Sunday, August 30, 2020

Everyone’s gone to the moon (or “We’re here and they’re not”)

As we beat the month of August, once more, to death, September howls like a newborn that was cast away into a dumpster. No one hears her little cries to a universe unprepared and unattended. For Italy, as for much of the world, has been abandoned.

How many times can one walk the beach between Alcamo Marina and Castellammare del Golfo in the shortened summer days of September and feel any of the hope one felt in May or June, when the Linden trees were in bloom on the Adriatic? Now, in New York City, at Fifth Avenue and 54th Street, at noon, an eerie and similar scene mirrors Sicily. An unattended world. Where has everyone gone?

To the solitary traveler, it isn’t anything new. All the years I’ve wandered the earth, whether in Italy or in America, I never felt isolated as much as liberated. To crawl up the grimy streets of Pozzuoli, with the raw balm of anchovies and lemon, the baked focaccia streaming the aroma out into the streets, mingling with the smoke of a Nazionale offering up base notes. Where is everyone? (nearby, a Greek Chorus refrains, “We’re here and they’re not.”)

From a window above the little shop, where the merchant in rolling down the door for his afternoon nap, above him a woman calls, “Ma cche staje faccen'? O ppane?” Ah, so, once again the furastère is sleepless, roaming the streets like a scugnizzo. Once again, "nun sacc’ niente."

And once again, many of us now are wandering, roaming the streets at all hours of the day and night. But everyone on a street in their own little world. We’ve masked up and in doing so, it seems like we’ve found a secret door into another universe. And like Rome on August 15th at 1 PM, where is everyone?

It’s an odd thing, to be strolling around an abandoned Italy in September, when just a few weeks before, typically, it would be teeming with bodies. Children running where the sand meets the sea. Pensioners, sitting under an umbrella sipping on a gassosa or a cedrata. Music playing from a number of things, phones, Bluetooth speakers, cars, overhead PA systems. Songs, cries, pleas, whispers. Humanity buzzing about. But not now, not in September. Not in 2020. Now, everyone’s gone to the moon.

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