As the months passed, our journey took us further away from the base we had created in the US. A feeling of rootlessness started to feel normal, and comfortable. We drifted into the space between belonging and not belonging to a place. We were in the space in between.

I got off the train in a town near the coast in Tuscany called Pietrasantra. I was here once before. That time, it was the first weekend of the summer season, the first weekend in May, when I stayed at the Hotel Palazzo Guiscardo. This time I returned to the hotel at the beginning of October, the last weekend of the season. I did not want to know what happened in July and August, for me Pietrasantra was just opening or just closing. On both occasions, I was always the only person in the hotel. The hotel that looked sparkling in May looked worn in October. In October the paint was no longer fresh, and the curtains smelt musty after a season of guests. The staff were ready for their vacations. Regardless, I was greeted with warm smiles and words. I asked for the red room. The room with the red floral wallpaper and thick red floral curtains. It sounded awful and after viewing the room on my phone, Peter declared that he could not stay in that room. I smiled. It’s important to make space to do our own things in a marriage. Mine was staying in the room with the red floral wallpaper.

Daily I walked in the town, on the beach, and occasionally headed up to the hills, constantly breathing in the fresh Tuscan air.

After visiting Peatrasantra, I met Peter in an Airbnb that we had rented in Florence. We had hoped that we would have found a six-month rental by now, but we were not the only people in town and the task was challenging. The town was packed with tourists. As ludicrous as it sounded, I always like to think of myself as the only foreigner in a place when I journey. I will never find that in Italy, but I will do everything I can to reduce the number of tourists surrounding me by deciding to find a place to stay outside of central Florence.

I arrived at the Airbnb before Peter and stood in front of the heavy carved wooden door and began to follow the directions for entry. One of the wheels on my suitcase was broken and the case felt heavier than when I began my journey. I buzzed a button and the door released; it took all my weight to push it open. I can only assume that a person cannot age in place in this building with this door. I dragged my case up 22 steps to the elevator. The directions specify 22 steps; 23 was not an option, so I don’t know why they bothered to mention the amount. The elevator was a very small one-person elevator with gates that must be pulled open to get in. Small elevators and flying fall into the same category for me. I guess I could label it claustrophobia or the fear of not being in control. I did not even know the word for ‘help’ in Italian if the elevator was stuck. But I was unable to lug that suitcase up three flights of the marble staircase. The suitcase or I would have a catastrophic ending if either of us fell. I enter the elevator and push the level 3 key. As per instructions – I exited the elevator, turned right, walked to the second door on the right, and took the key from the key box. I opened the door and walked down the long corridor to the last door on the right. This is literally a building within a building. I began to feel as if I was in the movie, The Matrix. The final door had four deadbolts on the inside of the door. There is nothing about the neighborhood that suggests such security was needed.

I finally opened the door, closed the door behind me, entered the living room and sat. I kicked my shoes off and took a long breath. Suddenly I could hear someone opening the front door, which I did not deadbolt four times.

I was alone. Peter’s Ryanair flight from Berlin to Florence was canceled and he was still screaming at Ryanair and walking around Berlin airport trying to find a flight with a different airline. I listened to the door open and decided that I was too hot and tired from travel to do anything except go to the door and say ‘hello’ to whomever was entering the flat. Which I did.

I walked to the entrance, and there stood an elderly man. I’m convinced that there are numerous sets of keys for all Airbnb flats, shared between owner, neighbors, family and friends.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Ah, you are here.” He commented.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I did not know that you had arrived.” Which I presumed explained why he used his set of keys.

“It says check-in time is 4 pm, and it is 4:15 pm,” I commented. I was beginning to think this was an Italian moment, which I was warned about regarding time issues.  It was obviously a strange experience for him that someone would appear at the time stated on the contract.

“Have a nice day.” He declared and closed the door.

This time I used the bolt locks and left the key in the lock.

I called Peter.

“Did you get a flight?”

“Ryanair won’t give me my suitcase back. They say there will be another flight late tonight and if not, tomorrow. I will never fly with them again. How’s the flat?”

“Interesting. Keep me posted about the flight.”

‘Interesting’ was our word for meaning that the subject we were speaking about was not exactly what we had expected. Too often the images I created in my mind were different from reality; this was one of those moments. I thought the flat would have an Italian flare– a balcony overlooking olive trees, and a colorful water jug. But instead, it was sterile, and the small balcony looked straight onto a building site.

Peter called again.

“I am flying Swiss Air to Zurich and then Zurich to Florence. I will be there tonight.”

“How did you get your suitcase?”

“I slipped in behind a luggage worker to the luggage area and grabbed my case and left.”

This is not the sort of thing a person who fears flying should ever hear. I did not comment.

Peter called again at 6:30 pm.

“I arrived. But no luggage.”

“I don’t think you and that suitcase are meant to be together Peter. How about you take this as a sign to buy new clothes. You can change your style. An Italian male style. Tight trousers that end at the ankle and a tight silk white shirt. What happened to the case?”

“I made the connection from Zurich to Florence, the case did not.”

That evening we sat in the flat, in the dark as we did not understand the lighting system.

“What do I wear to bed?” Peter asked.

“You can have my pajamas, as they are stretch material, and I can wear my leggings and T-shirt.”

The next day he commented:

“My clothes smell.”

“You can have a pair of my socks and some big-girl underpants. You will be okay; they are not the small tighter undies.”

“I’m going to wash everything,” declared Peter Sunday afternoon.

After washing, we realized that Italians do not use dryers. Sunday night neither of us had pajamas; Monday neither of us had undies or socks. It appears to take days to dry clothes on the balcony. We wore our trousers over our bare bottoms and shoes without socks.

Swiss Air reached out Monday evening and said they had the suitcase. It was three days before they delivered the case.

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