Six months later and I see the same kitchen table, rooms and wall hangings, but every time I blink, I see the purplish-pink sunset over the bay and Castel dell’Ovo glowing in the golden light; I remember the colorful cliffs of apartments standing sentry and showing off from the hills; and I see the red-moon reflection in the water from the Pozzuoli boardwalk. I can still hear the violin street performers on Via Toledo, gathering crowds of tourists and Neapolitans alike; the fishermen bargaining the polpi and joking in swift dialect; and the surprised wee! tutt’appost? of good friends running into each other on the street and exchanging cheek kisses. I still smell the scooter gasoline, the sweaty salty heat, and the last Piennolo pizza with vera bufala mozzarella.
I knew coming home would be hard, different, weird, and bittersweet, and it was, but something I did not expect was the assault of English. I left Naples wiping my eyes, distracted in my own world of thoughts and aches, and I arrived in Dublin totally in shock. In Italian, I have the choice to listen or ignore, while English was my release, my safety. With my native tongue all around, my ears started to ring, my head hurt, and my longing for Italy hit me harder.
Once on the plane to Boston, I felt my anxiety rising, something I hadn’t felt for at least five months. Something about speaking a foreign language acted as my armor, and gave me protection from my own nervousness and fears. Hearing my first language all around me again made me feel stripped raw, and made me feel more vulnerable than I had felt in a long time.
Despite this, I was in awe of what the trip represented. Leaving Italy, switching in Ireland, and arriving in Boston acted as a metaphorical journey of my heritage. It was a reflection of where I’ve been, who I am, and where I’ll go. As an Irish-Italian American, I have multiple homes, places where I feel a connection and that act as more than vacation spots. In Italy I learned my grandparents’ language, in Ireland I saw my dad’s freckles, and in Boston I heard my mom’s accent. From the Naples Bay to the Boston Bay, I touched the lands of my family, took a mental picture to remember for when I’m missing home, and promised to return.