Jessica moved to Puglia on February 21st. Shakespeare left for his new home on April 18th. And I? I was stuck having committed to the company for which I had worked for 26 years to staying until the end of June and finishing up a number of projects of some import. I was no longer going to an office since my boss and I had agreed that I could do what was expected of me remotely. I attended meetings, drafted documents, wrote letters and prepared for the opening of a new hotel of which we were just completing the construction. But, despite the activity, I was bored, lonely and missing the hell out of my little family.
I took the opportunity to visit my parents, my beautiful daughter and her husband and their two incredible and gorgeous daughters. I also made sure that I spent some time with the good friends we had made in Pittsburgh and say arrivaderci to them, but these interactions, though heartwarming, were no substitute for Jessica’s absence. Neither were the frequent phone calls or Skype sessions between us. March crawled by; April groaned on; May flowed like cold tar.
Then, on the evening of May 30th, I was exchanging emails with by boss about a few business items and I ended my response with “and if it should occur to you that I can do whatever you need me to do from Italy, please don’t keep that thought to yourself.”
His response: “Go be with Jessica.” I didn’t even try to hold back the tears. But, there was much to be done before I could leave and I wanted to leave in the worst way. The $150 fee to change my flight from June 28th to June 4th was the easiest money I’ve ever spent.
Did you know that a one-way airline ticket can cost nearly twice what a round-trip ticket does? I didn’t until we tried to buy one for Jessica’s flight and, of course, in order to satisfy the Italian bureaucrat in Philadelphia, only a one-way ticket would do. I was able to use credit card points to get my ticket, but the itinerary took me on a 21-hour journey from Pittsburgh to Brindisi via Chicago, Warsaw and Rome. With frequent-flyer status on exactly none of the airlines in the package, I had the pleasure of sitting in a middle seat in the last row of each leg, making the flight from Chicago to Warsaw, Poland a real peach. There were frequent announcements from the flight attendants and from the cockpit but, since I speak only enough Polish to order a kielbasa sandwich, I understood none of them. Though the airline was courteous enough to repeat the announcements in English, the speakers’ accents were so heavy that they might as well have still been speaking Polish. As a result, since I could neither see where we were or understand what I was being told, I had no idea we were landing in Warsaw until we were nearly on the ground. I was never so happy for a flight to be over.
There was a group of priests on the Warsaw to Rome flight. I have no idea why I thought that to be curious. I did find it comforting, though.
Probably because of the priestly contingent, the flight to Rome was quite unremarkable and we all disembarked and headed in our different directions. I’m guessing that theirs was toward Vatican City, but I may be over-generalizing there.
I then had to clear immigrations in Rome and transfer to a different terminal for my Alitalia flight to Brindisi. This involved re-checking my large suitcase. I stood in the line to check in for the flight and, when I was called up by the attendant, all went smoothly until I tried to had over the bag.
“Sorry, but there is a charge for your checked bag,” she said in very good English.
“Yes, I know,” I said and handed her a credit card.
“Oh, no, you cannot pay here. You must go to another counter to pay, then bring the receipt here and you can leave the bag with me.”
“You mean I can’t just pay here and you take the bag?” I asked in a way that hinted at the fact that I had been sitting in the middle seats in the last rows of airplanes for the last nineteen-and-a-half hours.
A supervisor must have overheard my question because he came over and asked what the issue was. The attendant told him and he asked if I could use a credit card. I handed it to him and he proceeded to show the young woman how to execute the vast array of challenges involved with charging someone for a checked bag. Fifteen minutes and several phone calls to the Alitalia computer center later, the supervisor handed me the baggage claim ticket and I was off to the gate.
The flight to Brindisi lasted its scheduled 40 minutes and was pro forma. I retrieved my case at baggage claim, walked out the door into the public area of the small airport, and immediately saw Jessica whom I had not seen in nearly three months. As exhausted as I was, all I wanted to do was be with her: sleep could wait. We had much gazing into each others eyes to do. Our dear friend, Colleen had accompanied Jessica to the airport so the three of us headed home to Cisternino where we were joined by her fiance, Francesco.
We had an intimate celebration that night — just Colleen, Francesco, Jessica and me — that rivaled any I’ve been witness to. We were together, Jessica and I, and the friends that meant so much to our move to Italy. Oh, and let’s not forget Shakespeare who re-acquainted himself with my lap. And we were all finally in Puglia per sempre, for always.
Next: Trullo nella Pineta