It was nothing like what I expected, but the best things in life never are. I looked around the room for something to hold on to as the mist crept in to cloud my mind.

No dice; just heads bobbing in a sea of people.

No faces; just eyes cutting through the distance between me and my thoughts. The underground room was crowded and space was scarce. There was no room for ideas.

There was no time for excuses either. I downed a drink and grabbed a mic out of sheer chemical confidence. It was time.

Nobody on earth knew where I was in that moment except for the three dozen bodies swaying left to right in lapping waves around the well-loved baby grand. Three dozen locals; the American and the Canadian were nowhere to be found. No consolation from familiar faces. All the better: Consolation wasn’t what I needed. I wanted a way out, and simultaneous shrapnel to the head and heart would have been preferable.

The band began to play the saddest song I’d ever heard. I turned to meet the eyes of the accordion player, realizing for the eleventh time that night that he only played guitar.

When I was young, I never needed anyone. I still didn’t, but I would have liked a drink to remind me; I would have liked a second drink to forget.

I was out of liquor and out of luck. So I worked myself up to whisper All By Myself to a dimly lit piano bar and a crowd of hands with upsettingly full drinks. The hot air from moving bodies rose up to cloud my judgment before sliding out of the basement to shiver like steam from vents on the streets of Sorrento.

I didn’t know better, but if I’d known less, I would have convinced myself someone had replaced my heart with a five-pound fish fighting desperately for life two inches from salty salvation.

That’s Sorrento – the seaside slice of paradise that will drown you with rain and wine if you dare confront it and ask for a place to rest three months before it’s ready to deliver.

In 48 hours I travelled 50 years into the future, only to travel 50 years back with a strong sense of nostalgia and the urge to make the most of everything. I ended up treading water in a sea of possibility. Time stood still; memories changed; I saw the future and I looked pained. So I came back and sang my heart out like everyone was watching: Humble, timid, alone but surrounded.

Consumed, enamoured.

Italy was having its way with me and I was too charmed to stop it: You become where you are when you think no one’s watching.


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