Ok, so here's the story of the hour.. The story that is taking a lot of my (and my best friend's) thoughts and reflections these days. I was not sure I want to write about it just yet, but then I decided it may be better to do so now, to capture those feelings & thoughts I have right now, before they are altered by reality later.
First, I want to say that this story will not sound believable. I mean, if one of my friends was sharing it, I would probably think they made it up, or that they are changing some details to make it sound better. I do vow though, that I am giving you the story, just the way it is. You may not believe it, but it is just the way it is.
A couple of months back I took a trip to Europe, and I had scheduled 2 days of that trip to spend in Northern Italy, specifically in Milan & Venice. I was to go alone to Italy, and because of the short time there, I had a busy schedule.
Milan was beautiful, despite what everyone kept telling me, that it is an industrial city and there isn't much to see. Milan has a spirit. And I just love cities that have spirits of their own.
On my second day in Milan, I woke up to a rainy city. I insisted I would go on with my plans to Venice, though, and walked to the train station and bought my ticket. The trip would last for 2.15 hours, and the train was busy. I have always heard people complain about how loud us Arabs are, but whoever said that obviously never shared a train car with 8 old Italian ladies. They were chattering non stop and were so loud, that I, despite my vacation relaxed mood, got slightly irritated.
Anyway, I got to Venice, and my breath was completely taken away by the beauty & unique nature of this city. It was something unreal, unlike anything that I had ever seen before. I took a water taxi, went into the designer shops, walked in the narrow alleys, and had a delicious pasta carbonara & a tiramisu in a cosy little restaurant with red checked table cloths. It was a perfect day.
I bought some souvenirs, and headed back to the train station to start my trip back to Milan, where my hotel was. And because of the noisy trip that I had earlier that day, I decided to book a first class ticket.
Now, anyone who has visited Arab countries would know we don't have a railway system, and are not very familiar with trains. And because on that same trip I had missed a train between Switzerland & Italy, I was very self conscious about getting on the RIGHT train, and sitting on my assigned seat, and making sure I was heading to where I am supposed to be heading. So on every train that I took, there was a low voice that said: Don't get on the wrong train, don't end up in the middle of no where.
Which was exactly what I was thinking when I got to the first class car of my train.
The car was entirely empty, except for one gentle man who was sitting on one chair, chatting away on his cell phone in Italian. Ironically, and for reasons that I may never know, the gentle man was sitting on my seat.
So here I am, completely focused on my ticket, looking at seat numbers, unaware of anything else around me in the world in that specific moment, when I realised that he is sitting on my seat. So stupidly, I stand over his head, as he talks on the phone. Not surprisingly, he looks up at me, questioning my stare.
So I say: ' Excuse me. I think you are in my seat'
Please remember the entire car was empty. There were at least another 25 free seats. But I wasn't thinking about that! I had to sit on my assigned seat, and make sure I don't miss my train, and end up in the middle of no where (which by the way in 2011, and with cell phones & black berry, will almost never happen!)
And so the gentle man, who barely speaks any English, says: I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I move! In the split second that followed, while he was hurriedly trying to gather his stuff to move his seat, I realized how stupid I was being, mumbled an apology, and asked him to stay put. I, on the other hand, was not done being stupid for the day, so I sat right across him. And so now, we were officially sharing seats, like old friends travelling together. An empty train car, and 2 strangers sharing seats.
Of course, by the time I realized my again not-too-smart move, it was too late for me to move again. So I pretended not to have noticed that I just imposed on this man, and started playing with my phone, keeping my self busy.
A few moments later, my friend called me and we chatted for a couple of minutes. After I hung up, the man sitting across me asked me, in very broken English, where I was from.
So I told him, and he was very excited that I am an Arab. He asked me if I like Italy so far, and we exchanged a couple of pleasantries. He also gave me his business card which revealed he was a chef, and I gave him mine.
With his broken English and my next to zero Italian language skills, we managed a short pleasant conversation. Towards the end of the trip, and while I was thinking about the best way to spend my last evening in Milan, I decided to ask him for a restaurant recommendation to go for dinner that night. He was super excited, told me about a restaurant that was supposed to be the best in Italy, googled the number on his iPad, called them and made me reservations for that night, and even wrote me a note for what's best to order.
Soon enough, it was my stop, so I wished him good bye, thanked him for his help, and stepped down from the train. I never thought I would see him or hear back from him again.
I did go for dinner, and the food was indeed excellent. The waiters and the chef were also very friendly and I had a lovely evening..
The next morning, as I checked my phone, I noticed the chef had sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was surprised and thought it was rather funny, seeing we didn't speak a common language fluently. Yet, I accepted his request thinking I would send him a message thanking him for the restaurant recommendation later.
A week later, I was back home. I have an Italian friend here, and I asked him to translate a message for me, which I had written to the chef thanking him for his kindness on the train.
The next day, I had received a reply, which I translated using Google Translate. We started messaging each other, almost every day. He sends me links to his cooking show, which I enjoy watching even when I don't understand a word of what is being said. I talked to him about my life, work and family.. A friendship was being born.
This coming part makes me smile, as I think of a way to write it..
The more we emailed each other, the more I realized that we have a lot in common, at least in our way of thinking and approaching life. It is an intriguing idea, a stranger I spent 2 hours with on a train half way across the world, who gets me! How ironic is that!
Soon enough, the messages got more frequent, and the tone a lot sweeter. And a month later, my Italian friend sent me a message saying:
'It is time to act, I come to see you.'
I had not spoken to anyone, except my best friend, about this story. The reason being, well, who would believe it?! Who would believe that a girl meets a guy on a train in Venice and that they email one another and discover they have something in common, even when they don't speak the same language? I am not a fan of romantic movies, and I am a firm believer in the saying: When things seem to be good to be true, then they probably aren't.
Then this guy comes and says: It is time to act!
Question: to all of you gorgeous single Arab women.. How many guys have stepped up and said these words? How many of our not-as-gorgeous Arab men have made you hint and hint and HINT for months, about something or the other, pretending he doesn't understand?
I got excited, then panicked, then happy, then a knot in my stomach, then excited all over again..
The chef is coming to see me. Actually, the chef is due to arrive in a few days. Flying half way across the world, to spend 2 days here, to see me.
I am aware that nothing can ever be as perfect as the fairy tale in my head right now is. I am also aware that I may be dissapointed, and that this may end up being nothing after all. But I am also aware that this is a beautiful and an uncommon story, that I would live to tell, regardless of what the ending would look like, for many many years to come. I choose to be happy about this story, for now, even if it ends up being a major disappointment, or not as important or as life changing as the songs in my head tell me it may be.
And this is why I chose to write about it now. Because I don't care about the ending, and realistically, I can't know how it will end. But this is a good story.. It is a beautiful one, and it is happening to me, and I am celebrating it. It gives me hope, regardless of the outcome. Because if I can meet someone interesting in a train in Italy, when I am in jeans, a plain white T-shirt, a pony tail and chipped nails, then I, and all other great women out there, can meet interesting men anywhere and everywhere else.
So.. Stay tuned, as I am, for the great finale of this fairy tale, and remember (and do remind me please!) that it is not the ending that matters. It is the course of these beautiful unexpected stories that happen each and every day of our lives..