Exhausted. Another ridiculous, crazy, wonderful adventure comes to an end.
Spent my last night in La Controra Hostel in the centre of sticky, stinky, noisy Napoli. I loved it. The Napolitanos seem so brimming with life amidst all the chaos.
Today I was paid one of the best compliments I’ve ever been given. Michela behind the desk at the hostel. 23. Pretty. Dark (of course). Really sparky. Cheeky. With a loud girlish laugh which would suddenly burst out of her with true joy. The unaffected joy of youth. Coquettish. Immediately quizzical about me when I got back from Herculaneum.
“What’s your name?” with a half smile. An English girl would never be so bold.
A lot of banter passing to and fro. She’s training to be a language teacher so I mocked up a student/teacher student situation. Goofing like a child. Lovely, gay Alessandro meanwhile had locked the last member of their hostel crew in the slatted baggage area. She looked like a Japanese POW.
People arriving, checking in, toing and froing. That great feeling when you feel someone’s energy is connecting with your own. You’re not quite sure at first but then suddenly you know and you’re both vibing off that knowledge even though I know I’m going to be leaving the country in 2 hours and I’m never going to see her again. Me, just uncaring. The confidence high.
“Is it ok to get my bag?”
”Sure sure, J”
”Hey, don’t lock me in there.”
She chuckling and shaking her head.
“..because I saw what you did to your friend”
”Hey, that wasn’t me!”
Too much attention. Me like some terrible actor lapping it up. Like when I was a boy realising I had a little something. A bit of sparkle. A glint. Getting back to boarding school after the holidays. Walking into dorm “Hey fans!” 10 years old and loving the limelight.
I’d already spent 24 hours with another girl, Janique Verspailles. What a name! Doesn’t that just look and sound beautiful? Janique. 50. Calm. Tranquila. Keen. Nothing happened but we had a great, great time.
Another girl, Amanda. Australian. Annoying. Wanting to share a lift to the airport at 7pm. After a week of being alone this was overwhelming.
Returning in the nick of time at 7 to meet Amanda and Janique waiting to say good bye in the reception area. Other people milling about. Someone – who?? – questioned something trivial about me getting the taxi.
Michela from the top of the steps leading God knows where.
“But he iss Jayymes. James is……perfect.” The pause was really there. She was really thinking about it. It was a half-second but could have been an hour. And when she’d said it a silence briefly fell on the room. I looked into nowhere and thought this is one of those moments you savour for as long as you can. Janique, in her calm way, raised an eyebrow and I lowered my head feigning embarrassment. For years and years I’ve been unable to cope with compliments. G, my first proper girlfriend would always say “Just take it” in response to a “Oh, don’t be silly.” I know bro is the same. And even two weeks ago I was saying “Oh, don’t make a fuss” about me leaving school.
”I don’t want to be bigged up.” To Mike (my head of department for 10 years).
When I repeated this to R, my dear sis in Corfu the other day. She immediately jumped on it.
She was totally right. I was totally wrong. Be good to yourself. Why always put yourself last? I’m 44 and only just starting to learn some really obvious lessons but how excellent that I am. Learning, knowing yourself is surely a start on a possible path to wisdom and happiness and this evening in the reception of La Controra I allowed myself and the rest of the room the briefest of smiles but inside I was singing.