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Blue Skies

It was the first day it hadn’t rained. Empty eyes and short lived squeaks of Fiat horns came, pierced, and then were forgotten. “Radio Nowhere” and the monotonous thuds of my cleats drove me on through the stares, the rain, and the stress of being one of the few stranieri in Viterbo. What makes me so special, so different from them? Keep walking, pay no attention. We said it so often, words were not necessary. Promises of a green field and a few hours of happiness lay ahead.

“It’s finally not raining,” she was putting up her high pony tail, “Maybe we’ll play today!” Emily was the only other girl; another American.

“God’s going to smite us now, thanks.” I was only half joking. It rained every day, except that day.

Watching streaks of water paint the window of the train car, my left temple smashed in between the seat head and wall almost as soon as my eyelids blacked out the art show. Even in the quaint town of Mantova it was our companion. Every drop weighed down the heart, stiffened knees, made you want to climb the rays of sun to escape. Mantova, Italy was being drowned again with us in it. The rain never stopped. Emily and I rushed pass the ragged beggars, curious school boys, a smoking barista serving a freshly pressed Panini to a middle-aged, arguing couple. It was around the corner- step, skip, turn- and up some steps. Out of breath but eager to finally see inside we almost ran, shedding sheets of rain. A dark wall loomed ahead.

The field was soft, no moisture. Everyone had to come today. They trickled in: California, Massachusetts, Mexico City, Illinois, Idaho, Florida, everyone; all with smiles and no complaints. The sun kissed our skin, sucking out the eternal wet nine months of rain created. We were light, jovial, playing soccer in our own heaven.

The doors were being closed through our visible breath. Two trips and two rejections. A sign simply stated Funerale swayed on the mountainous door. Death: how appropriate on a day like this. The rain was harder than ever and the only thing to focus on. We still had another hour before our train to Ravenna would arrive. The idea of not seeing the great Basilica di Sant’Andrea was saddening, but the rejection and failure made me wallow in the emptiness of the sea growing around me. We turned and passed a tour group of Italian Liceo students.

“Mi scusi, la basilica e aperto?” The tour guide tamed her frizzled hair with twenty bobbin pins, but her voice wavered, expecting my response.

”No, c’e un funerale.” The bags under her eyes added to the darkness of her desperation. No one was having a good day, except the guy in the coffin.

The ball was kicked, jokes passed, piggy-back rides and tickling fights broke out everywhere. The field transformed into a kindergarten playground, but we eleventh and twelfth graders were happy it wasn’t raining. No sweat, just complete, dry happiness. Even though they didn’t play soccer, Connecticut, DC, and the other California came to watch. Serenity in Viterbo with only a week left before our lives in America resumed. While “Mister” Gianni cracked inappropriate jokes at the wrestling fight between California and Massachusetts, I took a break to use the restroom.

We left Mantova for the second time, knowing we would never return. Six hours and many Euros away from our base town, Viterbo, in West Central Italy, we left with rain on our minds and disapproval in our hearts. Emily was my other half by that point. What I thought she spoke: it worked like that. She said we had no third chance.

When I came out of the tin can we called a bathroom, all of the memories, failures, and tears hit me. The on-looking Connecticut and California waited behind the door with a bucket full of water. Splash. My host mother’s vile words slicked my eyebrows, a friend’s sad face when his boyfriend dumped him saturated my index finger, someone’s homesick tears soaking my shoulder, the nine months of seemingly absolute misery drenched my body. I opened my eyes to see them running and the bucket at my feet.


It would cost three extra Euros, but the idea could not have been planned better. We bought two tickets: one from Modena to Mantova and the other from Mantova to Vicenza. That allowed two hours in Mantova. Waiting for the basilica to open, we went to il parco di Virgilio. Two mothers were strolling with their newborns down red pebble paths, a maintenance man was working on the fountains’ pipes, standing up now and then with confusion, an elderly man passed by on his bicycle with two bags full of pane rustico dangling on his handlebars, and we ate crackers and sipped on pear juice boxes. In early April, the wind was a bit chilly, but the sun shone brightly. Happiness filled the air. No rush, burdens, or rain. As we gathered our bags and left, my mind lingered on every leaf, every grain of sand I saw. Time stood still.

I fumbled with the water hose, a bit petrified and angry. Wet, again. I chased them down, threw my miseries at them, then felt the sun. The heat and warm breeze blew the water off me and off them and off everyone on the field that day. We were all soaking, but felt dryer than ever during our nine months together. The water collected and dropped, thick with sadness and fear, regret and depression. Everyone felt the same memories leave them as they dried off. I looked upon my friends’ faces and remembered the early weeks on an Umbrian lake- we had been blank back then, no memories. There I was gliding onto a cloud in Venice, overlooking Verona high in the clear skies, walking slowly on a beach somewhere in Puglia, and staggering into a uniquely astonishing church: la Basilica di Sant’Andrea. It is one of the most impressive tangible beauties; very large, relatively empty, but the perfect, painted details filled each corner with magic. I had finally made it on a sunny, dreamlike day. Everything was so slow, peaceful, bright, and dry. I still remember the rain the most, but sometimes the sun hits me like the light from the church’s steeple. Will, Max, Julian, DK, Emily. They’re all there with me in that soccer field again. All laughs, living in the moment; no sad future to come and painful pasts drying out. I lived that day, a day full of nine months worth of sun, with no worry and no regret.





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