Mediterranean Homesick Blues
Sometimes you have to travel with your mind.
A carafe of wine. The smell of salt in the air. The warm, sea breeze washing over you and perhaps some good sea food, let’s say some black squid linguini, with just enough of a spicy kick to wash it down with some lemon water and you’re good to go. You don’t ask for much in life but a quiet reprieve from the mania which is New York City often brings you here, although it is all in the mind. But you were here and this is more or less what you did. You sat on the jetty, looking out over the Mare Nostrum, formally known as the “Roman Lake”, and you can’t help but think how you are so drawn to it. It was a quiet moment, lost in thought, contemplating the history that took place around this calm body of water. There are no waves; just a tranquil sea, stretching out towards the horizon. You sat there, smoking a cigarette, thinking of your ancestors. This is where they came from. Behind you, there are many people lying about the beach, drinking in the sun, smelling the sea salt, taking it easy. It is so calm and peaceful that you can’t help but wonder if the whole thing is a dream.
No one is on top of one another, you notice. Each person has their own private space to get lost in. Some are with their families, others alone, sitting on low beach chairs, a bottle of water beside them, a paperback in their hands, occasionally looking up at the sun, perhaps even pouring a little water in their hands and sprinkling it over hot skin. That’s what that beautiful, raven haired woman in the sunglasses is doing, you notice, feeling a smile pulling at the corners of your lips as you watch her rub the water onto her arms and shoulders. There are a lot of beautiful women here, in fact. Your mind quickly compares this scene to what you are used to seeing back home – towels lying end to end, the pompous, self-important strutting from everyone just looking to be seen. You ask yourself how on earth can a bunch of people who are literally on top of one another all week long come to the beach only to be crammed on top of one another again. You don’t see this here. Here is a different world.
Someone has a radio and the music is just loud enough for you to catch snippets of it between the conversations of those who are passing by you. It’s a thoroughly Mediterranean music — somewhat Greek, somewhat Turkish sounding, perhaps a little Spanish guitar thrown in for good measure. You can’t tell who’s listening to it but it is providing the perfect soundtrack as you continue to observe everything, continue to lose yourself in your thoughts as you contemplate how often people think what they see every day is often the only thing they know. The singing comes now and it allows you to determine, definitively, that it is indeed Greek and it is then you notice the little radio sitting in the sand next to the woman who had rubbed herself down with some water a few moments earlier. You can’t tell what book she’s reading although you do try to see it. She’s just too far away and the thought of going over to her to ask crosses your mind. But you don’t do it. Instead you catch another whiff of sea salt and seaweed as the breeze comes in off the water, causing you to turn your head to look out at the three young boys in a boat, casting a net into the water. An old tradition. Ancient. Perhaps you had ancestors who had done the same thing. You lean back, rest on your hands, close your eyes and take in the sun. You take a deep breath, breathe in that sea air and just let your mind go.
Then something startles you — a voice, coming from somewhere to your right. You open your eyes and suddenly you aren’t where you thought you were. There are people everywhere and they are all looking towards the commotion. The smell of sea air has been replaced by the smell of the New York City summer and various kinds of ethnic foods. The tranquil music you heard coming from the beautiful woman’s radio is suddenly two people arguing over a subway seat, each of them getting more and more angry by the second. Cursing, screaming, threatening one another — people laughing, others sucking their teeth, others griping that it’s too hot and too early in the morning to listen to this shit. The two that are arguing begin shoving one another, causing the mass of sweating, miserable bodies to surge towards one end of the car, towards where you are sitting. The voices get louder as the train comes to a stop, swallowing up yet another crowd of people, all scrambling around looking for a seat, some of them bitching and moaning that there aren’t any. A woman grumbles that she never gets a seat. Ever. Another begins to gripe that she keeps getting pushed by the surging crowd as they pushed their way into a space that has no room for them. The voices continue to bellow, shriek and moan and you close your eyes, try desperately to get back to that jetty and that woman reading her book. You can’t now. It’s all over. As the train pulls away towards the next station you no longer smell the sea air but rather someone’s armpit, someone’s Big Mac, someone’s coffee. No matter how hard you try to get back there it’s no use. For the moment, it’s gone, but you know it’s not forever. As you look around at the mass of bodies all pressed up against one another, look at the scowling faces, the depressed, miserable stares, the look of utter hopelessness in their eyes you can’t help but know that there’s a better way than this. You close your eyes again, but you still don’t go back. This time it’s merely to shut out, as best as you can, everything that’s going on around you.
Tags: beautiful women, body of water, carafe, haired woman, hot skin, jetty, lemon water, linguini, little water, mare nostrum, private space, quiet moment, reprieve, roman lake, sea breeze, sea food, sea salt, spicy kick, tranquil sea, warm sea