Milano - Roma
On the early-morning train, an old man practices his English while my parents practice civility towards each other, all held tongues and tight-lipped smiles that stop well short of the bags under their eyes.
He tells me that he was born on the sun, and I’m a direly shy eleven-year-old, but still I want to say something here must surely have gotten lost along the winding, tumultuous transit from Italiano to Inglese. But he continues, as my father hides behind his Frommer’s Rome and my mother makes out the misty Italian Alps looming in the far distance that aren’t really the Alps at all, not to anyone but her—as they will continue to be in her recollection, through the decades, until her mostly peaceful death.
The man’s bushy eyebrows bounce up and down with his admirably polished pronunciations. He leans forward from his seat, both hands on top of his cane. He says that he was much larger when he lived there. Gigantic. The size of a house. And his left-behind big brother was as huge as a hotel—perhaps one affordably priced for the accommodation of a small, young family already starting to strain at its doomed seams.
My mother grapples a shoulder from behind. She pulls together a curt pleasantry from the small scrapheap of phrases that remain from three bygone university semesters. The man nods and sighs as the next stop is announced.
We exit to the platform, and he pokes his head out to explain. Now his accent thickens a bit as he tries quickly to speak of how our planet made him this way. How once on the earth’s brittle, plated surface his shining body cooled, condensed, and grew dim until he was just like one of us: cold, shrunken, finite, afraid. Fragility suffused in every part. How he’s never forgotten the soaring voice of his bright, burning, building-sized brother, the train carrying him away as he watches the three of us growing more and more distant, getting smaller and smaller and smaller still until we may not be there at all.
Jake Greenblot graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in creative writing. He is an Akimel O’odham member of the Gila River Indian Community and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. His recent work can be found in the Hawaii Pacific Review and Fifty Word Stories.