Braving the simultaneous fear of loneliness and/or meeting new people, I pushed my bawling inner child to the German-style pub where the Italian-English Meetup gathers. First I translate the message on the glass door, there being no handle or lever to pull. “Pressare” to press, I press the button on the wall, magically the glass doors slide open. (It’s the small things that can weaken your determination.) Down a short set of stairs there is a loooong table of twenty or more new people drinking, eating, speaking English and Italian. The women have grouped at one end, the men the other. OY! A man at the end stands up and introduces himself, he is Luigi, I meet another Luigi, a Giancarlo, a Vincenzo, etc. Luigi One gives me his seat and scooches in next to me. I am offered french fries with goopy cheese, a mess similar to poutine de Quebec. Thankfully there is beer up in this Haus.
These people are all so pleasant. No one bit or scratched. I met fellow Americans and a young British dude with Jesus hair and Woody Allen glasses. There was the woman from Denver, another from West Virginia, the guy from Baton Rouge. What are we all doing in Naples? Some are with the military, others are students, one woman risked setting up residence in Naples to realize dual-citizenship, and she got it!
Reading some travel-related blogs it can seem as if traveling is the most awesome thing ev-er.
It is and it’s not. It’s not when you can’t speak the language and like an idiot are unable beyond coffee and pizza to express your thoughts and desires. As I walk I often formulate Italian phrases in my head and then think, “ I don’t know the word for about.” Yes, I can google translate. Yet at once I understand how little I do know, almost nothing and it feels as native Neapolitan Sara described her first day in Australia knowing no English, “I cried.”
Solo travel can be very lonely. Luckily I make acquaintances easily, so when I stop for an espresso I engage the cafe’ owner or barista, someone behind the bar, the humans. And guess what? They’re as curious about me being there as I am dumbfounded and tongue-tied. As a consequence I often leave jubilant: I made another contact, I learned another word, I tried a new drink, the mute-deaf man kissed my hand, a cashier handed me a small pack of Kleenex when I sneezed, the tiny-old-man-owner checks with his handsome young barista to be sure Madame, (that’s me), got a good cappuccino.
But it also explains why I spend an inordinate amount of time seeking out animals.
I have animal joo-joo. It’s the way dogs see me from a distance and keenly observing me, try to catch a whiff as I pass. Or maybe it’s the leopard print pants and the lions mane parka.
I try to explain to someone that I’m feeding a small herd of feral cats, (I’ll say it again, to chat with cats, move slowly and blink), who climb up a small hill onto a stone wall.
They tight rope walk, gracefully balancing on a bent over tree branches when hearing the crumple of a cat food bag or the tinny sound of a can opening. Walking at dusk, earphones on, a plaintive
mer-ROW stops me in my tracks. There, on a beat up cardboard box sits a tabby kitten, plush and adorable. She obviously had been sent out, blameless mascot, as human bait, and I took it. Being Sunday all the small stores were closed, so I bought a small plastic cup of milk from a cafe’ and poured it into a found deli container. One cat came out of the shadows followed by three four five. Now enslaved, I feed them daily.
Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. -Robert A. Heinlein
Who will feed them when I’m gone? Someone will. Plastic plates are tied to the metal railing atop the stone wall, put there by another kindred animal soul before me. Remember,
“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with.”- Stephen Stills
There is no explanation needed for the sheer joy I have in Naples, just being alive. Though I am alone and at times momentarily lonely, I have never before felt this lightness of being, of an unencumbered child.
“You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves. / Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. / Meanwhile the world goes on. / Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain / are moving across the landscapes, / over the prairies and the deep trees, / the mountains and the rivers. / Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, / are heading home again. / Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, / the world offers itself to your imagination, / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”