It’s been a while since we moved abroad; or at least since we’ve been abroad on a stable basis. It won’t come as a surprise for anyone who has spent time in a different country to read that life changes radically once you take that step. No, I’m not talking about different languages, habits, culture, climate etc. that naturally come with moving. Rather, looking back over these past years it seems obvious how our lives with friends have acquired a more peculiar character. Again, I’m not talking about the different way we keep in touch with friends back in Italy (texts, social networks, etc). It’s more that the “texture” of our friendship-life has changed. How best can I describe it? Well..in some sense it’s a matter of connecting dots across a map. No trace of the continuity and reassuringly certain character of Wednesdays nights out. Nor that of large cooking gatherings over the weekends (my place?), or the stability of old faces going back for ages. All of that was a nice straight line from A to B to C to.. etc. Truth is that the past up to the present’s doorstep can no longer reveal anything about the future, even from one week to the next, so that what comes after C is uncertain. For instance, where that future will take place.. But especially, it reveals virtually nothing of who will be there. What you’d consider as sure takes unexpected turns and turns out to be very different from what expected. People that shouldn’t have been there in that particular place and time, are there for some reason. Those that should have, might not be. Or, you might find yourself in some place and time that you would have never imagined to find yourself in..with someone you wouldn’t have ever guessed. In the end, it happens that what was expected to be routine turns out not to be, ever so slightly deviating towards randomness. Taking a step back and going through pictures and memories truly is like connecting dots on the map of your life, with nothing of the linear, good old straight road ahead. Locations, faces, and pieces of that grand puzzle your life has turned into trying to fit into each other. Sometimes, some of the pieces are out of reach. Very well in sight, but out of reach. Sometimes, they are completely lost.
(to Carlo, Mancho, Kim and Miky – my roots and my perimeter)
Sure, stuff changes, and it changes a lot.. But there are things that apparently don’t. Call those roots.. Call them the keystones in the architecture you’ve been building since the day you were born. Call them “no fun dull stuff” as well, if you like. But they are there whether you like it or not. It’s sometimes annoying to think that in reality there’s not much that is truly original or unique in yourself. You are, like it or not, very much like your mother and father, and grandmothers and grandfathers. A lot like your brothers and sisters, and sometimes like your cousins and aunts and uncles too. There is a tiny bit of that friend of yours back in primary school, and of that twat bullying you around and calling you names in junior high. There’s a bit of all those people you called family as a kid when visiting on the other side of the planet.
Especially, there’s a lot of those friends who dreamed you up to make you the person you happen to be. They’re like the perimeter of everything you are, the bulwarks preventing you from going astray and loosing yourself. They all do their bit in keeping you there and making sure that you remain who they want you to be, the person they created: a bit of a tug on one side when you take off the wrong way, a bit of a push in the right direction once you get stuck and don’t know where to go. In the end, they all are there to show you the way back to the essence of yourself, to the important places of being “you” and the centre of things. Curiously, each time they nudge or hold you back, you are also pushing or pulling them a bit, in turn, in the opposite direction. So it happens that the centre towards which they bring you back each time ever so slightly shifts position in the meanwhile. You end up dragging those roots along, little by little, so that step by step you and those bulwarks end up moving in a slow and imperceptible journey across all of your lives, together.
It’s hard to realise how “local” (in its strongest of meanings) we are when we stand still. Roots are strong: they tie us firmly to the centre of things and keep us from harm. All we need is around us, providing safety, but also blocking our view of what’s beyond. It’s hard to build up the will to move when you don’t feel the need of going anywhere, and you have no idea what lies just beyond reach, out of sight. It only takes just one step aside (or in any other direction) to open up new perspectives; to expand the horizon without a limit. Incredibly, that single step allows you to reach out much farther than it allows you to move, enabling you to form connections straight across the globe. Sometimes, it’s a bridge with you at one end and someone else at the other. Some other times, you are at the end of the bridge for two people with nothing else in common, suddenly building a bridge between each other. Watching those bridges take shape is the most beautiful thing that can happen!
Valencia, Spain, 3 October 2016.
An evening out having a low-quality beer in a place close to my hotel. On one side the beach, windy and rather empty on a regular Monday evening. On the other, a short alley and at the end of it an empty esplanade with trees and benches and whatever else is necessary to make the place the buzzing place-to-be in the high season. You can almost picture families from anywhere in northern Europe, kids with ice-cream all over their brand new clothes, teenage sons and daughters hanging out comfortably out of sight for fleeting romance or a rebellious smoke. But there’s really none of that. The few bars and restaurants, some claiming to be clubs even, collect only a few customers, all in their late 30s. If you come here on a Monday evening from downtown Valencia, you do it to stretch the summer a bit, to keep the memory of summertime partying close by. And you do it by car. You don’t walk here. A few mid-range vehicles in the esplanade, nothing fancy or reminiscent of the crowd (probably) populating the area in August. Continue reading “Caballero, una moneda para ser un Hombre?”