I Rifled Through My Messy Drawer...

November 16, 2007
I rifled through my messy drawer searching for a paperclip. My hand, however, found something entirely different. If almost through habit, my fingers traced over the large lettering in the upper right corner: "Poesie" is read. No, not French, as my opening of the entire sheet would reveal. My eyes skimmed over the miniscule font and absorbed the beauty of the Italian language. Although I could not speak it, I could understand bits and pieces — enough to know that the writing I held in my hand was to be cherished. Passed to me above the waters of Venice, this paper had long outlived any memento acquired on my journeys to far-off places. Folded into perfect eighths, its creases were worn, a tribute to my reading it so many times. On none of those occasions, though, had I noticed the date typed at the top of the page: October 12, 1990. Fifteen years, I said to myself. Fifteen years warrants a story.

The attendant apologized once again for the delays over the intercom. My parents and I had left three hours ago from Florence and our train was finally approaching the Venice station. Still, we would have another fifteen minutes to wait. "Humph," grunted the man sitting across from us, and muttered something to the effect of: "It's about time," in Italian. Completely silent throughout the entire journey, I had not paid any attention to him at all. But now I took the time to observe his face. He was probably younger than he appeared, his face worn by years of working in fields under the hot Tuscan sun. His eyes, a rich emerald green, revealed his tiredness. It was clear from his wrinkles and his thinning hair that this tiredness was not one creating by a late night or a day of hard work. It was an accumulation of tiredness over decades. But before I could make more presumptions about this man, he spoke again:
"I am going to Venice to visit some of my relatives."
My mother would continue to translate, as for the next five minutes this man who had not produced a sound since he sat down said more than I could ever comprehend.
He explained that he lives alone and, ever since he wife died a few years back, he likes to visit his family. In a brief moment I tried to understand why this man needed to share this information with us. Then, my question was answered in a way I would have never predicted. With a stiff movement he reached into the back pocket of his high-waisted slacks to produce a wallet. From it he withdrew a piece of paper folded into eighths, the top corner reading "Poesie."
"My son was a poet," he said and we responded with smiles. "He died in a motorcycle accident and they wrote this article about him and his poetry."
He went on to tell us that he made copies of the piece to give to people, so they could read his son's work. He handed me the paper. My final look at the man gave me everything I would remember of that train ride. I looked down at the sheet. The first poem was called "Loneliness."

Alessandro Longone died fifteen years before I held that article in my hands. As I sat by my desk, I wondered how many unsuspecting passengers have received this paper from the man with the emerald eyes — how many have unknowingly held a part of his heart in their hands.

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