Ali Matteini

a life creative

Dynamic Summer

I was going to title this post “Crazy Summer” but let’s seek out the synonyms… Heady? Dramatic? Life altering…mmm…Dynamic!

The fucking dynamic summer of 2019.

In late June I began moving house, a process that should have taken a day to accomplish, and then I got sidetracked. In July I began work in the tourist office here, right at the time they launched an experimental electric bicycle “self service” app setup…launched in beta stage and (to this day) not without a daily problem or glitch.
My evenings in summer were spent in my new place. I’d spend hours in the evening, sitting in the doorway of my terrazza having virtual aperitivo (telefonicamente) with my friend Melissa, a classical violinist living in Sorano. We’d talk up and down, laugh at our sanguine natures, our decisions and indecisions, the weirdnesses of our current situations, just pulling apart the fabric of our lives and setting it out there for one another to comb through.

And then I suddenly got sick, a weird illness that had me four weeks with daily, day-long crushing headaches and blood pulsing in my ears, head pressure, neck pain, muscle weakness. I’d recently visited the thermal pools nearby and the place is crawling with ticks, so naturally I thought that a possibility. I went to the emergency room at one of the nearby towns, and the nurse said straight away that ticks don’t do that (nb: in the same hospital, three years earlier, they in fact had a patient with a tick and misdiagnosed him for similar symptoms. Two weeks later they dug a tick out of his scalp and he began to get better….go figure).

I spent the day in emergency under observation, no tests, and just an ibuprofen shot in the butt, and sent home again. The following day I was OK, and then a day later down I went again, same symptoms.

This time I went to another hospital on the other side of the mountain, where they actually took me seriously, put a catheter in my arm, took blood tests (all normal), ECG (perfect), and then sent me to the big hospital in Montepulciano, that great big edifice plonked amongst miles of vineyards.  There I was put on fluids and injected with a contrasting solution and given an MRI. I stayed there all night, in the emergency room, during a massive storm with rain that came in through the windows, between blood and moaning and vomit – other patients in far worse condition than me – and honkingly noisy Italian nurses. Dramatic? Dynamic!

The following morning I was discharged, head still pounding. When I finally got home at 2:30pm, I found myself with the lightshow migraine of a lifetime, took ibuprofen and slept for 14 hours. And the next day I was OK, and stayed ok. Started back at work the following day, and then the craziness of August in Italy hit the town.

After that, I picked up where I left off – moving house. Heatwave, August, working every single day alongside my darling of a colleague Giulia, sometimes until 11pm, for 6 weeks, and tending the jewellery studio when I could.

On the 9th of August, I had an evening free to go see an electronic music concert held in La Peschiera, down below the town. I’d had dinner with my friend Kim who was visiting Santa Fiora with her Italian partner, and then we walked across the street to the concert. Amongst the strobe and noise we talked and talked for hours, swigging our sneaked-in red wine. When Kim went home, I chatted with my studio colleague Monika till she and her partner left. I still needed to be outside, and I stayed till the very end, alone, happy in my solitude, filling myself with light and rhythm, and avoiding drunk young lechers and gropey old men obviously not there for the music.

As the the last song ended I took my leave, quietly, sneaking out along the back road, leaving space between me and the larger groups, before anyone else saw me go.

As I was walking past the stone wall that holds the big trout tank that is the Peschiera, I looked up at the crescent moon, enjoying my solitude, slowing down so I wouldn’t catch the noisy group ahead of me. And then…

“Hello! Do you speak English?”

I jumped because I’d been so bone deep certain I was alone. Then I thought,  Oh God, a tourist wanting directions. I can’t escape work even at 4 in the morning…
I turned around to meet a set of dark almond eyes and a very, very white, wide smile, a face framed by two braids at each temple. Tall, neat beard, symmetrical face, nicely dressed, turban.

“I am Ismail and I live in Svizzera. But I am from Mesopotamia. Do you know where that is?”

“Sure. The birthplace of human civilisation and written language,” fell out of my mouth. I’m a nerd.

“Yes! And where are you going?”

“Home.”

“Do you want to come to a party?”

“Geez, I gotta work in 4 hours.” And, I thought, I don’t get in cars with strangers.

“Where’s the party?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ok…”

“But my friend knows.”

It turns out the party was at the club that is right opposite my studio in town.

He’d been watching me all night, he said, but I hadn’t looked at him as I’d been engrossed in conversation with Kim. I had, in fact, noticed him there. I didn’t tell him so until weeks after.

The club was packed and the street full, so we sat on the road and talked until 5:30am. Poetry, art, philosophy, film-making, human rights, Kurdistan, Turkey, Italy, Australia and, as it began to get light, we became friends on Facebook and then we both had to go.

While I slept he sent me a photo of the sunrise he’d observed from Monte Labbro with his friend, and later that day he returned to Switzerland.

Ismail returned in late August for a week and stayed with me (he came a day early to surprise me) and we discussed my coming to Switzerland for a visit in November. He is a refugee from a regime that has wanted to oppress an ancient culture for centuries. He is a force of nature, living a life until now that I could never have imagined growing up in Australia. Hearing his stories makes me grateful for where and when I was born, particularly as a woman.

When he was back in Switzerland he rang me one night to say he was taking the night bus to come to me; he missed me. I can say that no one has done that for me, other than my parents. He came back for another two weeks. It all happened so quick, all condensed into a few weeks that sometimes feel like years have passed. He cooks incredible meals, amongst which Kurdish pizza, called lahmacun, or lamajoun. He is creative, animated, passionate, and our cultures are polar opposites.

He is not used to staying in the same house for any length of time with anyone, and I am not easy to live with. We both have a bone to pick when it comes to trusting the word of others. One day, after we’d argued – a combination of a clash of cultural ideals and language challenges – he packed his backpack and was ready to leave. Before he did we spoke, made our peace, and he said he thought he might stay another three days. In three weeks I had not had more than 30 minutes to myself. He was understandably unhappy in this little Italian town that can be both subtly and overtly critical of appearance and situation.

So I said “no”, and I sent him home.

That’s the hardest and strongest I’ve ever been; he accepted with grace, a little sad but proud of me for stating that, and for once here was a person not trying to sway my no to their yes.

We keep in daily contact and I will make the trip to Switzerland. But for this moment I need my space to make very important decisions pertaining to my life here: work, studio, divorce, scrabbling through the crumbs of bureaucracy to reclaim my name here that has, literally and figuratively, been taken from me (and also given over too easily by me) –  and I can’t do all that in fresh company here. I felt this deeply, but it was Ismail who articulated it, once he’d returned and had had time and space to think and decompress in the place that has become familiar to him for his 11 years there.

So, as I write this at the autumn equinox, there ends my dynamic/crazy summer – abridged of course; there are so many things between the lines unwritten, things I have hashed out with female friends, things only I keep to myself, and the rest, through the critical eyes of others, speculative. One day I’ll write all of it, without fear, but for now I am in a limbo state of sorting through the hopes and ashes of the past 7 years.

And as ever I look forward to my future, wherever it leads me.

 

photograph by Ismail

 

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2019 by in creativity.

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