutes before deciding this was not, in fact, the way.

So we retraced our steps, darkness continuing to approach.

We skirted the tiny, trying lake with water-retention issues, and headed the other way at the fork we had previously passed.

We passed a four-wheeler, abandoned on the side of the trail. “Remember that, for later,” I said.

With gravel crunching under our boots and darkness now fully upon us, we entered a clearing. “Is this it?”

“Look, over there.”

We could just make out a few silhouettes, gathering in the middle of the clearing.

“That must be it…is that it?”

We made our way over. My mind was bursting with images of falling stars and constellations, vivid like those I had seen lying in the bottom of a boat that freezing night last summer at the cottage, drifting out on the lake staring up at the sky. My mind was ready for magic.

As we approached the group, my gate slowed slightly. Nearer now, we could see there were more than just a few others. We were told to take a brochure, then line up to look through the telescope. We hesitantly took the brochures in our hands, then lined up behind the other ten to fifteen people waiting to catch a glimpse of Jupiter, which we learned by overhearing the chatter of the others in the line, was where the telescope was pointing. I shuffled my feet uncomfortably. We struggled to listen to the man talk about the meteor shower above the shuffling of blankets, the opening of snacks, and the snapping of photos. Something about stardust, and Perseus, the northern hemisphere. Papers rustled, phones buzzed, the dog from earlier growled.

When it was my turn, I peeked through the eye-piece and saw nothing but blur. I sheepishly asked the man if he could re-focus the telescope for me, and he happily obliged. “Can you see it now?” I was amazed. Clear as day, another planet, way up there in the night sky with storms brewing on its surface. I saw a perfect sphere of orange, red and purple. Then I was shuffled along by the next person waiting.

We found a spot on the grass to sit down and listen, but our view was blocked by people who sat their lawn chairs in front of us, leafing through brochures and shouting out questions. We moved closer. It got cold, as the sun sunk further and further below the horizon. We hadn’t thought to bring blankets and chairs.

We turned our faces towards the sky, following the laser pointer as the man demonstrated various constellations: Sagittarius, Scorpio, Queen Cassiopeia, trying but failing to follow the lines he traced before turning to each other and whispering, “Should we just go?”

We picked our way back to the abandoned four-wheeler in silence, in the pitch dark. We moved slowly, edging through the trees until we were out of the dark sky space, then switched on our headlamps. The light brought words with it.

“It wasn’t what I expected.”

“Me neither. Sorry your birthday present wasn’t magical.”

“It’s okay.”

“And we didn’t even see a shooting star.”

“Don’t worry.”

“It was just so…”

“I know.”

“I hated it.”

We found ourselves once again at the stagnant little lake, telling us we were moving in the right direction. I quietly mourned the lack of magic the evening had brought.

Back at our camp, all was quiet. We tried to light a fire, but the wood was damp and our fingers were cold and we were tired. After much smoke and little result, we turned away from the fire pit.

I climbed into the hammock, bundled myself deep inside my sleeping bag, and turned my eyes to the sky once again. My mind was quiet. I could hear the crackle of fires not far off, and the song of late-night crickets, and a breeze blowing high above me through the leaves. My nose was chilly, but I revelled in the warmth of my make-shift bed as it swayed gently. I sighed, thinking about how far we had come in one day, and how far we had to go. A shooting star sailed across the sky, disappearing as quickly as it had arrived.

“Did you see that?” I gasped.

“I’ve already taken my glasses off, what was it?”

“A star,” I said quietly, turning in for sleep with a smile on my lips.

 

To be a wildflower.

I am home. I know because I am standing outside, barefoot, toes curling in the damp grass. I can’t do that in Rome; my feet would find nothing but pavement, which would scorch my skin in the blazing summer sun. Here, too, it will be a hot day. The dew is already warm against the soles of my feet. Thank god, we’ve had nothing but rain.

In an attempt to quiet my mind, I slump into the porch swing with a creak, and use my left foot to gently push the swing back and forth, while considering the view. There are cows. There is laundry.

I’m thinking about that time when my sister was small, and my dad handed her a butterfly net for her to entertain herself with in the yard. She returned ten minutes later with a bird. Needless to say, he was surprised. She was six.

I hear a baby crying. I look to my left and see Frank, the neighbour, pacing his yard with Oliver, his new baby, in his arms. My eyes take in the pool, the trampoline, the golden doodle trailing behind Frank and the baby…Frank is twenty-six.

I see my mom’s “indoor” cat dart into the flowers by the shed. The gardens have really taken off this year, and amongst the hostas and the glads, there are uninvited wildflowers springing up madly, whimsically, without pattern. They disrupt the order of the carefully planned flower bed, though I enjoy the effect of chaos that they bring.

The heat bugs start their chorus.

I look up at the sky, bright blue and without a cloud, and see a dragonfly the size of a bird lazily rising up towards the top of the large maple.

What time is it anyways?

Goodmorning! Calls Frank over the fence, over the sound of Oliver’s crying.

Goodmorning, I call back.

Maybe I’ll go pick some tomatoes.

Some nights.

There are no buses.

We’ve only been waiting for forty minutes.

Let’s just walk, it’s not coming.

It’s far.

Lets just walk. 

I was buzzing. Even when they griped and took off their heels to walk on the dirty, cold marciapiede, I grinned quietly to myself. It had been cool.

Florence, almost two years ago.

When we walked in, the space was almost empty. Saying, let’s find a spot was redundant, but I still wanted to choose a space to occupy.

We got drinks at the bar, mojito, mojito, mojito, (this was before my moscow mule phase or my chardonnay phase), then hovered near the edge of the room. The space was intimate. The lights were dim, and I could smell sweat and sense the filth on the floors hidden by those dimmed lights.

That must be them. Two beautiful girls and a guy with messy or curly hair and some sort of yellow wrapping that I suppose resembled a shirt were crossing the floor towards the small stage. What is he wearing? I stared. I lifted my eyes and we made eye contact, then he was entering a shadowed door, stage right.

They seem weird, what kind of music is this again?

Thanks for coming, you guys. 

We’re here for the free drink tickets.

An eclectic crowd began to gather. We sipped our drinks. We talked about nothing.

One of the editors breezed by and wrapped me up in a quick hug. The article was great, thanks again!

The three reappeared, stepping onto the stage. His name is Pierre-Luc, I said to the others. In stilted Italian, he said: Noi siamo Paupiere, into the mic. And then: Paupiere means eyelid in English. 

The music started. It was that lose yourself kind of sound, that vibration that makes you move, loose and easy, swaying, nodding twirling. I twirled. I moved to the front of the tight, pulsing crowd. He spotted me again. Momentary eye contact, then he was leaping off the stage. Oh god. He strolled along the front of the crowd, singing French words I didn’t understand into the mic. Everyone was dancing. Then I could feel his sweaty shoulder, with that strange yellow fabric, rubbing against mine as he continued to sing and dance. Please god, don’t pass me the mic. I swirled back into the crowd towards the others, them laughing uncontrollably. Ooooooh. He’s so weird.

I danced and danced. There was room on the floor for ample arm swinging and uncontrolled spinning. I was not in any place. French music, in an Italian club, in a sweaty scene that felt like any Saturday night back home. Eyes closed and I was lost.

After the show. Should we head out to catch the bus?

Let’s just stick around for a minute longer.

There they were, ordering cocktails. The crowd had moved in one glob from the front edge of the room, skirting the stage, to the back edge, skirting the bar. The band chatted amongst themselves. No one chatted with them, really. They were truly beautiful. The girl singer shoved him playfully. He glanced over, he knew where we were standing, I guess. She shoved him again, at which point he turned in an awkward half-circle, and was all of a sudden standing next to me.

Ciao.

Hello.

Bonsoir. 

I laughed. His bandmates laughed behind him. He looked older, up close.

Where are you from?

I’m Canadian too. Actually, we already spoke over email…I’m the girl who did the article, for the magazine, the interview?

What magazine?

Typical.

How’s your tour going?

Well, Italy is cool.

These are my friends.

Hi.

Hi.

That’s a very interesting…shirt thing you’re wearing.

Isn’t it? He whipped off the jacket he was wearing over top of the yellow item. Some French designer made it. I’m not sure what this is for… lifting up what could be a sleeve, but simply hung from the collar of the shirt, down his front. Could be, like, an extra long pocket?

Functional.

Yah. Picking up his jacket off the floor.

We chatted, we didn’t order another drink.

Uhmm, the bus, remember?

Right. We were leaving.

Oh, too bad. Goodnight.

I said ciao, and we walked out giggling.

We missed the bus.

 

By the time the fisherman returns.

By the time the fisherman returns I will have forgotten the six-letter word that makes my head feel heavy.

I will have grown my hair, and remembered the way that wet morning grass feels on my feet; or wet evening grass, as a fire crackles nearby.

By the time the heat bugs buzz in the afternoons, I will have stayed in the lake until sun-down,
until I know that the cool water is warmer than the air, until I use it like a blanket, until my lips have turned just a little bit blue.

My hands will have slipped on a mossy ladder.

I will have sneezed at dust dancing in sunbeams through barn windows.

By the time the season changes, I will have stopped looking over my shoulder.

My freckles will show.

I won’t be so aware of my teeth, attached to my jaw, attached to my neck, and the pressure that they carry.

I will stop feeling hungry.

By the time the sun hangs low at four, the scars will stop being scars and start being triumphant remnants of battles fought, battles lost and battles won.

I don’t knows will become pleasant surprises.

When the fisherman returns, I will be gone.

 

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