flying out

I’m sitting in a gray Milano airport.

They’ve tucked this flight at the very end of the corridor, B41 of 44. I’ve halfheartedly followed hallway after hallway, conceding to the passages and the paths that force me farther, farther from Florence. The lines drag me forward; the signs push me onward; the conveyor belts lift my lingering feet ahead. I’ve been inspected and approved and stamped and signed off on. Now I’m wrapped up in my pilly Italian sweater, set for seat 30H to New York City.

I’m shipping out of this country.

I have one more hour with my feet on definitively Italian ground. But this airport isn’t Italy, or at least my Italy. People greet me with a polite Buongiornohello. Automated voices announce that “the door closes; the elevator goes up.” My beloved shots of caffé are listed on bar menus as espresso. At some point, I’ve left my adopted language behind to be replaced with something that isn’t quite English. Italian can only be found in the margins for me now, as I hover in the fringes of conversations between attendants and aides. When they turn to me, we’ve switched to a new dialect that doesn’t exist in Italy or at home: “Prego, buongiornohello.”

This little corner of the corridor is set in some space between here and there. It’s not Italy, and it’s not America; either way, it isn’t home. For now, I sit in this little corner in a hollow gray inbetween.

I’m watching out the window, staring at the snow-scribbled Alps. There’s an endless void between them and me, the interminable stretch of ashy concrete where my airplane waits. In one hour, it will lift these lingering feet off of not-quite Italian ground, carrying me for arrival elsewhere.


the first layover

I’m sitting in a gray Zurich airport. I’ve always wanted to see Switzerland – just over the border from my grandfather’s Italian village, the other side of the Alps – but this isn’t the Switzerland I was hoping to look out at through the airport window. It’s not just the hazed-over sky and the water drops on the window that render Zurich utterly colorless this morning. The airport is monochrome. The geometric ceiling, speckled tile floors, the steel beams and metal railways and silver screens are all set in shades of charcoal, so glossy that they look wet to touch.

It’s 5:30 a.m. at home, an hour that straddles between when I usually get into bed at night and when I get up in the morning. I’d be in my deepest sleep right now, my body lulled into tranquility by the hours behind me and not to be disturbed for hours ahead. But today I’m here in this gray Zurich airport, resolutely awake.

Plenty of the other students are chattering around me, buzzing with friends or classmates or new acquaintances met through the group flight I’m on. It’s hard to guess how many of us there are: seventy-five, maybe? More?  I’ve recognized some faces, said hi to a few, but mostly stayed off to myself over the last twelve or so hours that I’ve been in and out of airports for. I’m completely incapable of holding a conversation beyond a few words right now. I’m too focused on getting on this plane, the last plane, and stepping into my new home this afternoon. Florence, I’ve waited for you for so long! I don’t think I’m going to believe you’re mine until I arrive.