'Bring It On'
The morning came knocking at my wounds. Pain wanted me to drown to depression and my body wanted more sleep. The voice of my mother called faintly in my ear, ‘up, up for practice’. Not this time, mother. I’ll get up on my own. All this pain was because of my parents.
Part of me wished my grandfather was still alive. Everything changed when he passed away. My grandmother followed his lead shortly to the afterlife — love birds till the end. Mom, however, weathered slowly like a forever flower, she didn’t notice her petals dropping like bombs on me. She became stiff and dry with every day, starved without my grandfathers’ existence on earth.
And in all the pain that called for pain, she came. ‘Do you believe in fate?’, ‘... we will meet again.’ Her smile eclipsed the sun that rudely fell on my face. The thoughts in my mind bowed to her essence. I smiled through the pain in my left cheek and allowed her to rule my thought — a morphine injection to negativity. She summoned me, the real me.
It wasn’t a first. There were moments where I was almost certain we were thinking of each other at the same time. Electric thoughts that sparked in my chest and warmed my body. An odd dose of certainty. We will meet again. And just like that, I sat up with an unbreakable will.
If I could become among the best violinists at twelve, I could surely find my way to London. Start with the simple musical scale: the bow on the strings. Vibrato comes later.
My plan needed much more refinement to its primitive initial stage. A booked Airbnb and one-way ticket to London will not work anymore. Neither my skillful-decoy-bookings across Europe, that felt ingenious to me. With no money this time, the challenge is real, but not impossible. Only true artists could serenade with an untuned instrument.
I rescheduled the three months Airbnb in London using the hotel’s business center, requested the reception at the hotel to change my room for the last paid night (before saying goodbye to comfy, safe sleep), and headed to the complimentary breakfast.
Preparing for the apocalypse, I stuffed a few bread slices in my jacket, a bunch of butter, jam satchels, and an apple in my pocket. Anything that could last a few days. I did the same thing again the next day.
Using the laundry bag, I stacked the rations after adding the complimentary biscuits and condiments the new room offered. I hogged all the shampoo, creams, shaving kits and tissue papers then locked it all in the safe box.
I should’ve used that box for my passport and money; amateur mistakes that will not be repeated. Nothing will stop me from catching her wild smile. Aya’s smile. I decided to call McDonald’s girl ‘Aya’— beauty, an angel, a bird that flies. Many accurate meanings.
‘The first steps to liberation was financial stability.’ My grandfather’s advice made sense at that moment. I needed to find a night job that paid cash which meant in the suburbs. Preferably close to a church so I could nap my mornings on its benches. Roaming alone the darkness of the night caused my bruised eye to sting. But, Tomasso’s blade lived in my pocket and my naivety armor remained stripped on the Navigli stony ground. I was ready to sprint like the wind, courageously.
McDonald’s didn’t pay in cash. I knew that but I had to hear it. Some owners didn’t even bother to respond to my application, they turned back into their crafts shop, clothing boutique, grocery store. The job I nailed was at an old man’s cafe shack. He sold snacks and pizza, too. I got lucky, no need to spend money on food.
It might have been my broken Italian, but old Marco asked no questions; maybe he saw the desperation in my eyes after twelve other places rejected my terms and asked for identification.
I started immediately. My shift was split in two: six to ten mornings, and evenings for twenty euro a day. Elon Musk survived on a dollar a day for a week, twenty euro was a fortune.
In a week, after my consistent presence at church was noticed, I checked in at the hostel. I needed a shower badly. It set me back twelve euro a night for a room shared with twelve loud travelers. Crowded was an understatement. But, I was on a mission and advancing. Nothing would stop me.
Things were running well, I expanded my wardrobe with two outfits. No comparison to the suit I already owned. I got a cheap smartphone, too; it froze almost periodically like a metronome when browsing.
Occasionally, I’d look up news about me. Oddly, nothing about my disappearance. Had my parents not noticed my absence? It bothered me that my grand gesture of freedom was ignored. I was used to having an audience.
Marco had an old acoustic guitar. I started playing it in the morning. Although it was not my instrument, it felt great to play again. To create. Customers poured into our cafe and I got a 5-euro raise. It was nice, this certainty, that hard consistent work would lead me to London. There I’d buy a van and drive up north. I’d find her. ‘We will meet again’.
“Stronzo!” a familiar voice disturbed. I cleared the outdoor table and turned to find none but the damsel in distress staring at me. I ignored her going back to my chores.
“It is you,” she said with fascination, I, however, was cursing the cruel humor of coincidence.
“I think you should leave,” I said, turning to meet her eyes again. “Sadly, we avoid serving criminals.”
“Don’t take it personally, stronzo," she said, "Welcome to Milano.” her mouth dripped with mutiny and smirked like a devil.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t like her but respected her victory. Regardless of the means she used, she outsmarted me with her gang. I admit the defeat. She must have earned a bruised arm that night with her oscar worthy performance.
Over the next two months, she came around with her Italian friends that bore copies of her rotten attitude. They called her ‘Valleh’ short for Valentina. She made it her hobby to smear her victory in my face. I served them like other customers wondering when their little joke will fade. I had no time for such distractions.
“OUCH!” Valley shrieked in pain. I leaped like the hero I am to her side. She curled around her injured hand. I snatched it out of her grip. It was red, all red. Wrong kind of red. She smeared her ketchup-dipped finger on my confused face and laughed. “You are so easy.”
Her laugh rattled my anger lose. My grip on her arm tightened and squeezed surprise in her eyes.
“It’s not funny. Stop! stop all of it.” I urged.
She flicked the ketchup off my nose with her tongue. And just like that, my hand quivered in anger between us. Her eyes shock fear at my flaring nostrils and tense jaw. My core boiled with the need to break something. I couldn't break her arm, not the tables around, not the cutlery. I had to leave, now. I was a ticking bomb.
With no words, I tossed her arm and abandoned my shift.
I dashed down the streets aimlessly on my skateboard. The speed caressed my face and braided wind in my hair. Fresh air rushed to cool the lava bubbling in my gut. It was working, my storm was settling.
I jumped and skidded my board on the upcoming bench racing the flicking pedestrian green light. My board flipped beneath me as I jumped the curb. Out of nowhere, a green Volvo hatchback hit my mid-air legs and halted.
My landing was disturbed. luck was not on my side.
The impact threw me off balance and I landed on the hood of the car, head hammering the windshield before I rolled to the floor. I bounced to my feet, grabbed the man that left the car and sprinted to check on me. My fist clutched his shirt with a grip of steel.
“CAN'T YOU SEE?” I said hammering him to the hood that just plucked me off route. “OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES.”
He mumbled in Italian, his hands up in surrender by his face. Blinking with fear, he looked to my fist that strangled his shirt. I was soaking his shirt. The impact had slit my hand.
I noticed the blood gushing and suddenly the Screams of pain were audible. The fire in my core resurrected, like a suffocating fire fed a breath of oxygen. The flames blazed my anger with heat. It felt like my hand was not mine, like I was a visitor in my own skin. I didn't like the feeling. To gain the control of my arm again, I had to hammer the poor man against the car. My arm broke free and shook under my vision.
What was wrong with me? I grabbed my skateboard and darted to anywhere away from the Volvo that reeled in a crowd.
No matter how fast I ran, I couldn’t outrun the heaps of thoughts that cascaded all at once. A burst of things that exploded under the tight tough front I held. I tried to find Aya’s smile in the storm of anger, but all I could find was all the bottled up events that ate at me slowly. The damn sh*tty pizza that I grew sick of, the money I had lost so stupidly, the aching arm that throbbed reminding me of the weeks it took for my eye to return to normal. The fact that there is no search party or any information about my escape. Will Aya know I was coming for her? Did she even follow my news? And Valentina! The annoying criminal with her nickname that rings with the stretched Italian accent her friends called her with ‘Valleh’– the manipulator that I serve daily. It’s her fault. Since the night I stained the banks of the Niglia with my blood, Milan thirsted for more.
I gripped the knife in my pocket wanting to slash something.
‘Articulate!’ my grandmother’s voice rose from the stream of thoughts, ‘observe and articulate your emotions, a true gentleman never breaks in tantrums.’ Her explanations came with more cryptic wisdom: ‘There is no point in fighting a storm.’
Shards of thoughts spit like poison,
fingers clench like a snake.
A total blackout with no caution—
insanity attack that I can't shake.
It was difficult to fish out words. My mind was insisting on destruction, debris, and all kinds of pain. I threw the knife at the trunk of a tree hoping it would leak some of the anger. But it didn’t. It just hung there, reminding me of how I wanted to stab the roommates that kept changing weekly. The boys that came had no manners no matter what country they came from. I hated how economic I had to be with my money and my clothes. My jacket suit still had that cut from that exact knife. A constant reminder of my failure. How I wanted to gut these three a**holes that ruined my life.
I could feel tears wanting to break out. No. I won’t give in to the cruelty of Milan. Milan will not win.
My face turned fierce, deadly.
“WHERE. ARE. YOU,” I screamed at the top of my voice to the sky. It felt good.
“WHERE ARE YOOUU!” I wasn’t sure who I was calling for. My grandfather, grandmother? Could they see me from heaven? My parents, that didn’t even know I was missing? Aya? Was she listening? It wasn’t even night, yet. No stars could be seen, but I knew they were up there. I knew we were both standing beneath them.
“I am here, Stronzo,” Valleh’s voice intruded my rollercoaster dive to doom. I looked annoyed at her with my worn skateboard under my arm. How dare she steal this moment from me, as well.
She stood next to the tree and started pulling at the knife I threw earlier, it was deeply plunged in the tree—an Excalibur, my valuable Excalibur.
“Could you just leave me alone?” My furred eyes and clenched jaw spoke louder than my words. I had no more money. Did she already spend the ten thousand they snatched off of me?
She remained silent, wiggling the knife out. Irritated, I walked her way and snatched ‘my’ knife from her hand just when she set it free.
“That’s Tomasso’s,” she said in a rush after my quick grab.
“Not since I paid generously for it.” Anger was still dripping from my eyes.
“You are bleeding,” she said calmly, unthreatened or phased by the knife in my hand or my anger that admittedly scared me. As if she had practiced facing the devil.
“Isn’t drawing blood your secret talent.”
“Come, Stronzo.” No clever reply. She tugged my shirt ignoring my accusations. I pulled my sleeve free looking for a fight.
Her eyes calm as a morning mid-ocean under blue skies. She looked away from my fierce gaze to the knife with a slow-motion that was equally annoying as an eye roll.
“Don’t call me Stronzo, I am no idiot,” I pressed.
“No, you’re not, what is your name?” Her Italian accent audible through her calm tone.
I hesitated. Recalling my name reminded me of the serine composed violinist I was just three months ago.
“Sinan.” I said with a defused tone.
“Come, Sinan." She pulled me. I followed.
What else, Milan? Bring it on.