They say you can’t tell anything about a place by its airport, but I say fuck that—two weeks in Albania, and the Rome airport feels exciting! diverse! worldly! Overweight American tourists! The Moldovan soccer team! A family of African royalty! I realize I haven’t seen any black people in two weeks, and only 1.5 Asians. I’ve barely seen any real denim or leather for that matter, and all the luxurious curly manes and hip lil mohawks make me giggle.
So I walk around making my mental list of goodbyes to the Western world: goodbye hipsters, goodbye tailored suits, goodbye potable tap water, goodbye cute boy across the cafe I keep making eyes at but am too
chicken-shit realistic chicken-shit to talk to.
Heave my way through check-in, 18 kilos lighter and I step outside for a
bit of fresh air cigarette. Dude’s standing there, big ole bag and a surfboard. Taking a picture with his iPhone. Smile and make the universal hand gesture for—“You want me to take a picture of you?”
He smiles back. “No, no, I just take a picture for my friend.” Smiles again. “Where you are from?”
California, which he approves of, because of the good waves, big waves. Yes, but cold, I say. Cold in Italy too. Where am I going? Cairo for a few days. And then? South Africa?
“No, close.” I smile, laugh. “Well, not close at all. Cambodia.”
Blank look and a quick geography lesson, and the light flashes in his eyes. “Ah, Cambogia!” Scrutinizing squint: “But you are alone?” I nod. “No family, no boyfriend—“there, he said it—“Why?”
I shrug, laugh: “Who’s gonna come to Cambodia with me?”
And I laugh harder. “Oh yeah?”
“Yes, but first, South Africa.” He goes there twice a year, can’t stand the cold of an Italian winter—he’ll go for a month, come back for Christmas, head down there again. He’ll surf and live on the beach and I’m sure, I can tell by the lines in his face, not wear sunscreen.
“You like, you can come,” he suggests. I laugh again. I think he likes it.
Where have I been in Italy? Did I like it? Why didn’t I go to the Amalfi Coast—that’s where he’s from, he could have shown me around.
“I didn’t know you,” I smile, reminding him of the obvious.
He nods at the gray day, misting and cool. He hates the cold. I nod at the surfboard, “I can tell.”
Sleep-deprivation hunger blur gives a kick and I need one more espresso—just one more espresso—before the flight. That and he’s right—it’s cold, and what at first felt good now just feels… cold.
So I nod, say some kind of noncommittal goodbye, go to turn away. “Wait!” he calls out.
He opens his wallet, pulls out a card. “I am Lucio,” points to the name on the card, “That’s me. Next time you come to Italy, we go to Amalfi Coast, I show you my town, you meet my family.”
I smile, nod, put the card in my back pocket. “All right Lucio. I’ll be seeing you.”
Cause we all can dream, right?