I spent more than 50 days of quarantine in Italy. I struggled everyday with my own existence in a place so empty to me, so foreign that even words felt cumbersome. I was living and working in the home of a family that spoke Italian. Even my thoughts betrayed me as I guiltily redirected them to my role there, my work. Nothing could match the circles of uncertainty that washed over my being. Laying day and night between blank walls of that room that I could not change because it wasn’t mine. Scared to make a mistake because it was my work that kept me there. Everyday it was the large window in my room that helped ground me. Looking at the clouds gave me hope, and as they turned pink in the sunset, I knew my day would come. The birds that beckoned in the early morning brought the gift of sound, and variance. The flowers, watered and cared for brought color, blazing when the sun hit them. The lights that flicked on after 6pm in the ocean of surrounding apartments reminded me that I could have a life of my own someday. It was these yearnings that inspired my drawing, a depiction of everything that created my hope during quarantine all brought into the walls of that empty room.
These days I have been seeing Rome; having flashbacks to a city in another part of the world as I’m living my life here. My quarantine was spent there: two months between the same walls day and night non-stop. Seeing gray. Forgetting color except for the occasional grocery excursion. I’ve been seeing Rome again these days even after coming home – because after having been stuck inside for so long, my weekends were spent walking the city for hours. I got to know the place. I became accustomed to routes, looking at destinations and not needing my map anymore. I knew how the light climbed between buildings and illuminated my skin, and how the sun worked it’s way through the gaps and wrapped me in it’s aura. Light from the sun was how I hoped for the future, how I dreamed, and now I’m seeing the same light across an ocean. When it rises to the trees behind my house at golden hour, I see into a corner of Rome at the same time: light hitting the same angle, resounding the same colors. For a moment my brain takes me there and it’s completely real. A moment later, it’s gone, the memory only flickering, and I remain dumbstruck, because for a second I was in another place. Eventually I regather my composure.
This is the after-effect of my time in Italy, scenes so ingrained in my mind from countless hours of escape from grayness on the streets of the city. Attached to these memories are powerful emotions: with days slowly growing longer in quarantine, my hope grew with it, along with the promise of living on my own in the not-too distant weeks. Walking around Rome, I slowly discovered a deep fulfillment inside, being free from judgement, living alone for the first time in my life, savoring that independence I had only weeks before, yearned.
I created this shirt for myself last year, thinking I would bring it to Italy with me, but in the end, I didn’t like it. However, after a year of travelling and coming home, I’m finally really loving what I’ve created. The simple yet beautiful lines, and the skimming yet not overly-tight fit defines my style.
What if I woke up from a long sleep and all I saw were cities between clouds, green space, and lines cutting through it, lives and the way people lived them, and the shadow of clouds on the earth. I’d wake up with the pressure of gravity on my chest as the plane would lose touch with the ground. What if that was all I remembered in life, the plane rides. But I know this flight will end and I’ll touch ground again, and it’s something that happens often. Falling out of touch, and then back in, returning is an inevitable part of life
A collection of polaroids taken during travel away from home this year
One of the things I love about Rome, or maybe just Italy as a whole, is it’s depth, spatially. I love how you can walk by an archway and as you pass it by, it seems for a second that you caught a glimpse of another world. Behind the archway there is an open courtyard, behind which stands another archway, then a statue, then a garden. Colorful and still, the sun grazes the archway, uninterrupted by an occasional passersby’s shadow.
I love the graffitied walls behind which trees blossom with spring’s orange flowers. The peachy buildings contrasting against an everlasting blue. Even when you look up, behind these branches the sky is all you can see, a depth reaching across millenniums. A playground for the sizzling life below, the perfumes from open kitchen windows, as well as the honking of motorbikes, buzzing around the pedestrians like bees. Seagulls that beckon in the morning as a tribute to the day.
And every once in a while you may find an oasis, a forest with it’s own noises and scents. It’s own paths, and hidden treasures, and colors.
It was a crime to kiss, they said
But when we met our feelings only seemed to be
Pouring through cracks they had broken
When we were shadows before
Elongated by the growing sun
We never seemed to touch
reason or another
Small excerpt from a larger poem
I am the sun, And I walk with a sweetness in my soul That catches in water pools Or on red cheeks And I smile As the day ends I turn buildings to gold My uncommonly beautiful silhouette across the wall They watch me stand with a calmness of breath, I am lost in brilliance, sometimes At the bottom of pits and prying through cracks in doors Conformed by the shapes that surround me, Yet I’m curious. The people have been waiting for me. The way I bounce off of blue waves in rainbows Playing between eyes of lovers, Descending slowly to pink clouds, And losing color, disappear I am the sun, Bringing an easiness in the mornings Opening leaves to illuminate their inner workings A little magic brushed upon And carried by the passersby Into the new sunlight.