I was on the train heading to Venice. I had drifted off to sleep as the train flowed steadily beside the Adriatic Sea. I was awaken a few times by folks getting on and off or by laughter from the seats across from me. For the most part my car was empty and quiet. Suddenly, I was awakened by a group of three folks coming to sit in my section. I was irritated because there was a whole section of seats that were empty just nearby. I said this to the tall woman and she said “we want to sit here because we reserved these and he’s too old to move up and down.”
I begrudgingly moved my bags as I looked upon the sweet face of an elderly gentlemen. I smiled at him as he sat down then I mistakenly stepped on his foot. Embarassed I said, “Scuzi.” (Luckily one of the few Italian words I know). He smiled and did a gesture meaning “no worries”.
We all settled in. Now I was surrounded by my colorful bags. The tall one introduced herself and began to excitedly ask me numerous questions in English. “Where are you going?” “Why are you in Italy?” “How long are you here?” I answered each one quickly and somewhat evasively but was happy to speak English with someone.
I asked her about herself and her travel companions. Rosey, who was sitting closest to me smiled and nodded hello. Her English was as bad as my Italian but she had a kind smile and curious eyes. Chiara, our translator, told me they were assistants to the older man. He is a famous leftist political writer, singer, artist, theater maker and satirist named Dario Fo who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1997.
He chatted away on the phone as she told me more stories about his fascinating legacy. When he got off his call, he asked her about me. She told him I was a vocalist, composer, in Italy for the first time. Traveling around, researching the history of opera (I’m writing a contemporary opera) and preparing to speak on a panel about sound and blackness at a conference in Florence. Through our translator, he asked if I was a soprano and I said no, a contralto. Chiarra then told me I should go to Verona and see an exhibit Mr. Dario had just put up on the legendary opera singer Maria Callas at the AMO museum. She told me I should also see the oldest opera amphitheater there in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’s town.
She then said I should come work with them. I laughed and said “I have no skills except singing.” Mr. Dario interrupted her and told her to tell me, “You are beautiful like a monument.” I blushed, smiled and said “Grazie”.
I told him he was handsome too and asked to take a photo with him. Then the train stopped and one person after another came up to him and shook his hand and said thank you etc. As we got off the train together, them heading to Milan and I was continuing to Venice, we took a few photos together including a selfie.
You never know who you’re gonna meet, so be ready. Stay open and be kind. Angels are among us.
Feature image by Imani Uzuri