I’m waiting for tube in Stazione Centrale and my train will be here in three minutes and a half. we’re well into spring, everything melted and winter is far gone. a voice calls my name, I turn around and I see M in front of me. I stand there, dumbfounded, with my mouth half open, and the only thing I manage to say is ‘what are you doing here?’. he looks clean. he’s been studying in Milan and is about to graduate, he says. ‘I was in Dublin for six years’ I say, ‘I just got back a few months ago’. he also asks me about N and I say that I’m still in touch with him and we see each other once in a while, when we get the chance: that N is still in Naples and he finally managed to graduate and nobody could believe it. I throw some random, distracted glance at his body and notice he gained weight. he’s obviously embarrassed, and probably feels the need to apologize for never calling, never trying to get in touch. with a quick flash, my mind takes me to our last call, when he was getting back to rehab. ‘I had to cut everyone out’ he says. ‘I caused too much trouble’. I look at him with what I think is a serious and understanding gaze. through the years, my eyes filled with tears thinking about him, but crying it’s always been difficult. after four stops we get to our destination. four stops for seven years. on the escalator, he tells me about this girl he’s with now, a painter, and I feel a slight, itchy discomfort, that’s only a pale reminder of the moments where I actually suffered for him.
we get outside. the sun hits our faces and we look at each other with eyes ajar. I look up and see the dark tall building and the sky on the background, perfect blue, with its fat, well defined clouds. then we just stand there and look like total strangers. we don’t know each other anymore. our lives crossed, so unforgettably, so triumphantly, before they parted ways. we could exchange phone numbers, meet for a beer or maybe for lunch. but it’s not the case. and I don’t want to anyway, or it doesn’t make any difference. we’re just shadows now: metabolized pieces of each other’s past. ‘I’ll see you next time I meet you by chance’, I say. he answers with a sincerely bright smile that lights up his face and turns around. M goes his way and I go my way. after a few steps, I turn around for one last glance, and I think of all the times we said goodbye and I used to hope he would turn around too. but he never did. he never turned around. as if he was ready for the next event, for what happens afterwards. as if looking back didn’t make any sense.
He’s lost in the crowd now. I think that I’ll never see him again.