Retrospective, p.1: Time is Out of Joint
Let me put you in my shoes: you are walking down Middle Path. This morning you talked with Francesca, who is from an hour north of Naples and who you spent days upon days with in Rome, where you both were studying. Everything you see looks a little like Italy. Tiny droplets of the coffee bar from Garbatella live in the steam rising from the Wiggin Street coffee maker. The feral cats that still sometimes roam around campus make you think about the two cats in Nocelle who rubbed against each other affectionately and purred loud enough you could hear them from three feet away. And who loved you, too, with reckless abandon, and leapt into your lap simultaneously and fought for dominance over your hands in the empty piazza (it's a very good thing you had two hands).
And then, when you walk past Caples, you realize it looks like one of the cement public housing projects on the outskirts of Rome (not a compliment — not really an insult either, I guess. Just weird). You're trying not to think too hard about it. There's no use in melodrama. You're here, it's Kenyon, it's nice, and the world isn't ending. You just miss Italy, that's all.
I complained about it today at dinner, and one of my friends at the table told me, "Well, Daniel, you kind of signed up for it." She's totally right. I did. I don't regret it. The cliche “'Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all” is a cliche for a reason (thanks, Tennyson.) I knew going in that building roots would make it harder when the airplane took off — in that storm of a moment, that life would be uprooted down to the very tiniest branches. I wrote about it a little bit, in the moment when I first left Rome:
I’m on the plane now going to Munich, where I will have a brief connection before I embark on a daunting 9-hour flight back to Chicago. It’s bizarre and upsetting to me that you can build a life somewhere, and then once you get on an airplane, it can all just disappear for the rest of the foreseeable future. Just sink away into memory. It’s all so real, and then you say your goodbyes to the restaurants that know your name, your relationship with Fra, your favorite landmarks, and, you can’t help but fear, your favorite memories, too. And then before you know it, you’re in the sky overlooking a snowy German winter scene and you’re left to ponder how it all happened so fast.
The me that wrote that still wasn't ready for the complex reality of adjusting to life back home. It's a liminal space, in between two lives. I'm stuck between then and now. I visited a museum in Rome where the huge marble steps in front of the main entrance were blanketed in bold, capital letters, with a quote from Hamlet: "TIME IS OUT OF JOINT." We were welcomed to the city with a warning. In a city 3,000 years old, where columns built a millennia ago sit next to virgin apartment buildings whose windows haven't even been smudged yet, both available to the public with nothing dividing them from a salad of history, time dissolves. The city takes chronological history and makes an elaborate disappearing act out of it. Walking through the streets for the first time, I reeled.