The Monday is hot and sticky, my face is buried into the shoulder of his yellow shirt, a day I have dreaded since June when I knew I would be going far, far away. I can feel my chest heave with sobs, inhaling becomes more difficult. There are words exchanged, I can only imagine this scene of two people, clinging to each other outside the airport where the air hangs heavily inside the summer afternoon. They are wondering what it's going to be like to be an ocean apart. She is gripping onto him like he might evaporate into the British Columbia sunshine.
Pedalling uphill into the wind on the morning of day one, I am thinking forward to what this trip will be, what to expect. My morning bike ride outside of San Giovanni is my mental repreive, as all my morning exercise is. These are the only moments of the entire day to be alone. To think. To pray. To reminiss. To pump myself up or slow myself down, these moments are mine, selfishly completely mine. I can hear the whoosh of another set of cyclists behind me. There is a familiar voice, Lucca, a work friend and his cycling team sweep me up and for a few moments I am surrounded by neon green and white spandex, deep into the peleton of their morning ride. Lucca engages me while I drool over his princess, a fully loaded Pinerello Dogma. I work inside the cyclists for a few kilometers before the group drops me at the turn I will take home to begin trip.
There is sweltering heat, there is a walking tour going on in Radda. All the people on the tour are listening, following, hanging onto the guides words. Small pools of sweat are accumulating and dripping slowly down my chest. Holding a backpack and clutching the directions for the afternoon hike, trying to steal glances at the directions to ensure the afternoon will not end up at a dead end like the morning. That the others wont question your authority, your knowledge, your language. That he won't come after you again, waving his walking stick, yelling at you telling you, YOU WON'T GET OFF THE HOOK ABOUT THIS, his glasses fogging with the angry words swirling out of his mouth, swearing, his new york accent getting lost in the monolouge of wrath I have stopped listening to.
There is a woman sitting in the front seat of the Fiat I have stalled three times on the 14% incline gravel road going up to the hotel. She refused to hike. She has called home on an angry tirade of wanting to leave Tuscany and being unable. She will not carry her suitcase. She will not stay. She might have a mental problem, I cleverly diagnose her myself.
He points to the table at my caffe doppio, a double shot of espresso I have just added a small bit of milk and honey to. My first coffee in a few days, and I am looking forward to it as I have made it up exactly how I love it. Strong and just a little sweet, the bitter espresso is already registering my brain. He points to it. He asks for it. My coffee. Just the way I lovingly made it for myself, for this small moment of reprieve. He does not want to wait for the waiter to bring another one. So I slowly and deliberately slide it across the table to him, incredulous at this request. I ask the waiter, in Italian, to bring me the same. He smiles sadly and tells me breakfast is over, and that there is no more coffee available. For some reason the loss of this little piece of me induces an anger I didn't think possible over a small cup. I then excuse myself so he cannot see the tears forming out of the corner of my eyes, I don't bother to wipe them away as I leave the dining room.
I sit in the lobby, in the hallway, in the room. I get short and long emails from my family. Notes from friends. Small pieces of love from home. An Italian cell phone. Skype so I can see a face, reaching forward to touch it with the total madness knowing I cannot touch, I am only looking at a computer screen, a flat page of colours and shapes. I could be down the street. I am hours and hours and hours away.
We are the seekers of Genuine Experience, he tells us, soberly, as he revealed he has Parkinson's Disease. To be surrounded by people living their lives, in genuine search of the true self, the real love, the different path. I wiggle my red toes in my flip flops, a dead give away I don't belong here. Italian women cover their toes.
The morning is quiet as I wait in the van. I flip the video function of my camera on, to capture the beauty of the morning light. There is a stillness and finality to the trip. I am ready to be done with it. I smile and remember the small moments of pleasure, a wine tasting in Sienna, laughing with Bea, working through the challenges of the week. It is all part of this leg of the journey. This genuine experience.
I live in Calgary where I own a small business, instruct fitness classes and call myself an endurance athlete. I am the proud owner of four bikes, an expensive wine education, and a strange fascination with the colour orange. I have a long-time love of football, baking, and coffee. I put my minor in creative writing to use occasionally both here and in other publications. I live with my tall, handsome and often-hungry professional triathlete husband.
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