What makes you cry? For me it's always been two things. The beauty of nature and animals, and the love of humans. The one's I am blessed to call my family, whether blood ties us or not. The friends who always find a way to show up when you need a hug, even if it comes in the form of emojis.
Often, it's the simple kindness of strangers.
On Saturday, having conquered the schedule of the traghetti ( the ferry boats), I checked my bag for my passport, my credit cards, and sunscreen, and headed once again to the far end of the lago, to Como city. I needed to get the Sim card for Italy and the EU, because it's nearly impossible to navigate with any kind of speed or clarity without it. So after the hour and a half ride in the fast boat, the phone store was my first stop.
Unlike my first visit, none of the staff on duty had any English to speak of. Still, with google translate and my burgeoning Italian, we figured things out. Turns out one can't sign up for phone service here without something called a 'coda fiscale' which is sort of a national identity code. And I won't have that until I gain my residency, which can't happen until I present my documents for citizenship, which can't happen until I have a rental lease. So. I had to settle for a long term Sim that works just as well for now.
It took a while to sort this out.
Let me rewind a bit. That morning I'd received a text from a close family member, letting me know that one of our dear ones was in the ICU facing some dire health issues. Still, they were getting good care and the doctors were doing all they could. They were cautiously hopeful. All we could do was wait, and pray. So I added my prayers to theirs, and asked my friends to do the same. And as always, I could feel the love and hope moving through the air. That made me cry, seeing all the prayers and kindness appearing like little blessings on my phone screen as the boat made its way across the lake.
Between the sunglasses and the mask, no one could see the tears. A small blessing.
It was still the middle of the night in America. It felt like there was nothing I could do but keep hoping. So I headed for the Vodafone shop across from il Duomo, and, well, got on with it. As we neared the end of our business, and all that was left was to sign documents and submit payment, my phone rang. And it was that same family member who'd texted, so I knew I had to answer.
And then the tears wouldn't stop.
Sometimes, no matter how much we wish something would go a different way- it won't. Because it's just not what is meant to happen. This doesn't change the pain of it. But you know what does? Absolute strangers who comfort you. Who look at you with understanding and compassion and care. And a girl who doesn't speak really any english who finds the words to say. "It's ok you cry. It's ok."
After I found some kind of quiet inside me, I finished my business and thanked both the people who helped me for all of it. The words in Italian are ' Grazie, sei molto gentile'. You are very kind. That doesn't begin to cover it.
What I wanted to do was get on another fast boat and come back to my little flat and cry some more. And talk to my family. Talk to my friends who I miss and who are always there. Put on soft clothes and cuddle up on the sofa with tea. Cry until I had no more tears.
But the next fast boat wasn't for hours.
So I found a table in the shade in a little cafe, and ordered comfort food. Seriously they listed french fries as comfort food on the menu. Who was I to disagree. So I had french fries and a warm-ish coca cola and watched a little fencing demonstration ,which made me get all philosophical about how often we do that little back and forth jabbing at each other when what we really need to do is put the swords down and listen.
I won't lie, it helped. The food and the fencing thing.
I tried to shake off the gloom and headed for the next stop on my list. The Nespresso store. Because life is too short for bad coffee, and buying the two or three espresso's I crave every day adds up in a village that makes a lot of its income from tourists buying coffee and gelato. Also it requires the up and down of six flights and I'm not even going to pretend I'll do that at 7 am.
I bought the smallest machine they sold, and the milk steamer thing and a few boxes of coffee. Because the stores are just opening after the August break, there was a really good sale, although I've stopped rationalising essential purchases for the few things I really love. Like canvas, oil paint, good brushes and really good coffee makers that make really good coffee with the bonus of making the whole flat smell divine.
I would have paid full price.
Another hour later and I sat waiting for the boat and fighting the emotions that kept coming. I put my earbuds in and played Billie Eilish and hoped for a world that wouldn't be so hard on people who were only doing their best. I thought of all the people I've loved and lost and all the ways they made life better. And when I got home I found a photo of my dear one as a child, a picture that's always made me fill up with joy, and wished I could have told her that one more time.
And then I cried some more.
Thanks to all of you for your kindness, your compassion, your thoughts. Tell someone that brings you joy that you feel it. Thank them for it. Don't wait.
xoxo , Tia