Journey to Italy

The pandemic is over, so they say. Or so we are all behaving, traveling around the globe naked-faced. Despite getting Covid again two weeks before leaving for Florence. Cramped into a series of airplane seats listening to snippets of conversation that slip between the seats and float past my ears like wisps of smoke. Hour after hour of suspended time in a metal tube hurtling through time zones, interspersed with moments of wild panic and sweat, running to stand in the next line.

The girl seated next to me has the round body of a woman and the voice of a little girl. I offer her my aisle seat so she can be closer to her mother. At first, she turns me down with a lilting, “Oh no, I’m good.” And then a minute later… “Really? You don’t mind?” “Of course not,” I say and switch, grateful to not be traveling with children and simultaneously nostalgic for being needed. My children said, “Hey Mom have a great time,” and went about their lives. As it should be. And yet.

              If I am doing this (beginning again, getting an education, having adventures, stretching myself, exhausting myself) to prove something to them, it is an exercise in futility. Twenty-somethings immersed in themselves do not spare a thought for their mother’s new beginnings. They won’t until I am dead and gone as I discovered when my mother died last July. Her journey was of little interest to me because I traveled some of it with her, creating my own version of her experience which I did not appreciate. Did she do what she wanted to do? For the most part, I think she did, in the end. Probably she would have liked to share that with me more than I allowed.

And so, I arrive in Florence, stinking and alone, bleary with fatigue, to an unready room and curl up on a stripped bed, drowsing a fever dream until the cleaners came and went and I collapsed into a Tylenol PM induced coma. But I am here. I am doing something I never dreamed of doing under circumstances I had no imagination for. I am here.