Jet lag. Even after doing everything I had been trained to do, I had acquired a serious case of jet lag. I couldn’t seem to snap back. I couldn’t seem to ARRIVE. I could say it was the cold I picked up from the plane, but I think it was something deeper. What was it? Had I been gone so long I felt like a foreigner? No… I was too happy to see the Manhattan skyline. Was I afraid?… Very possibly. The “what now?” question lingered in the back of my subconscious, and I didn’t like it.
I really WAS happy to be home. Exiting JFK’s terminal, I marched my weary legs and my equally worn bags out to the taxi stand. Black deodorized cars-for-hire perched on the side of the street like crows in the night, soliciting me with cheap rides. I finally turned to one of them and said, “No offense, but I am finally home in NYC and I want to be in a regular yellow NYC taxi cab.” The man actually put up his hands and gave me a look like, “I can’t argue with that.”
New Yorkers are proud of their town, and I don’t blame them. It is the only place I have ever felt home, and I wear my pride in all of its radiant colors: I walk fast down the streets. I don’t freak out when I’m crammed in a subway car with someone’s shopping bag crackling and bending against me. I schedule time with friends and acquaintances seriously in advance. I lance myself into the parks and streets the MINUTE the weather is acceptable. I have a completely different definition for the word “rude.” And finally, I can live in my own separate universe, but I know that there is always someone nearby who may need a hand or who possibly will pull me away from a moving bus if needed.
But what of Italy? How do I feel about Italy now that I am taking my long missed bites of the Big Apple? Honestly, I miss the generous hearts of the Italian people. I also miss the flow of an Italian day, where you’re allowed a few hours for lunch, because you’ll work till eight anyway. I miss Monterosso deeply, and the villa there– where the sea greeted me in the mornings on the terrace; where the tree outside my bedroom window arched its protective stature over me. And, I especially miss the part of myself that this place brought out and nurtured in me.
I also miss the nicely coiffed hair I maintained in Milan. I did my best to keep it up, but you see, after a few days in NYC, the Statue of Liberty called me up on the phone and said, “Girl, get real! In this city, there are strong winds and rain. Don’t get me wrong, beauty IS nice, but a healthy pragmatism is more respected than you takin’ up time doin’ your hair.” I relented, but I do pull out sublime “Milanese chic” from time to time and it involves quite a bit skill with a hairdryer. Ha! Why not?
In my experience, traveling humbles us. It puts us on our toes and reveals to us the fact that what we thought was real may not truly be real. We learn a different method of doing things whether we like it or not. We are required to lean on people we don’t even know, usually in an embarrassing fashion. It causes us to face the part of ourselves we tend to ignore with all of our habits and comforts and conveniences we have built around us. We are basically stripped down and clothed differently than before, and even though we walk away stronger, there is still a bit of a blush on our faces from the nakedness.
Since we’re discussing nakedness, I’ll admit it. I cried when I left. I cried the night before because it was the last time my head would lay on that particular pillow in that particular place. I blubbered a goodbye to my hosts, because I felt that I would never be able to repay them for their kindnesses. This was followed by blubbering even more in the shower… because crying so much in front of people makes me feel like an idiot. For some reason, I feel last lingering moments very intensely. Maybe I’m a crazy romantic, but I know journeys can never be replicated.
So to honor my romantic nature, when I leave a place, I always take one look back and say a goodbye. I photograph the scene trying to imprint it on my psyche. Then a strength comes from somewhere, maybe from a distant relative who had an iron will, and I turn myself. With full intention and without any lingering hesitations, I leap forward, come what may.
This time, NYC slid up under my feet as I landed. I let the yellow cab whisk me into the Manhattan night and didn’t mind the icy cold air squealing through the poorly sealed window. I was home.