Florence – The Recent Past

FLORENCE, I t a l y

These days have felt strange, at times, surreal. I’m still hovering above the ground. I haven’t fully landed. I wonder when I will.

I’m taking care of my friend’s dog whilst he’s away and I have a deadline for finding housing which is good and daunting at the same time.

I’ve made two ‘big’ purchases – big for a person who hasn’t had a proper income in the last few months with all the moving and transitioning – a pair of sneakers and a fantastic bicycle so I can get around more easily. It’s always been my dream to live in a European town and get around on a bicycle!

I take Nino, the dog, for a walk. He decides to pee in the entranceway of Gucci. Really? Gucci!? Could you not have peed somewhere else? I chuckle; remembering his papa saying, “Don’t let him pee in anyone’s doorway”. I will not be telling him of this atrocity. Gucci, above all doorways. We hurry along in the hope that no-one saw this faux pas.

“Quickly, take a poop, please”. It’s freezing cold and I need to get back so I can start my day. What day? What am I doing? I mean, the list is still long and seemingly overwhelming: choose a place to live, figure out how I’ll make ends meat, make connections at the art schools and yoga studios, finish setting up online portfolios and market my work, and in between, try and learn some Italian so this whole process is a bit easier. Not too much of a list. Ha!

I cycle to the coffee shop. On my way, I stop at a panini shop to see if I can buy a sandwich. I don’t need anything fancy as I only have €5.36 in my wallet and the ATM is too far. Alas, it’s too late. They are all finished. The only thing left are a few cornettos (croissants) and some biscotti della nonna (grandmother’s cookies), which I must say are damn delicious but I must pass as I’ve had way too much sugar in the last couple of days. That cookie was a total surprise when I first got it on a whim a week ago. Soft and flakey outer pastry, encrusted with almonds and custard in the center. Divine.

I could easily turn into a fat Italian mama here – eat my way through pasta, panini’s, and pastries all day.

All of a sudden, I’m overloaded with offers for housing. One outside of town in the north with a bit more nature, sharing with others and my room is below street level and a bit dark. There’s a tiny studio in the west of Florence with a view of the Duomo and the hills of Fiesole, in which things are falling apart somewhat, with a bathroom and kitchen I can’t turn around in as they’re both so small. It has horrendous decorations and a pull-out sofa bed which I think I’ll loath after the first night….but the view! Then there’s another place where I’d be solo, in the east, in a typical Florentine neighborhood. It’s immaculate but has no character and opposite my bedroom window is a parking garage. And then there’s an apartment in the south that I’d have to share with two others in an absolutely desirable neighborhood with light and air and gorgeous views of Piazza Michelangelo and birds and green and it would take a bunch of elbow grease and some imagination to pretend that all the fixtures are not falling apart and haven’t been replaced in a hundred years. So, you see, the universe has me covered in many different scenarios and directions and they all have their positives and their drawbacks and by the time you read this, I would have chosen and be complaining and praising things about one of them.

For now, Nino, keeps me on my toes as I have to walk him three times a day and feed him twice a day, and as much as I complain about having to walk him right before I go to bed when I’d rather actually be in bed, there’s something calming about walking around the neighborhood at that time of night. I’m grateful for the exercise and a cute pooch to hug and talk to when I’m not talking to myself, which seems to be the comforting thing to do as I get older.

I take sanctuary in these, yet to be determined moments, by remembering that I’ve always been OK. I’ve been resilient and I don’t have to figure it out all at once. I have a reminder on my phone that tells me to take things step-by-step and that I don’t need to prove anything to myself or others. To stay in the moment. And when I’m walking down the street, sanctuary is looking up towards the sky and the tops of Renaissance buildings, or when I zoom by on my bicycle and catch a glimpse of a Michelangelo sculpture just hanging out on the corner of the street, and I remind myself where I am and that I made it here. I am here.

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