The city is hot. We are on the numero 15 tram…stiamo andando in centro – we are going to the city center. Per the government order people are masked. But a few, purtroppo, no.
We smell caffè, cigarette smoke. Through the open door we see a musician sitting, playing soprano saxophone. The air is still.
The sound carries.
C’e’ una ristorante di Pizza – a pizza restaurant, another, poi uno dopo un altro…then one after another.
At the ready for i turisti…tourists.
And there are plenty of tourists. As many as I have ever seen, except at Natale.
And it’s Wednesday.
Fittingly, in Milano it is the day of Hermes.
In front of the iconic Duomo there are oak-leaf hydrangeas now with their coniferous-shaped flower poms. And date palms. The green softens the look of all the concrete, I think. Of course I have an opinion about this.
We do about fifteen minutes of shopping. We head down a side alley to avoid i turisti. Ah, I see the next season already in the Prada window. Brown wool turtleneck, paired in one window with tomato red technical pants and in another with same pants in teal blue.
We walk behind the buildings, through the delivery trucks. Anything to avoid the crowds. We pick our way back to the tram.
We head back for a pause.
I look out the window at the city roofs. The window – it’s like the city is opening its mouth of light, aiming to swallow us.
Among the things I am learning to understand is that it is okay to move a little slower through my day.
Among the things I will never understand is why it is ok to have only one space now instead of two, following a period at the end of a sentence.
After a rest we head to a reception. So many colleagues. One can overhear in clusters people trying to remember how many years this has been cancelled and rescheduled. Recounting who got sick.
Who was lost. Che il loro ricordo sia di benedizione.
May their memory be a blessing.
Clearing the fog of a few years from in front of their eyes to comment on the joy of being together again.
We meet a colleague of R’s. We talk about the heat. About Italia. We talk about Siracusa. About the beach invasion, Operation Mincemeat. How we loved that story – how it changed the course of the war and launched the writing career of that young British officer, Ian Fleming.
Everyone is drinking lo spritz. I am not drinking, despite the beautiful orange color of Aperol.
Because it is a Wednesday the swallows are flying low and swooping about.
Or because it is hot.
But flying they are.
They are swooping about, up and down, like our fates.
Feels like fated times.
It is said that all the world is a narrow bridge – the important thing is not to be afraid..
So we go to the window and look at the pink moon.
So we think up a new project.
A new cocktail.
I have seen science fiction media – where the captain of whatever spaceship says something like – “oh no – up ahead is an asteroid field”! At this point usually someone has to ‘take the helm’, some sort of more experienced ‘pilot’. They guide the ship up and down and around – to avoid crashing into asteroids. If you consider, it’s not so different from the swooping and diving that a swallow does.
Up and down and around.
Consider if you will, that in our collective, we are navigating asteroid fields. As many asteroids as pizza restaurants.
When we think we have dodged one, we see another. And another.
We have to learn to fly like swallows, like spaceships – to avoid crashing.
And like those endless pizza restaurants near the Duomo, our tables are set, fully ready for the onslaught – of i turisti or invited guests — or uninvited guests.
The air is still.
We hear the saxophone. The sound carries.
We try to remain flexible.
For what will come will come.