Step on a plane in one world, open your eyes in another.
That time has come. When my suitcases are crammed, flirting with the 22 kg limit for international baggage and I'm safely past the check in desk and able to exhale as I barely escaped the overweight fees. And now, somewhere between Boston to my layover in Montreal, and then Montreal to Rome, my universe shifts and the hours all melt into one never ending day, as I sour above the clouds and through a time warp. I enter my favorite world. The one I can only live in when I'm on a plane, globe trotting from one reality to the next. 17 hours seem like six days. Time has no beginning and no end, and my mind doesn't know wether to sleep, try to untangle my messy bun, or listen to my latest playlist.
Across the ocean, a dear friend and beautiful city await me. A Romanian native, Andreea moved to Italy with her family when she was 12. Four years ago, in the summer of 2012, I met her in the small bed and breakfast where I stayed when I came to visit my brother who was studying abroad. She kindly drew me a map, circled the colosseum, and shopping districts. That night, she took me out for a drink with her fiancé, Tanino, originally from Sicily. Blonde, petite and my height, we were instant friends, as we took Rome by storm with her incredible tour guiding skills. She inspired me with her cute fringe shorts and ankle boots in the middle of Italian summer (“here, the streets are dirty and we like them so we wear them!").
Tanino and my brother bonded over beer, pubs, and broken english, and for my 10 day stay we scoured Rome as the Romans do, and with two of the kindest people showing us every cobblestoned street and cannoli of the breathtaking eternal city. Fast forward four years later, after letters, Skype videos, and hours of chats on Facebook and WhatsApp, Andreea is one of my closest friends. And finally, I get to see her and Tanino once again. It’s funny how life works. This world is filled with 12 million people, all with their own stories, lives. People we don’t even know exist, until life and God intersect in the most mysterious of ways to make paths cross. And suddenly, our lives are changed forever. Friendships are born, love is found, and nothing is ever quite the same.
17 hours and a layover later, I arrive to Rome's Fiumicino International Airport racing through gates, arriving a sweaty, non stylish, heap in front of the arrivals door. Andreea has arranged a car for me (“NO you will not take the train a car will come get you!”). She fought me hours on this through WhatsApp, until I reluctantly agreed. I manage to find the driver Andreea as sent. He speaks no english, and I try to make him feel less uncomfortable by occasionally pointing at buildings and scenery during the 40 minute drive from the airport to the hotel where Andreea is working. The car slows as it bumps over cobblestoned streets and finally we pull up to the inn, with the beautiful Spanish Steps looming in the distance. I fall into the front door with my 800 pieces of luggage and she runs out of the front office after her 9 hour shift to hug me. She leads me up the stairs to the terrace and we drink our 6 pm cappuccinos. Four years might as well have been four days.