I had been sobbing when I arrived. All the doors to airport were taped shut.
A soldier pointed me away from the doors to a second entrance.
The two African men sat on a bench near the side entrance, staring into the middle distance, perhaps reflecting on a former chess move,
or they were very stoned.
"Buonasera", I called out. Unable to make out the response from the plumper of the two,
the other younger, midnight-black, a godlike Beauty, too cool for fools, never moved.
Between them was a large black sports bag with a neatly folded hoodie on top.
Inside, henpecking my way through signage hurriedly put up, marking one thing off, detouring another. The elevator takes me down a floor comprised of bathrooms and no exits out. Wtf. I try again, the doors open to an empty floor, empty of employees that is. A homeless man lies on bench adjacent to the elevator, surrounded by drink bottles and plastic bags, wrappers. He is sleeping. “Good lord,” I think, yet admire his savvy choice.
“Scusa”, I call out to anyone, making my way up a ramp in search of employees. The homeless man, shuffling off his coil, rises, approaching me, some teeth missing, offered directions. I am quite hot and fully confused when a uniformed female appears and points me towards the one and only gateway.
It’s Security, and three very bored employees. Where is my boarding pass. I hand my phone over. This is not a boarding pass. You are too early, you must wait.
Wait what, wait where?
They point me away.
Back at the elevator the homeless man picks up a broom. He is the janitor, I think, he is the janitor.
I am back where I started, the check-in counters are all closed.
No signs of life anywhere.
What on holy earth is this? Now I can’t stop laughing-because if you’ve ever been to bureaucratic Italy you understand-and I’d been crying from the sudden shredding of my tenderly laid Italian roots.
I am so so sad.
The airport is hysterically empty, there is no one here and being half American I arrived early as Naples runs late.
I need a drink.
Outside. I need the air, to smell Naples again before I leave, to feel the last of the city on my skin.
Indoors I had caught a glimpse my refugee-chic scarved-face, wearing an oversized cotton coat and dumb yoga pant comfort, my hair falling out of arrangement-my inner Audrey Hepburn sighed. Style is so easy, keep it simple. "But I'm on the run Audrey!" In reality I’m Marmaduke, a big messy dog, not one of those mini-sweater-wearing bitches, always pulled together, never a hair out of place- fuck em’.
Sitting on one of the three benches. I eat my unorthodox sandwich, flat bread with tahini and honey, like a disheveled Israelite on the run, unleavened bread in hand, chewing and laughing.
One Chicago winter I wore a skirt to work under an unlined coat. As I walked to the train a bitter cold caressed my ass. At the train station I realised my skirt had inched it’s way up to my waist. Pulling it down, grateful my coat was long enough that I had not cat-walked the dingy streets like a too eager hooker.
Later the same day, waiting for the train, a homeless lady roughed up a pay phone, flinging incoherent threats and shouts. Having made eye contact with a handsome man I rolled my eyes knowingly, laughing geisha-shy when the train roared to a stop. I saw my reflection in the window. My open coat, my skirt hiked up to my crotch, my black tights semi-see through.
Who’s laughing now
On the middle bench there are two items, a proper backpack and another article after too many sleepless hours I cannot recall. Unmanned and unclaimed they are the kind of threat that will result in a verbal confrontation I later see at the Rome airport, when an owner walked away from his baggage to grab a coffee. The police gave him a very sincere yet stern warning. Do not leave baggage unattended.
From inside the terminal, in hopes that we accumulated three english-speaking passengers will force an early check-in, I see both men extract themselves from their long term sitting and enter the building. “ See, I say to myself, “you were wrong, they work here and are taking a break.” They disappeared down a hallway, Beauty in the lead, exuding an energy I had not expected. Some minutes later they emerged and returned to the posts they previously inhabited. Bathroom break. Are they leaving together? Are we all passengers escaping Naples, waiting for check-in to open?
No, haunted with faraway eyes Beauty went comatose again. This young strong man lost in a war with who knows what, and his companion friend. They are African immigrants. They weren’t getting on any plane that day or any other and had come as far as they probably would ever go. I think of their mothers back home, wondering about their sons who made it out.