On the train back home from Montenegro, I sat next to a black guy. I supposed he was from Africa. Naturally, where from in Africa, that I had no idea of. He was on the phone, speaking a language which again I had no idea of. On the other side of the corridor sat two guys, they were brown-skinned shall I say, men from Pakistan or maybe Iraq, who knows? They too were talking a totally strange language to me.
Then Carlo called. When I picked up the phone and started speaking in English, the African turned around. He must have been surprised. Here I was, an Italian looking woman, whom you'd assume to be Italian from the outside, but was speaking not Italian but English. What did this mean? I am Italian actually. I mean that's what the Italian government says, it accepts me as its citizen. But am I Italian? Or do you always stay with the identity of the country you were born and raised in? Do these distinctions and belongings have any meaning or significance at all?
I liked the idea of being surrounded by different nationalities, people talking different languages. I have always liked that idea. Back in 2001, when I was doing my first round-the-world tour I had said “Oh I marry a foreign man, have one child, then adopt four children: one from Africa, one from Asia, one from South America and one from Oceania. We have the United Nations at home.”
That was just a fun idea to entertain myself, not to be taken literally. But here I am, the fun idea at least partly realized: Married to an Italian, with a child from him, with three languages spoken in our house. I would have liked to adopt too. Not four but certainly one. If it wasn't for the outrageous bureaucracy and the preposterous money to be paid to that bureaucracy. Maybe some day I'll find another way or I'll manage to host a refugee.
Anyway... I was dying to talk to the guy and ask where he was from, what he was doing here. I wanted to learn about his life, I wanted to know his story. Even if just the outline of it. I wanted to know the other two guys across the corridor from us too. I wonder about people. It's nice to learn about different people, people with different lives.
But I couldn't bring myself to break the silence and speak. Even though I told myself I had nothing to lose. I'd be getting off soon anyway. Even if they weren't friendly or reacted to my interest thinking it was questioning their existence, I would not be seeing them again, neither they me. We'd be out of each other's lives. After sharing that short moment. Perhaps, that rendered any possible interaction meaningless too. Or perhaps not. Another “or perhaps”, this was just a fine moment. It was enough to feel it. To feel the multi-culturality. There was no need to cloud it with words uttered and specifics learnt.
As I got off from my seat as the train approached my destination, the African guy got up too. So we had something in common. Perhaps I'd be running into him again one day. If I had found the courage to talk, if we had exchanged some words, we would have greeted each other then. Now, that chance was lost forever. Or who knows? Perhaps I'd be running into him again somewhere sometime. Perhaps we'd get the chance to talk then.
I wondered if I would have liked him if I knew him. Or would he have disappointed me like almost everybody who comes into my life? It's easy to like people from afar. It's easy to be humanitarian and kind from afar. It's when you get close and have to deal with people and their quirks, that's when problems arise.
Well... I got off the train; hugged and kissed my husband who was waiting there, and we went our own way into our safe, familiar, routine life. Leaving the world outside to its own commotion and serenity.