The Summer months were coming to an end, so too was his journey. The final few days of his adventure had been potent, coated in a melancholic beauty. He always walked behind her. Curious to blur the lines between the film in his head, and the reality that was.
It had been some time since The Elephants Head. A pub synonymous with true grit and ethanol. A pub he had frequented on various chapters of his own education. It was a grand place, with grander memories. Time quickens when falling down the rabbit hole. Still, the sun rose on that day like any other. It was the same characters in a new setting. There was an air of certainty surrounding them, a stout and unwelcome feeling, that the story would end with his departure. It was not a Hollywood tale, no three act structures were poised to rescue whatever preconceived notions he held. This was different, this was a bluesy and jazzy foray into the rare and dangerous storyline of improvised existence.
She had taken him to the famed hometown of Romeo and Juliet. Verona was simpatico of old and new. The storefronts on the main roads seemed freshly paved and tended to by concrete farmers. The crowds grew dense as the streets became rigid. He had spent the previous few weeks in a small town outside of Torino. Learning slowly, he had grown accustomed to the musical pleasures of a foreign poetry. As they strolled through the crowds, the familiar tones of a touristic English had begun to overwhelm once again. ‘It didn’t matter’ he thought, he was not here for them.
They had decided to see the infamous home of the famed Juliet, perhaps see the porch she spoke those famous words upon. The signs all pointed that way, or the other. Millions walked around the streets in the same moment, maps and guides clasped firmly in their hands, with a keen eye on their surroundings. Every so often she’d suddenly stop, spotting a potential frame that no one else could see. It was the snap and burn on the film, the crackle of the winder, the frustrated sighs she emitted while trying to line up her shot — this was a new sort of music for him.
You could hear the balcony before you saw it. Hollering and itinerary fuelled groups could be heard through the stores and cafes brandishing their Shakespearian motif. The centre of any city is the filtered nexus of what was advertised. It still is the place, but so coated in silicon that the essence has been eradicated. The guiding signs weren’t needed any longer. Follow the marching crowds. As they turned onto Via Cappello, the air was no longer from the trees. They were in the belly of the beast, facing the small archway that led to the world planet approved landmark. They managed to get through, snap a photo here and there. The statue of Juliet had a line of people waiting for their photographic chance. The stairs leading to the balcony were brandished with prices and times.They turned to each other, nodded, and walked back from whence they came.
Detours were a necessity in times like these. Walking in an aimless but driven manner, the streets became more and more deserted. Each turn had a building leaning forward or backward, a slight bend in the otherwise straight and ragged roads.
He began to ponder. Travelling further and further afield, he could hear the city breathe once again. Ah, finally, the city without it’s make up. Imperfections are the reasons we fall in love after all. She spotted a small cafe in an alleyway. They sat and watched the world go by without them. Sipping beers and aperitifs, the conversation danced around the inevitabilities of his imminent departure, she rolled her eyes at the repetition.
She snatched his camera and began to scroll. She gave each flick a careful consideration. He took a long sip and let it sit in his mouth. He swung his head back as he felt the Italian hops dance down his throat. He gazed directly above at the overcast sky clashing with the yellow stone. Her smoky voice interrupted, “I like this one.” His attention was more on the tattoos that covered her arm than the photo being presented. He smiled. She blew a raspberry, took a heroic gulp of Aperol and went back to scrolling.
The waft of orange from the spritz threw him back, or maybe the beer was working. Like magic, he was suddenly days before in Venice. After an exhaustive search they found a small bar that would give them the traditional cocktail in plastic cups. They sat on the water, just off from the beaten path drinking, laughing and playing with hypotheticals. He wanted to stay there, basking in the warm memory. The conversations about love, politics and civility reflected against the cool golden skies of the famous town. It was a fine place to go back to. Deep down he knew, the smell of oranges wouldn’t always bring him back to he- “Hey!” suddenly, he had returned. He was still at the cafe and unwittingly entranced at his empty glass. “Should we go?” She reiterated. ‘I still have today’ he thought. Those unwritten hours that were to come had limitless potential. He nodded and they left to walk off the drinks.
The light was dipping lower by the minute. In the distance were the sounds of the colosseum, preparing for a night of opera. “I wonder..” She pondered aloud, before deciding for them, “Let’s Go!” Before he could mutter a response, she was ahead. Her own camera was swinging nonchalantly in her fingertips. Her pace quickened down the unfamiliar street, toward the sounds of the colosseum. He wandered behind her, smiling at the endless possibilities. The plans we have and the plans that are. In the end, sketched optimism was found with rusted cameras and a pair of worn in shoes.