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In my dream, it was always the four us, my parents, grandmother and I. We were moving from one country to another, leaving everything familiar behind. I was changing schools, uniforms, friends, languages. In the beginning of the dream, I was growing roots, towards its middle I learned that when the roots are cut – it hurts. So I stopped growing roots. I started behaving  like a stranger who’s only temporarily there, in my own dreaming. Towards the end of the dream, I had became a perpetual stranger, a recidivist foreigner, an all time nomad;  a wanderer, a traveler, someone who’s just around for a short while, and not even that long.

I met some people, in that dream, they asked: how long are you staying?  They knew we would part sooner or later, we knew it too. I knew all of it was temporary – the dream, my home, my friends, the languages that took me so long to learn, I knew that I would leave it all behind, soon.

I woke up in Florence one morning and looked at Ponte Vecchio through my bedroom’s window. I was in time to grab my morning espresso and rush across the bridge towards the Market of the Piglet and and the building where my language school was.

Florence is the city best situated for the heartbroken and for those fatally ill of general nostalgia. There is something in that city that predisposes you to sigh into the breeze above Arno. The city is so beautiful, so marvelous – that many faint, some suffer from ephemeral heart conditions and some are struck by the city’s charm to the point of developing temporal insanity. It’s called The Syndrome of Florence.

If you are profoundly sad or dreamy for a prolonged period of time, Florence is the place to be. Rome, with its bright colors, open squares and flashy fountains would only drain you, the sad you, the dreamy you. Naples would cry so hard, that you would end up comforting the good old romantic. Florence is the city for you, the noble lady would pick up your dark mood, but it would be beyond her poise to acknowledge it with anything more than a merely noticeable nod. A noble lady of that age – albeit you wouldn’t dare asking the lady about it – would certainly know what a heartache is, even if a general one. She would understand your mourning over the country you lost, the dream that you couldn’t wake up from and your language that went extinct. Maybe the city would hint on the stories it knew – of the mistress of a king who was the love of his life – albeit he never made her the Queen, of  secretive mystics and painters who drank heavily, of alchemists ever seeking the elixir, of shrewd merchants  and  entertaining con-artists, of street musicians and fishermen who knew many tales and of market sellers who knew it all… For suffering and wisdom are universal, the pain is equal, it does not discriminate, it goes after each and every one of us all the same, since ever and until our very end.

Rome’s exuberance would tire you if you are sad, or dreamy, Naples’ sun shines too bright when your thoughts are dark or foggy; the noble Florence with its cobbled alleys – for cobble isn’t the same everywhere – the posh sound ch which its dwellers pronounce as if whistling –  they say it’s done so to diverse from the rest (an alien, they say,  will out himself by merely pronouncing the ordinary k instead), the pizza crust with its particular Florentine taste, clubs underground of which tourists are unaware and drag queens in Via Nazionale, friendly drag queens who will tell you Florentine secrets at the local hairdresser’s – that’s what you need when you are waking up from a nightmare, or still feel ephemerally dreamy.

In my class all were foreigners, like I was, and even the teacher was from somewhere else – she felt equally alien as we did, albeit Florence is the best city to be an alien, given that you have to be one. The talk of the city is that some were born in Florence, of parents who were also born in the city – but those people you will never meet; they must have their own hidden ways for transportation, their own schools and their own hairdressers, because your path will never cross any of theirs. All the people you will meet will be aliens, like yourself. Some would have come for a month, some – for two; many would stay just couple of weeks, or even less – and only few will stay for as long as nine months.

To get to my country, you need to wake up from dreaming, leave Florence behind, head south – all the way down, to the ancient city of Bari, you need to embark on the ship and cross the Adriatic Sea. The journey lasts one night, in the morning you shall awake in the Black Mountains. The climate is very different here, albeit it is Mediterranean too. As soon as you step down from the ship in the port of the city of Bar, what you will feel is that the time passes slower.

In Florence, the time runs, together with its hurrying tourists, in Naples – the time gets drunk on the abundant sunlight, and it sings the songs of the sea and romantic love; in the Black Mountains the time has nowhere special to go, and it slows down to the point where it feels as if it almost stopped. The magnificent olive trees, spellbound long ago, don’t go anywhere – they are always there, and it seems that even the people who live in houses made of stone, under the olive trees – never hurry, and maybe even never move.

Nobody is an alien here, all were born here, of parents who were born here as well. The rocks of the Black Mountains haven’t heard neither of mistresses to the kings, nor of street musicians and broken hearts. The rocks have other stories to tell, of battles and knights, dreams of victories and nightmares of betrayals, those stories I was told when I arrived from Florence, having realized that I wasn’t dreaming.

L.R.S.

due thank to Daily Prompt: Nightmares for inspiration

Church of St. George, Podgorica, Montenegro

Church of St. George, Podgorica, Montenegro