All It Takes

MikeachimThe Everyday1 Comment


The voice coming over the loudspeaker is beginning to struggle.

“Uh – on platform 6, the Treno Notte to Roma will be leaving in approximately…”


I can’t make out exactly what’s being said, of course. It’s in Italian. I don’t speak a word of Italian, barring “pizza”, and “gelato” (which should keep me alive, albeit unhealthily and therefore not for long). Regarding Italian trains? I’m a dead loss. Hell, I don’t even know the Italian for “train”.

But it doesn’t matter. The tone says it all.

“And…and on platform 4 is…”


Somewhere in this station, an undoubtedly harried-looking announcer is trying to give updates in front of a window she can’t close, behind which is a very loud, very jovial drunk who is expressing how delighted he is with his life so far. She’s much closer to the microphone – and he’s still¬†drowning her out.

Around me, everyone is giggling. I glance around, catch someone’s eye, and we share an unspoken, language-transcending appreciation of people in charge being made to look like fools.

All it takes is a crinkling around the eyes, a shared grin. That’s all it takes. I’ve spent the last 5 hours failing to connect with anyone – partly through choice, exhausted as I am from overnight-training from Paris, partly due to the guidebook on Rome I’ve been lost in…but partly because Italian mannerisms have baffled me. They’re so alien. Nobody is doing anything reassuringly English. Tiredness has heightened my sense of isolation. I can’t eavesdrop on conversations, I can’t make smalltalk. I’m a ghost lugging a backpack.

But now, a moment’s connection with a stranger – and it’s like sunlight laying across my face – just for a moment. It’s enough. I’m part of the world, once again.

Image: Alessandro Capotondi