The bambina in the passageway stares sweetly beneath her pigtails.  Her tiny feet dangle, hands folded neatly upon her lap. In the window behind her, the countryside whizzes by far too quickly.





crisp and yellow.

Through another window

the sea.

I think of my first Van Gogh.

The tears.

The awe.





It’s strange to think Nonno left this place.

“We are Americans,” he’d say.  “We are Americans.”

Even the mugginess of the compartment cannot suppress what I feel here, the anticipation.

Why did Nonno leave?

What called him away?

Why did he never speak of his life in the great “before”?

Who did he

leave                          behind?


The train makes a brief



One of the new passengers sits down across from me. His eyes catch mine as I look up from my journal.

“Ciao,” he says.

“Ciao,” I reply. I go back to writing.

He leans forward, folding the newspaper in his hands.

I look up.

He smiles.

“You are American?”  He asks.

I hear Nonno’s words ringing in my head.

“Si,” I reply.

“Where in America you live?”

He is handsome. In an unfinished, sculptural kind of way.

I look over at Magda, who clutches her iPod.



Head                           resting                                                             against             her seat.



“California,” I answer. “You know it?”

He laughs.

“What about you? Where are you headed?” I ask.

“Headed? What does this mean ‘headed’?”

“On the train, I mean–where are you going?”

“I go, from Roma?”

I try another avenue, tell him Monterosso al Mare is my destination.

He pauses, thinking.

Say it, I think.




Say,                                                                            me                              too.

But, he only smiles and tells me

“a beautiful place, Monterosso” and that I might “relax and enjoy there.”

“You on vacanza?” He asks. “Holiday?”

“Not exactly, no.”

He nods. “How long you stay here, bella?”  He asks.

Magda opens her eyes, bleary.

“Where are we?” She asks.

“I don’t really know,” I answer.

My Italian friend nods again, and disappears behind his paper.

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