So I open my notebook, and I grab my pen, because this is all I know.
Renzo had been a truck driver, spent years roaming the roads that span the length and breadth of Italy like so many darker rivers, like ribbons that tie the country up neatly. He knew the ways of passage when few others knew them, got to know the corners in the early morning hours, absorbed his country until he carried it with him, in his marrow, with a slow smile. He spent half his life in a thrumming cabin, leading a mechanical beast that for him took on the semblance of a bear. In the quiet, I know he hummed along. He had stories from his travels, stories that would leave you laughing so hard you would find yourself tucked over, stomach cramping. He would always start by telling you what he was transporting when his adventure had begun. “There I was, with tons of tomatoes, when out of nowhere…”
He was that old-style man, seemingly gruff but with a heart that shone like the sun, deep inside where his vest and his trucker’s garb hid it. You could say that he was simple, if simple can be the highest commendation, hardworking, and fiercely loyal, and when you gave him a sassy answer, his eyes would twinkle. He loved a rebel.
After my father died, he made it a point to come by as often as he could, dropping in on my family with one excuse or another. We knew the reason: he had lost his best friend, and he considered it his duty to stand in for him. And he loved us, because we all loved my dad, and that, along with memories, bound us tightly and made it easier to bear the loss. ‘Together’ is a word I don’t pay enough attention to.
Renzo used to look at me, always solemn, and in his slow and deliberate way he would reach out one huge and calloused hand and gently nudge my bangs out of my face. “You have your father’s eyes,” he’d say, and when he’d turn away he’d give a satisfied grunt, as if that pleased him somehow.
Renzo was peaceful. He loved his wife and blindly adored his daughters, and that was what gave his world the grounds to spin, and he was glad. Is that so simple? He lived his life facing the sun. He was a brave man, and a good man, and I don’t care what people say: the earth isn’t going to forget a human like that.
I wish I had more to offer you for this journey, R. But this is all I know, and words are all I have, and in my heart they hold worth greater than diamonds or rubies or even gold, and so I hope, in some small way, that they may begin to be enough. I know that you are not alone.
Safe passage, my friend.