This post gets quite gloomy. After a short break from this series (because I lost my notebook with all my notes in it) I am going to continue with my solo Interrail journey. The previous installment can be found here.
I awoke in the Novotel Hotel Rossi in fair Verona (of “Romeo and Juliet” fame) and it was raining. So apparently that happens in Italy from time to time, despite their best intentions. I was quite surprised because I’d never expected it to rain south of the Alps for some reason despite the fact that I know how ecosystems and desertification work. I guess I was having a blonde moment, which was odd because I was auburn at the time and I tend to be blonde when my hair is blonde.
So the day hadn’t started well, but I didn’t want to stay indoors because I wanted to get a better impression of Verona, given that at the time all I had seen was a) copious discarded syringes around my hotel, b) everywhere (except that one Japanese place) seemed to be closed on a Saturday night.
After deliberating about whether to go out over
fresh coffee surprisingly tasty cheap wine in juice boxes that would fit in a child’s lunchbox (seriously), I wandered out into Verona. I was glad I did.
The Roman Arena in the town centre (amphitheatre) was stunning – smaller, but more complete than the one in Rome, much more manageable to walk around and a really nice thing to find in the city centre.
After that, I went to the thing I’d wanted to see the most in all of Verona – the Casa Di Giulietta. It’s in a little square and the house is a museum to Romeo and Juliet. After making my way through the exhibition (which was really professional despite being in a small-ish 16th century house), I got to the piece de resistance – Juliet’s balcony. Now I will be the first to say (as they do say at the Casa Di Giulietta) that it is highly unlikely that this is the actual house that Juliet lived in. For starters, as far as anyone knows she was a fictional character in a play made by a man who lived 800 miles away. Regardless of that, it was nice, just for a little moment, to forget the reality and just imagine that it *was* real, that Romeo somehow scaled the sheer walls and got up to this balcony… after all, isn’t the whole point of fictional and theatrical narrative that we get to imagine realities other than the one we occupy??
Afterwards, I found coffee at McDonalds because it was lunchtime and all the restaurants wanted meal-buying customers not coffee drinkers. The girl behind the counter who served me was so skinny that she looked consumptive. She will always haunt me. I have never seen anyone that thin before for their skeleton size (if you see what I mean). I still have nightmares about her. There was literally no muscle mass on her arms just an unnatural and mesmerizing consumptiveness. I wanted to know why. Did she have an illness such as AIDS or TB that she was fighting through? Was she not making enough money to afford to buy food? I have obviously seen underweight people before, myself being one of them (chronically) but I have never seen anyone as malnourished as this woman. She looked like she was in her mid twenties, and at death’s door with her gaunt, grey face and her neck silhouetting the rings of her windpipe and the hollows either side of it. If I’m a size US 2-4, she was like a size -2, and she was taller than me and I’m 5’6. When I returned the next day, she was on the counter again.
I think about her from time to time, even all these years later, and I always wondered what became of her, whether she got the medical treatment she so obviously needed or if she faded away. Healthcare is not free in Italy – and it shows in so many places.
She was extremely rude to me, but I just got my coffee and moved on, resisting the urge to wrap her up in a blanket, bring her home and feed her soup until she looked alive again.
It made me feel morose – then I got mad at myself because there I was, on an incredible once in a lifetime trip to Verona on Interrail, and I still wasn’t happy. And I realized it went deeper than my day-to-day mood, there was a cavernous, all-encompassing melancholy that had ensconced my soul so thickly that I had no idea what would make me happy. I should have been reveling in how wonderful everything was. Instead I felt like there was something missing, and I didn’t know what it was.
I think this was the first time I asked the question (to myself, in bed where nobody could hear me); ‘am I depressed?’ I quickly stifled it with a boatload of excuses.
The gloom gave way to a cracking migraine, so instead of going onwards to Venice as I’d planned, I extended my stay in Verona to 2 more nights and I went back to the hotel, where I sat in the dark wearing earplugs and downed a few co-codamol (Vicodin) with some wine to try and get the pain to stop.
I passed out, and when I awoke it was a bright new day.