Today I had hoped to be on my way
to the Cinque Terre, but after a phone
call to the hostel there ("We're all full tonight,
try tomorrow.") I made a quick change of plans.
Now I was on a bus, en route to the venerable city
Siena is composed of 17 distinct neighborhoods,
called Contrade, all fiercely proud of their independence.
Each Contrada has its own flags, songs, cheers and rivalries.
Twice a year in the summer, they compete with each other
in a horse race called the Palio, an event that
has become a huge tourist spectacle.
This day the town had only its usual throng
of visitors. By myself, but far from alone, I drifted about
the city with no particular ambition, rootless and ghostlike.
Floating in the stream of humanity, I was drawn effortlessly
to the city's center, the piazza called Il
Shell shaped and sand colored, the
sloping cobblestone space resembled a beach without an ocean,
and people were treating it that way, reclining
to rest and catch a few rays.
I did the same, sitting down to dig through
my pack, searching for that half-eaten package of crackers.
I was absorbed in my quest when I heard someone
call out, "Liz!"