Once upon a time when I was younger, I went to Italy. I knew nothing about it when I got there, and I knew nothing about it when I left. Italy defied my ability to describe things. It burned with a terrible and intentional beauty that spun out from it like radiation. It saturated me and taught me to walk looking up for hidden people in the walls and stones that had stood since stones could be shaped, and then to write where those people were so they could be refound.
I didn’t have time to say a proper goodbye to Rome, which has been my home for the last three months, and more of a home than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. We rushed out in the morning, headed for Firenze, and I hadn’t gone back to Trastevere properly, or had the food I intended to find, or done any of the thousand little things I felt necessary for proper closure (which we all know a person can never really have). I don’t know that I’ll be able to form that same sort of intimacy with Seattle when I get back—it’s not a walking city, and it has so little to see that was out there on purpose to look at, if that makes sense. Like, there’s a continuum: at one end, Firenze, where everything is purposeful and specific and designed to be beautiful, and then somewhere in the middle I suppose would be Venezia, which is equal parts intentionally itself and accidentally itself. Seattle, America, it is all intentional but so lacking in beauty (I am supposing that Tintern will be an example of a thing being almost entirely unintentional).
Now I am sitting in a shared room in a backpacking hostel in Cardiff listening to the television describe a film that seems to involve “trained guinea pig secret agents”. If ever there have been drastic tonal shifts in my life, I’m riding one right now.
The trip from Venezia to Cardiff was uneventful, as trips go. The Venice airport is the only one I’ve ever been in where the security people legitimately seem to enjoy each others’ company, and watching them joke around made the security line pass much more quickly. Birmingham is, apparently, the birthplace of Cadbury chocolate, but I was only there for a moment. The train passed through all the southeastern towns I spent all last night trying to strategize a way into—Chepstow, Newport—and pastures with grazing quadrupeds of various kinds, and I would have taken pictures but my phone was trickling down and down and I didn’t know how to get to my hostel. I sat across from a huge husky puppy and his owner, a fat red-haired girl whose cheeks curved her smiling eyes into perpetual crescent moons. I consider all of these to be good omens—I know that I can get where I want, I know that people here can talk and will talk if I let them, and I am still and always learning.
In an hour there will be cider and pizza in the common room of the hostel. Sometime between then and now, I need to figure out where I will be staying for the next few days. I’m covered through tomorrow, but nothing beyond that. The girls next to me—sisters? Both tall and broad and long-haired, red again, one in makeup and one without—are speaking in a language I don’t recognize. It could even be Welsh but I don’t want to bother them and ask. The television has progressed: The Incredibles. I’m sitting still, but the table feels like it is rocking on boat-swells.
When I was with other people—both students and family—I had no real incentive to blog, because I knew in the back of my mind that there would always be someone else to test my reality against. Now that I’m traveling alone I don’t have that surety anymore, and then there is the matter of the observations, and needing to retrain myself for that. It is amazing how much damage a mere three weeks can do to a new habit.
I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Once I eat I will be much more fun to read. I have strange hopes for Welsh pizza.