Before my flight my mother’s arms squeezed tightly around my neck. A droplet of ocean curled down from the corner of her right eye. “Take care of yourself, Honey.” Her voice shook as the words left her mouth. “I’ll be good momma, always am,” I said to reassure her.
Once on the plane, I made myself comfortable and watched two Italian ladies walk up the aisle. They were speaking their mother tongue passionately. One had brown hair; her body was slender and long. Her breasts hung heavily from her chest and her nipples stared at me through her pink shirt. Her friend wore a white shirt, black pants and a cardigan. Her blonde, stringy hair looked damp as it streamed downward from her head.
They sat down and the flight attendant came over and said, “Ladies I’m going to have to ask you to move to your assigned seats.” The heavy-breast woman in pink rose in a flame and began to speak in accented English coated in an Italian tongue. Each word carried by an angry tone as she argued with the flight attendant.
They argued back and forth until the flight attendant got her way. The two Italian ladies moved backward a few rows, toward me. They took their seats and the flight attendant gave them one of those condescending smiles as if to say “got damn right.” The flight attendant turned her back and walked toward the front of the plane, and the long slender lady stuck her middle finger in the air and left it there as straight and stiff as a flagpole.
“Welcome to Italy,” I thought.
It was now late afternoon as the plane ascended over Newark, New Jersey. The sky was dark and ashy for twenty minutes before we stabbed through the layers of clouds. I stared out the window of the Boeing 757 and watched the Earth become wider and the world farther as my imagination drifted further. I imagine this winged bus sailing above the ocean and into the possibilities of spiraling downward into the Atlantic.
I was inspired by life and fearing my death all at the same time. Proud of what I have been able to accomplish but ashamed for not reaching my potential. Sad that I would not feel the joys and pains of being human. Tears swelled in my eyes. “I have lived a good life.” I thought. “I have done my best, to give my best, though I have not always measured up to what I believe my best to be.” I did not want to die. But for having lived — for being alive, I felt thankful. It feels like an impossible feeling. Like it should not exist. But there they are, two opposite forces dancing inside of me.
Iawoke from my dreams, back stiff from the distant flight. I looked out the window again, the world was mostly the same. Except now, the glow from the rising sun could be seen peaking from behind the Alps. Streams of light were like inflorescent flowers that grew upward through the soil. God’s lamp slowly illuminated the dark expanse as it rose from nowhere and eclipsed the mountains into a silhouette. The light began to rise and as it rose it expanded its presence out through the firmament and above the snowy Alps. The purple-orange hue reflected like a mirror in the snow and illuminated the silver wing of the American Airlines 757. Slowly, the day was beginning.
Europe was asleep. I was soaring into a new world no different from the American world I have always known. Down below were people who spoke differently than me. But still, they are people who have been shaped by their surroundings. People who are uncomfortable in their fleshy costumes that wrap around their bones, their organs, their spirits. On the ground, homeless people exist; as do politics, and religion, and the gray area that binds the two. There are the rich, the poor, and the in between. Somewhere In Europe, men weigh the weight of their wallets to find their worthiness in the eyes of a women who has been seduced by the vain and unnatural beauty standards of the age. Though it may seem wrong to generalize, I am convinced that cultures may differ, people are the same. We try to outrun ourselves. We travel far away from the known. We crawl from the crevices of our minds and into the false light that beckons us forward. and though it glitters it is far from gold. And though we use different means, the ends for which we aim are the same; Siamo tutti alla ricerca dell’amore. We are all looking for Love.
To pass the time, I stared out the window, opened my journal, and wrote. I opened a book: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King. “We must bear our cross,” he wrote. “Bear our cross?” I pondered. I stop reading and gazed back out of the window, then pick up my pen and wrote as if emptying myself of the words I just read. We began to descend from the heavens and back into the fog of reality. The wheels of the plane bounced: up, down, up, down before it found traction on the concrete runway.
I gathered my luggage and made my way to passenger pick up, and there I was approached by the young Albanian-born Italian who was the reason I found myself in Italia in the first place. His name was Sandro, the Parma Panther’s manager and my guide to Italia. “You ready for Championship?” he asked as he grabbed my luggage, his eyes narrowed from smiling. He escorted me to the small and claustrophobic Fiat, and we drove two hours through the countryside of Italia before exiting off the express and into the city of Parma, The Mother of Parmesan Cheese.