I was done with the mountains. Too much traffic. Too many trail runners, hikers, nudists, poets, nudist poets. It wasn’t about having space. It was about having my space feel like it’s supposed to feel: secluded, isolated, mine. Now I’m in Sicily. It isn’t quite like home, but at least it still feels authentic.
You may ask, how did you get halfway around the world without being spotted? Well, it isn’t like they’re trying to keep people in the U.S. right now. They’re all about keeping people out.
I made it to Puget Sound and sneaked on board a cargo ship. I didn’t know where the ship was going and didn’t really care. The hold was dark and quiet and smelly, so I felt right at home. Every so often I crept out of my hiding place and raided the galley for supplies. A few weeks later or however long it might have been (I couldn’t really tell down there in the dark), the boat docked in Palermo.
In a big city like this, it’s hard to remain undetected, and before long I stopped trying. My hair makes me stand out, but most people seem to assume that I’m either homeless or Zach Galifianakis. Being over seven feet tall makes me even more conspicuous. I am getting used to being out in the open, which is definitely new, and I don’t have to worry about being chased by people with guns and/or cameras or flashed by people with pens. As far as hygiene goes, Palermo is a lot like the wild, especially when you see the occasional old man who relieves himself on the side of a building, zips himself up, and walks on without shame.
It’s been over a year since I came here. Even though I have become more used to the way they do things here, I have also grown tired of my surroundings. Sometimes all I want is to go home. But I can’t very easily do that, can I? I think it will be very hard to get back in the U.S. without any ID or papers.
Most of the time I sit under café umbrellas writing on napkins. I decided that since I am now a self-proclaimed exile, I should write something extraordinary like Gertrude Stein or James Joyce did, although I prefer to write things that are more accessible.
The other day I sat in my usual spot at the café, eating the rest of a piece of pizza I found in the garbage, jotting down some lines. A little boy with a gelato, probably about six or seven, with dark brown eyes, approached me, a bit reluctant but obviously curious about what I was doing.
Che stai scrivendo? he asked and took another lick.
My Italian’s gotten rather good, although I don’t know how I managed it down here in Sicily where all of the letters get mixed around and truncated and slurred. I replied, Una piccolo poesia.
Me la leggi?
Certo, senz’altro. So I read him what I had:
Mi han fatto un cittadino senza paese
Il mondo mio é diventato una fossa
La vita intera ho vissuto solitario in buio, in prigione
E adesso ci voglio tornare e non posso
Magari la speranza c’è e non la vedo
Devo sempre aspettare un altra stagione
When I finished he just stared at me. By then his gelato was melting and running over and between his small fingers. A breeze picked up, blowing garbage down the street, ruffling his black hair and my reddish-brown. He came closer, put his non-gelato hand on top of my big, fat, hairy paw, and let it rest there. He wasn’t judging me; it was almost like he was inviting me to let myself be content. But a boy his age probably doesn’t know what it’s like to not be able to go home.
At that moment, his mother came around the corner and grabbed his shirt and yelled, “Che stai facendo, Pietro, eh? Mi hai provato di scappare di nuovo? She didn’t even look at me. She just hauled him off like a sack of tomatoes and left me there. Alone. I sat beneath in the shade for another hour, possibly two, and his eyes continued to stare, haunting me, until finally I ripped up the napkin and threw the pieces to the wind.