They are squeezed in. I am reminded of the ‘packed in like sardines’ phrase – but that only makes sense if you’ve opened a tin full of sardines. But it is like that. I am sat down. The station is not really hot but not cool either. I can’t remember now. Was it only San Babila where they had the fans and the water spray every few seconds?
I hope that, in spite of the time of day, it is not rush hour for the ones going my way.
Previously, I had taken the tube. I noticed when a new crowd got on at one station that the smell ‘changed’ from a sort of plasticine to something else. I wonder if it the station or the people that made the smell change? I seemed to be more acutely aware of my surroundings- I don’t know why.
There was the young guy in the white shirt. Asian – like Indian or something. With the sideburns so short and thin running down besides his ear as if a line of dirt. The small goatee he had, seemingly false – attached at the lip only, very small and very black and standing proud of his chin – at least from side profile. The girl, short, not pretty but not ugly either, with the young guy. She carrying all the bags and with a propensity for hunching her back as if to presage the change, in 40 or 50 years, when she really would have the widow’s hunch; he not seeing to care that the bags were all with her, and not really responding when she put her arm around his hip, withdrawing it seconds later, perhaps because of his lack of response?
There was the woman, who, ducking under the arm of a guy holding on to the rail above his head, screwed up her face as she did this, and which face told me everything I needed to know about the guy’s personal hygiene or, rather, to be fair, the heat of Milan.. As she ducked and made the grimace, he moved because, actually, he was leaving the train too.
Outside, whilst I was waiting and watching the large digital display of temperature on the building at one side of the square; as the temperature clicked from 33° to, what looked like, 39° (which, in fact, seemed much more realistic) but which was 34°, there were the group of rather loud and, probably, slightly drunk men, sitting at the café (which is not really a true café but rather a kiosk with some high tables with matching high stools – all in red – since they were sponsored by a well known cola maker) talking loudly about something which I take to be football because different countries seem to be being compared, including England and Uruguay, etc. There was a woman who, at first I thought had just been passing and had stopped to look at them but on reflection must have been a part of the group; long, slightly curly (wavy, maybe? – no more than just wavy), brown hair, tied back with one of those half pony-tails that sit on the top of your head – there only to keep the fringe or the sides of the hair away from your eyes; of large build and, if I had been in the UK, lived, undoubtedly on one of the less salubrious council housing estates – but then, what do you expect from outside a main station in Milan.
As I’m stood there waiting, two municipal policemen come out from a ‘hidden’ door just beside me, the door just beside another kiosk that seemed perfectly closed to ensure the public can’t actually get any police help, one with a cycle and one without, the room was dark (one wonders if anything was ‘going on’ in there). I note that the policeman walking with the bike has, fixed to his hip, a large plastic-looking baton – with a handle that could come from a sword, all white making it look like some children’s plaything and if it would glow and make a noise, perhaps it could be a Star Wars weapon? The policeman with the bike walks off towards the traffic in front of me, the other guy walking towards the station – behind me but round me, me noticing his gun and wondering if they all have enough special training as to its use, saying his goodbyes or have-a-good-days or whatever.
Even in the shade, which is not real shade, it is hot. I really don’t believe the 34° but prefer my version of it – 39°. My shirt sticks to my back; I feel uncomfortable. I left the tie in the car. I notice and don’t notice things. A man with a child (I don’t even look round to see them) walk past, behind me. Did she speak English?, I wonder but vaguely not actually wondering because I’m not actually caring. I’m sure she said something like ‘There’s a tram?’. Did she add ‘Daddy’ or ‘papa’? I could continue to listen for signs but I don’t. It doesn’t matter if they are English or not; if they are tourists or not; if they even exist!
I see the café where we shall go, probably. I think I might suggest going inside where there will be air-conditioning. Or, perhaps the outside bit will have fans and water spray like they do in the Brera or Navigli areas. After all, this is a place where many tourists come – both Italians and esterni. I really want the beer that I have promised to myself. My body says ‘YEAH’ and ‘WHY WAIT’ and ‘GET ONE FROM THE CAFE THAT YOU’RE STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO’. I have a cigarette, instead because, if I’m honest, I’m frightened to go to the bar – I would have to push past the people that I don’t like who are still, probably, talking about football!
Is this what it’s like to get old? To be frightened to do things because of what may happen? Mind you, to be fair, I was always frightened thus. I’m not built like a ‘brick shit house’ as the phrase goes. I remember, when I was a kid, my Nan, for some reason, used to have those Marvel comics and they used to have the ads in for ‘7 stone weaklings’ which was me! And so, I thought, one day, I would get these things and transform myself into the guy who did not have sand kicked in his face – but I never did nor, now, would care to.
And, so, I don’t get a drink. But I do have a cigarette.
And then I wonder, as I usually do, if I will recognise her. I mean, I’ve only met her once and my memory is terrible. I watch someone walking away towards the park – but it’s not her, I know that much. I pretend not to look at anyone, just in case I don’t recognise her and I curse my memory for being so bad. But I sneak a peak, every now and then. Every now and then being every second, just in case.
I text her to say I am in the shade so she will know where to look because I’m not in quite the right place. I see someone waving and know, immediately it’s her. I needn’t have worried. But I shall do the same next time.
We air kiss as one does but not in the affected way that they do in the UK. Here it’s normal and natural. We go to the bar and she suggests inside, for which I am grateful. We go inside and she asks, in Italian for a table. As we sit down the waiter comes and talks to us in English. She responds in Italian. I think to myself that she is annoyed by the fact that they are talking in English to us – but I am British with a very British accent and she is Italian who speaks English almost like a native American/Canadian. Again, I am amazed at how her accent is not Italian. How every word she speaks does not end in a vowel as is more common here. I don’t know why but I’m also amazed that her accent is American/Canadian. It’s a little like black people speaking French, to me.
We order our drinks and I talk. She talks too but I am certain I over-talk. As I talk I keep telling myself to shut up. But then I forget and talk some more. I think I’ve forgotten everything we’ve talked of in the past. I am crap really. But the talk is easy and not strained and, after all, we know so much about each other and yet so little – like we’ve been friends for ages but not really known each other. And yet we know things that others do not, so it makes it confusing.
I talk some more and some more. We are not going to be that far away from each other for our holidays. Maybe we can meet? I want her to meet F for some reason. Maybe I want validation that what I have written here is true?
She has to catch a train and we walk back to the station. Then she tells me of her news and I am really pleased for her. So much so that I suddenly realise she might be missing the train. I hope she doesn’t.
I go back to the metro station and, as I pass the other entrance to the main station I look up at the departure board. Against her train (I suppose) are the flashing lights. I try to work out the platform to see if the train has gone or not. It seems not. I hope.
I go back down to the metro. And this is when I see the train packed like sardines in a tin. One end of one carriage is without light and I think to myself that the unbearable just got worse! Even worse than that is that it is one of the older trains with no air conditioning.
I reach my station in an air conditioned train. I see a text from A wanting me to go have ice-cream. The message came through when we were at the bar but I forgot about it till now. I say yes.
>As I come out from the station into the oven that is the outside and the street I wonder if my car will be there. I reprimand myself for being so stupid as to a) park in a blue zone without paying and b) parking too close to the car next to me – but I had no choice – the space between the two cars was so tight because of the way one had parked at an angle.
Everyone wants to save the square – save it for the trees – from the huge underground car park they (the council) want to build, here called a silo (probably see-loh rather than sigh-low). The trees are old. The square is quite nice although they could do a better job with the dog-walking areas in the centre but I’ve mentioned that before. At least I will probably have a fine. But what do I care – after all it’s not my car and, hopefully, it will be given back in a few days and then it’s not my problem. But I shouldn’t have parked there, really. Or, rather, not like that.
But it’s OK. The car is hot but not as hot as when I got in it at work. Then it said 45.5° and it felt like it. I drive back home and wonder how I introduce her to F? Maybe I just don’t really do the full introduction? Ah well, let’s see what happens. We only have a week which won’t be long.
I look forward to seeing F later, little knowing what had already happened……probably. I mean, what had probably happened by the time I was driving.