That evening I reached Rome later than usual. I got off the train then looked for some place to sit down to wait for my son to come pick me up. I knew I’d have to wait for about an hour since he’d phoned me to say he’d got caught up in the traffic due to an accident.
I saw the family after I’d found a table in a café near the platform. Their belongings were neatly stacked up near one of the marble dividers so common in Italian train stations. The woman and her baby were asleep in a sleeping bag laid out on an open cardboard box, the man squatted nearby looking over them. The first thought that came to mind was that maybe they lived there at night. There were a quite a few of these little “homesteads” throughout the stations of Italy. By their dress one could tell that they weren’t Italians.
Peopled hurried past, either pretending not to see them or maybe as this had become such a familiar sight, really not seeing them. However, with other’s there was an air of rejection and unease that seemed to wave out from them, almost as though it were an odor.
A stylish lady in a fur coat with a yappy dog on a leash, shivering picked her dog up and made a special effort to give them a wide berth as she went by. A middle-aged couple who obviously were doing quite well in life put their hand before their mouth and whispered to one another: “How shameful!” Some other people turned their noses up and a couple of kids giggled.
Two Carabinieri stopped near the man and asked for their papers. He pulled them out, presenting his train ticket too, without hesitation. The police went on their way.
About 10 minutes later, a train pulled up to the platform, destination Cassino. The man nudged his wife. They began to put their belongings on the train just as my son came up waving to me with a huge smile.
“Ciao Ma … how was your trip.”
It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these sketches. I can’t really say why listening to this song by Donovan brought this story to mind. It’s based on many bits and pieces of memories, but no single memory in particular, like a collage it just fell together to make a story.