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In black and white
Florence. Rain. The streets shine. I see the world in black and white now. Everything looks like it’s captured on a film camera. Dark. Contrast. Moody. I do not speak the language, I'm not sure where I am in this city. I came in on a train. I visited years ago and the pictures I have of that visit are in black and white on film - so it looks like little has changed, bar the advertising and fashions. It is raining hard. I have an umbrella, but it feels like another object which I might lose - I toy with the idea of losing it on purpose and just pulling my hood up.
The penumbra of the umbrella offers a little solace. What am I doing here alone in this city? What made me fly into Pisa on a whim to see this country one more time, to see this city? Was it that I would be miraculously cured by a visit to one of the churches or the Duomo? Did I need to see the splendour of Michelangelo or Masaccio before the inevitable?
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I didn’t come to remember. I didn’t come to forget. I just came here feeling there would be some peace. I had not thought this through at all. The rain, as it seems to have always been, was my saviour. Keeping the tourists and locals at bay - keeping them hidden - or busy, preoccupied with keeping dry.
I sat outside and drank my coffee. For a few years now I cannot drink from a cup, the china reacts with me and it spoils everything. But also I see all the lips that have caressed this cup before me, I am half excited by the red lipsticks and soft petals that have caressed and half revolted by the course, foul breath, moustached visions that my mind conjures. I take my coffee in a paper cup. Describing it had been an effort, the young barista couldn’t or wouldn’t understand, and she had seemed more preoccupied with the boys in the café anyway. But I had managed and here I was under an umbrella made to shade from the sun, under my umbrella, watching no one go by, across an empty Renaissance piazza with the finest coffee I have had for a long time. Perhaps the finest coffee I shall ever have. However long 'ever' is.
The act of being here is a final one. I feel. Things are stopping working. The journey was a nightmare. The speed needed to make travel happen - being in the right place, boarding, finding where you sit, moving for latecomers - all the trivial things that happened without thinking, now take an age. They irritate me and make me grouchy. They annoy others, and that in turn angers me. I am grumpy most of the time. But in those brief periods when I am settled, nothing is ever so good.
Here now - building up to this coffee, it’s all been worth it. At a threshold, it will be obvious that this coffee will end, and I will have to move. But for just now everything is as perfect as it ever can be and ever will be. Amen. It is not cold. And that is a blessing. But I am wrapped up. I am chilled all the time now. I always have been, but now at this age, I need to keep layers on. I wear a scarf all year round - people probably think it is an affectation in the summer months - but the cold starts here - around my neck - I feel it penetrate my collar onto my flesh and seep inside chilling me - once it’s there - like a wetsuit - it keeps my temperature moderated - moderated to too cold for me.
Shot on a Nikon f810 in Florence Italy, 1997