Sunday, September 20, 2020

I waited for you at the train station, but you never showed up. So, I guess I’ll go to Tuscany without you.

It was a long shot, for sure. We had casually talked about meeting in Rome and taking the train to Tuscany. It was over a couple of bottles of wine. And then we stayed up late. And then? Do you remember? I think I do, but it could have just been a dream besotted by too much Frascati. If it was a dream, it was lovely. If it wasn’t, why aren’t you here?

The folly of youth. Of hope. Of expectation. And the letdown. It was a pattern for much of my 20’s. Probably much longer. But all those years now melt into one passage of juvenescence. And when it comes to Italy, it’s tinged with a romanticism that either wasn’t there in the first place, or if it was, it was only in my imagination. Now, in 2020, those fanciful anticipations have been rendered inappurtenant by larger forces of destiny. We’re in a social hurricane and firestorm the likes of which we have no idea when it will die down. So, we barrel down and go in, deeper inside. Where it is cool and dark, yet still filled with light and hope. The hope of innocent youth as re-imagined in this timeworn biped vessel.

Eventually, I took the train, alone, from Rome to Cecina and then the bus to Volterra, where an artist friend of the family lived. He had a guest room above the garage, and it was mine, if I wanted it, for a week. I would have loved to have spent it with my amber-haired Frascati-loving friend. But then, as now, there’s no looking back. And in fact (if there can anymore be such things as facts) within this quixotic meandering I reckoned there would be other lovers, of wine.

I love the slow train from Rome to Cecina. And in mid-September it was not too densely packed, as it can be in the height of the summer vacation period. Now, it was pensioners and country folk who were heading home, back to their quiet life in the country.

Why did they go to Rome? Perhaps it was to visit an adult child who lives and works in the city. Maybe to visit a sibling. Or maybe to shop for things one can rarely find in the little towns that dot the coastline. Rome has a particular meaning for as many people as go there. Aside from the touristic and gross commercial depictions of the city, there are things one can only find in Rome. Like my sirenic amber-haired Frascati-loving night owl.

One can as easily roam the streets of Volterra as in any other place. And in the late summer, it’s almost empty. The work in the field, bringing in the grapes and other agricultural commodities. The aroma of roasted corn in the open-air kiosk near the town square. The slight perfume of fermenting grapes, wafting all across Italy this time of the year. It’s almost like being in love.

It’s a funny thing, autumn. It is the season of gathering, of harvesting, of storing and preparing for the leaner winter months. But for one in the autumn of their years, it’s like a second spring. It’s gathering of freshness, of vigor, of spirit. It’s a time to reclaim a corner of one’s youthfulness, to store it for the oncoming squall of senectitude. Thankfully, and with a little luck, with a full quiver of robust Tuscan red, some roasted chestnuts, a good loaf of crusty bread and some semi-stagionato Pecorino Toscano.

If it was a dream, I intend to bring it to fruition. I haven’t waited all these years, only to jump off the train before my final destination. I’m not dead yet, even though those forces of destiny seem to have it out for us lately. I'll doubtlessly see you there.

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