Thursday, June 13, 2013


The closer my impending return to America, the greater my mood swings.

When I am an American living in America again for two months, will it feel like pulling on my favorite pair of jeans for the first cool day of fall? Like slipping back into that which is familiar and comfortable?

Or will I be off just a step as though my weight remains the same but my jeans no longer fit as well? Will I be both there and not there, a year behind on the changes in the lives of my friends and my family and even my surroundings? A year missed there, a year gained here?

Things will be different in ways I cannot yet predict and in that, I question my life here, trying to compare it to the life I don't have there.

Rome is great: A grizzled old man bids me good evening as he unloads half a dozen two-liter bottles of aqua con gas from his battered Vespa parked on the sidewalk.

Rome is not great: The metro is jammed and I am assaulted by the stench of  unwashed bodies and breath heavy with coffee and cigarettes, and no one offers their seat to a disabled passenger.

Rome is great: I am puzzling at the line 'round the block of people waiting to enter the Adidas store, when I spot an oncoming bicyclist with a live and untethered house cat draped around his neck.

Rome is not great: Everyone appears slightly yellow as they are coated by pollen spores within moments of stepping outside.

Rome is great: On the last day of school, I can scarcely walk through the streets, or sidewalks for all the kids chasing each other in clothes drenched by water balloons and water bottles and buckets of water, shrieking with the giddy promise of summer.

Rome is not great: And then the giddiness transforms into a different beast entirely, and the kids morph from fun-with-water to pelting each other with tomatoes and eggs and then covering the wet, sticky victims in talcum powder. The smell of spoiled food in the warm air will carry for nearly a mile. And then for the piece de resistance, my son and I witness a boy urinate into a bucket and throw its contents into the panting mob.

But then the sun starts to set and the sliver of a moon begins to rise and a breeze blows and parents carry home their tired children and dogs greet each other with wolfish grins and thumping tails and flower boxes are watered and cheeks are kissed and the hanging laundry is swapped for the dinner tables that are set upon the balconies.

And of course I will miss this. Of course I will.  But still, I count down the days until I'm home in America, even as I wonder if while I am there, I will refer to my "home" as the one in Rome.

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