Waiting for September

It has taken me a while to get through these last two weeks. For one thing, work has been busy — the English course at school, and this week, all of the new students at school coming in for other courses that started on Tuesday, so that the quiet corners you’ve carved out for yourself feel flooded with people, all at once. Every evening I leave school in a hurry, off to the grocery store or straight home — needing the refuge of my own walls to get me through the rest of the evening, safe and sound.

But mostly the weeks have just felt like this slow hum drum of waiting it out. I know, at every part of the day, that I’m just around the corner from going home. It’s in me already — during lessons, I find myself daydreaming about it, and in the middle of the night I wake up worried that I’m not ready, making mental lists of everything that I still need to do. Antonello spent most of Thursday calling all of the CoVid centres and pharmacies in town to find out what kind of CoVid test I needed to fly from Italy to Germany to the US next Friday, and where I could get it, and I spent most of that evening panicking that I might have to take an hour or two off of work on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, or maybe we wouldn’t get an appointment at all. Maybe it was all too much. All too late. Let’s call it all off! I finally said, throwing my arms up in dismay.

But of course, Antonello managed to save the day as he always does (he rolled his eyes in frustration at my temper tantrum and then went on and fixed everything). Friday morning he checked one last place, he stopped at the CoVid bus on the other side of Macerata early in the morning before work (these places, it turns out, are only open in the mornings anyway) and they told him that there is a fast version of the PCR test in Civitanova — it’s actually called ‘fast’ — and I can go the day after my course ends, Thursday morning: get the test early, get the results the same day, catch my flight on Friday to Munich with everything all lined up. It was perfect news. When he told me, I didn’t even believe it at first — for some reason I’ve been waiting for something to go wrong, just expecting it to happen, so that when he told me, I had barely even considered that everything might go right. But here it was: I’m actually going home next Friday. I texted dad after work and said: Antonello booked the appointment. I’m coming home next week. It’s real now. I can’t wait.

And it’s like September came a week early, with that text, with the news that things were finally coming together for us. Maybe the weather noticed as well, for the summer days are beginning to slip away, all at once — getting up, walking out, and slamming the door behind them, in unison. Yesterday, the heat left in the afternoon, heading out and leaving silver storm clouds behind, and I had lunch with my friends as the weather changed, as the clouds covered up the sky and left the sun trying her hardest to peek through. In the afternoon, the roads were all wet when I drove up into town to meet my friend Nicola for a coffee at the bar in the main square. I had some shopping of my own to do too — gifts for people back home. As I got out of the car, it was already sprinkling again. I smiled, grateful for the sudden change.

But much to my surprise, the piazza was buzzing with people. No one seemed to take notice of the rain. Tourists? I wondered, as I spotted a man holding a map and standing under the loggia near the square. There were others too — children running about, families with dogs trembling and shivering on this first cool day of summer, couples walking and stopping, chatting with passersby. A crowd of people had filled the square, right in the middle, their phones out to take pictures. It took me a minute to realise that they were staring up at the clock tower. It was just about to strike 6 o’clock, and Macerata has its daily ritual — at noon and 6 pm — with the carillon that comes out and announces Epiphany, complete with Mary and Jesus and the three kings. It’s short but sweet, twice a day. And here, it seemed, all of these people had come out just to watch it happen.

I had been here before, months ago, back in January, and I remembered back then, back in the middle of winter, no one was out in the square to watch, to listen, to make videos or take pictures of the evening. It was just me and Antonello, waiting for the story to unfold. But this time was different. All of these people — a piazza full of them! And just after six o’clock, the bells began to ring, and we all looked up, waiting. The wooden doors opened to reveal the figurines — angels, kings, Mary and Jesus on a seat high above. First the angels came out with their trumpets, announcing Mary and Jesus’s arrival. Then the three magi made their rounds, gifts in their hands, turning on the track to bow in front of Mary and baby Jesus, and then slowly heading back to their wooden door, like the movements of a music box. And the doors were shut again. The loud peal of the bells, chiming so that all could hear, stopped abruptly. And it was over, just like that — just as it had begun.

I found it curious as I reached for my phone to call Nicola (maybe she was running late) that the moment had ended so quickly. I watched as the crowd dispersed on this afternoon in August. As people went on their merry way as if nothing at all could get between them and the rest of the day — no longer thinking about the pandemic. Back in January it was all we were thinking about, but now things have changed. Maybe all of the hopes we’ve stored up are finally worth saying aloud. Maybe all of my fears can be put aside. I don’t know. I didn’t know then either. But I liked stumbling across that moment, bearing witness to the everyday. To the clock tower, to the bells. To the piazza, and the drops of rain, these first drops of August. To Macerata at the end of summer. I turned. I spotted Nicola in the distance, and I headed off to greet her.

Home is just one week away.

Today I’m listening to: Birch by Big Red Machine.

Published by Jackie in Italy

I'm living in Le Marche Italy. It's 2020 and we're all on lockdown (update: still blogging even though lockdown is over). Welcome to my blog.

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