I truly never thought the day would come. I had packed a week before my departure day, but after returning home to Ventura from San Diego, I somehow acquired another car-full of stuff. Panic settled. I feverishly sorted what to donate, store, and pack. In the end, I was 50 pounds over. I got in a ridiculous conversation with my mom about the 250+ pound people who would be getting on the plane, and how it only seemed fair that I carried a little extra weight. In the end, we decided to bring an empty bag, so that if I couldn’t manage, she would walk away with a suitcase and ship it to me when needed. I spent the morning running final errands; bank, post office, phone calls etc. I got pedicures with my sister and mother.. We’re quite close with the salon, and when I entered the owner proclaimed, “Hello! Welcome to Milan!” After my ‘last Mexican lunch’, and a tearful goodbye to my father, we hit the road for LAX.
I approached the Air Berlin counter trying to appear confident. As I eased my bags onto the scale, I attempted to bear some of the weight on my thigh. The clerk cleared her throat accusingly, and I nudged it on completely. I was over. WAY over. Plan B. My mom opened my extra bag and I started putting things into it; shoes, sigh, books, double sigh.. After adjusting the weight amongst the bags, and 5 more weigh-ins (literally), I (almost) complied with the regulations. Though the accusing glare of the clerk made her displeasure evident.
My mom and I weren’t quite ready to separate, and by the look on her face I knew she had a plan in mind. As we walked away from the counter she guided me over to a large faux palm. Here, she explained that I should repack my bag, with all the items we’d just taken out. I laughed as we slyly put the items back in my carry on. However, there were two major issues; my winter coat and rain boots. I regretfully slipped of my sandals and put on my bulky boots, then shrugged my coat on over my tank-top. I looked like a complete joke. And the carry-on which was supposed to be 13 lbs was closer to 30, but I had to maneuver as if it was light.
We said our “see you soons”, as we do not do “goodbyes” and I made my way to the security line. Which is when ‘the looks’ began. I forgot about one of my only complaints of Italy, which is the stares from strangers. They start at your shoes, and slowly make their way up your entire body, linger at your face, and continue on. I always stare back, trying to read their thoughts, or at least make them uncomfortable so they look away. But it doesn’t work. Ever. At first I thought it was just me, but slowly I realized everyone is checking out everyone. Even babies in strollers have perfected this look, making the most confident woman feel self-conscious and awkward. So now, in the international line, it was as if a spotlight followed me, wearing poke-a-dot rain boots and a velvet coat over my summer outfit. Except people didn’t look away. They couldn’t, it was just too appalling. I couldn’t get on the plane fast enough.
The flight was uneventful enough, until, for the second time in my life on a plane, someone had a heart attack right next to me. The last time, he was laid at my feet as I was waiting for the bathroom, and required a defibrillator to resuscitate him. I was told to stand flat against the back wall, to avoid getting shocked. This time, in the middle of my sleeping pill stupor, I watched with an air of detachment. One emergency landing later, we arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany. He was fine, by the way.
Waiting at my gate I overheard a couple of older women speaking American English. I detected their east coast accent, as that’s where my mom’s family is from. Turns out, they were from Staten Island. Anyone who knows anyone from Staten Island knows that a good time (or at least a good show) is sure to follow. They would be visiting their family in Italy, whom they hadn’t seen for 20+ years. I talked them into (though it wasn’t hard) joining me at the bar for a beer. After all, we were in Germany. We shared stories of love, life, and travel. We even created a video the would be compiling to show their family. What was supposed to be a 5 hour layover, turned into a 7 hour layover due to rain. At last, after 7 months of waiting and 20 hours of travel, I arrived in Milan. The San Diego chapter of my life had officially ended, and Italy was eager on its heals.