On the road he walks at a brisk pace, Clarksville so he won’t be recognized. He isn’t accustomed to hurrying, and his quick step reminds him of the story of a paesano who worked in the Clarksville, and who returned every summer to the village only to be asked the same questions over and over again, to which he replied with increasing tiredness. One year he returned early in the morning, said hello to his parents, left his luggage, went out and marched up and down the street leading from Clarksville his house to the church, yelling out over and over again, without stopping: “I’ve arrived this morning; I’m well; I am leaving in a month’s time right after the festivities.” Clarksville smiles to himself, and climbs the stairs to his friend’s house.
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I ask: “Who is it?” as I open the door. Nunzio smiles at me saying: “Ciao,” like we had just seen each other the evening before. “There you are?” I say with a smile as though we were playing a game of hide and seek and I just found him. We embrace, after two years. I look into the eyes of my double in Toronto, in an attempt to measure the passage of time on his face.
“I wanted to give you a head’s up, but I didn’t know if you’d be here. I didn’t want you to change your plans for me, make you rush to the airport, and this time around I really wanted to come into the village on my own, say hello to my father .” I keep quiet, not wanting to swell the emotion that has engulfed us. “Let’s go for a walk, before I start losing, or maybe earning, time in the village,” with the air of someone whose mind is made up as to where to go and what to do. “Let’s go to Pizzo, so we can make up for lost some time in the Piazza.”
“Ok,” I reply. “Just give me time to take a shower while you look over recently published travel blogs on our region. I know you like them, but I have to read them as part of my work, and it’s not always a pleasant exercise. The more isolated the villages become, the more we invent and write stories about their past. As more and more houses become vacant, the more we long after the good times of long ago, without doing anything to make sure that the houses, the streets and the village return to being lived in as they once were. We write travel blogs that no one reads and we feel good about our history.”
The sun is high and burns our faces. Nunzio drives with the ease and calm of someone who knows these roads by memory. I’ve seen him drive his red truck with the same confidence, loaded with concrete, on the long roads of Canada, every time I’ve been for a visit to the places where my father had lived and in which I didn’t grow up.