The clickety clack,of the train to Florence from Rome is monotone, a mantra as we move along clogged arterial tracks. Stratified hills slither, first up then down, in a line, with topsoil scrubbed clean from feeding centuries of fleshy Italian babies.
Bumpy blankets of sunflowers stretch in the noon with heavy heads nodding yes and no to a question of bloom. I try to sketch and write what I see, but it flashes fast-forward. Flash—a farmhouse with a calico cat sleeping near a whirlwind of feathers. Flash—a lofty villa where one must wear white gloves to lunch. Flash—a pond dotted with white swans diving into their own reflections. Note to myself : “I will never step into this same river twice.”
A tunnel’s sudden blackness covers me like a cool, silky blanket. Only the clickety-clack of the wheels reminds me I’m moving beneath mossy earth. The light skids and falls on concrete walls revealing cryptic Italian graffiti: the fine art of boredom for angsty teens with black, spiky hair. Except for the universal “F” word, it all means nothing in particular.
Flash—DaVinci’s mountain to the right. Note to myself: “DaVinci often had his students jump off that mountain to test his flying inventions." Bored teens truly enlightened.
Stepping through rickety cars strung together like metal sausages, I wonder if the train will arrive before I do if I keep moving to the back, against the flow of time. I recall those impossible word problems: “At 40 MPH Train A leaves at 10 and Train B leaves at 2 which of the two arrives (where I can’t remember) first?” The white-haired man by the window snoring into his dusty book probably knows all those mysterious math book answers.
The train station echoes the end. Flash—Human traffic: disturbed ants. Two nuns the size of five-year-olds glide by, ghosts outlined in black. Young street urchins collect tourists’ wallets like sea shells on the beach. A young girl with dirty, pink toe nails and hopeful artist eyes stares at the orange stain of the Florence sky. Note to myself: “Was I on Train A or Train B?”