The sun was setting on the Italian countryside between Verona and Venice. The train was going fast, blurring the lines and colours outside the window, making my eyes stare but look at nothing in particular. I was drifting off when I suddenly realised I had no idea at what stop I was supposed to get off at. I looked up and asked the old man sitting in front of me for directions, in what I thought was my best Italian.
“Sei Espanola?” he replied right away.
I probably should have been upset but I was too busy feeling flattered because being Spanish is one of my greatest dreams. I told him I wasn’t Spanish, but that I did speak it.
I said yes.
“We’ll speak English then.”
He spoke a perfect English with a strong American accent, but was often slipping Italian words in the middle of sentences, like his brain couldn’t be bothered to sort things out anymore. He had a missing front tooth and made a funny face when closing his mouth. All of this made for an entertaining and quite lively conversation. He told me all about his life; his forty years as an expat in the United States, how he enrolled in the communist party, about his wife(ves) and children, his youth and his home country, stopping now and then saying “but that’s another story…”. We talked about politics, travelling and humanity. I shared with him my vision of life, my dreams and my aspirations for this world. He listened to all of it carefully and concluded: “You have a good head, kiddo”.
We both got off the train at ‘Venezia Santa Lucia’. He offered to walk me to the station where I had to catch a bus for the airport. “If you don’t mind the company.”
We kept talking through the canals and bridges until we reached a crossing. We could see the bus a little further down. He left me there, with his mischievous little smile and sparkling eyes, giving me one last piece of advice:
“You are the product of a consumerist and globalised generation. So you are part of the problem but more importantly, you are part of the solution. Remember that.”