Mind the gap

15 Oct


I had never considered Chicago on the top list of places I really wanted to visit, until I met “accidentally” Natasha and Natalie;

This article is not about a travel story, but it is still really important since you will be able to understand why I ended up in Chicago.

Two years ago I promised two American girls in Naples that I would have visited them soon. Why? Here comes the story.

It was 26th September 2010; I had just left Barcelona for good, a city where I had lived many years.


It was time for a change, and meanwhile I decided to be pampered by mum and family and stay for a little bit in Naples.


During that time in Naples, Cecilia had come to visit me together with Anders, a lovely Finnish guy we had both met at a party in Barcelona few months before.


On a Sunday night we first took Anders to the airport and then we headed to the station since Cecilia had to take a train to get to Rome.


We didn’t find any availability on the trains that were about to leave and we had to wait more than an hour instead.


It was good so we could stay a little bit more together. We hanged out around the station. Spending time with her is always so precious.


Cecilia has appeared in my life in one of the toughest moments, and has made my life more beautiful, she has been able to make me laugh at every single moment even when I thought I had no reason for.


I met her for the first time at Lavazza offices in Barcelona, where I had gone for a job interview. It was love at first sight. One of those person you understand immediately you have connection with.

From that moment we started to work together but also to live in symbiosis and do everything together. It was funny running up and down on her horrible motorcycle in Barcelona.


Coming back to the farewell with Cecilia at the station of Napoli (I don’t know if there is a more romantic and sad place where to say goodbye to somebody) when time came for her to leave, I took her up to her wagon.


She went on the train and was waving me goodbye and making funny faces to me. We couldn’t stop laughing as usual.


Until my attention diverted on two girls running along the train. They were carrying big backpacks.


I listened to the train conductor’s whistle but at the same time I noticed that the backpack of one of them was stacked in the train doors.


I could not understand why the train conductor did not stop.


Until suddenly I saw one of the two girls falling down on the platform and the other one falling down the train moving.


I thought that would be the worst day of my life.


I had few seconds of black out.  I was so dizzy and scared and didn’t want to go and see on the track, I was afraid to see a smashed body. But I took courage and went to check out. And incredibly, that girl was there, apparently alive.


She was of course in shock and full of blood and she was even shouting. She had a big wound in her head, but this didn’t stop her to stand up on her legs. The scene was from a horror movie, but I was comforted.


I am normally very sensitive to blood, I nearly faint when have to do blood tests but that time I tried to keep calm and bright.


Just for you to have an idea, Natasha’s head looked like a big Easter egg. You know when you break it in the top and see the inner of the egg and the surprise? Unfortunately I have no better picture that reminds me of that. And it was not a chocolate egg, but a crane and I could see all the inner part of the it full of blood – terrifying.


I called immediately the ambulance, words were difficult to come out, I was freaking out but I was at least able to say to hurry up at the platform 16 for a serious accident.


Luckily the ambulance came pretty quick and while I was trying to calm down the girls, I also tried to collect their belongings spread out everywhere. Mostly their passports, I opened them and I found out they were American citizens and only 21 years old.


I also found a necklace and a pair of earrings from Natasha – completely red from the blood. Later, when I told her I had them in my purse she would be so happy.


Even though Tosh (I will call Natasha like this from now on) was evidently shocked she was really brave and bright, she kept telling me to take care of Natalie (it took me probably minutes to get the name, she kept saying in a very American accent “Nedeli” and between the noises of the station, her broken voice as well as the fear and shock, I barely understood it).


It was also so funny while we were waiting for the ambulance, Tosh said in a really American way: “Wow, how comes you speak this fucking English in this fucking country?” She made me laugh.


I had always loved to study foreign languages, especially English. And I never thought that this could be useful for someone else’s life one day. I am so glad I was able to communicate with them and being helpful.


She started to ask me many questions such as: what’ s your name and where are you from and then she prayed me to stay with her and assist her with the language at all times. I promised her I would.


I hooped on the ambulance with her.


The nurses advised me to talk to Natasha as much as possible because she was bleeding very much and falling asleep or closing her eyes could have been dangerous.


Well, for those who know me you might be sure that was not a big deal for me :-), I started to chat to Tosh about ordinary things.


I asked her why she was in Naples and she told me she was living for few months in Rome and studying at the University of Chicago campus. She had just been to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and she had liked it.


She added that she loved travelling and that she was meant to visit Barcelona soon. I told her about my experience there and that I would have given her a lot of suggestions on where to go.


I remember her asking: do you think I can go to Barcelona? And I told her not to worry that everything was going to be all right.


These girls were phenomenal, with my eyes I kept seeing an open crane in front of me but with my ears I had to listen to beautiful trip planes. Wow.


I was amazed on their positivity, force and bravery; I thought they were two amazing girls.


While with Natasha, of course I had not forgotten about Natalie, who had beaten her head on the ground and was bleeding too.


She had lost her consciousness for few minutes.


The operators on the ambulance were just amazing , once we arrived at the ER we all went straight to a room where a doctor would see the girls and decide what to do.


The girls had both ultrasound studies, and thank God none of them had serious internal damages. They only got stitches in the head to close the wound.


It was quite hard for me to stand there, it was scary and tried to leave the room but as soon as tried to, I heard Natasha shouting my name and saying: don’t leave, stay here! And so I stepped back.


I guess she might feel uplifted to see me beside her and helping her translating from Italian to English. I would not like to be in a foreign country and being in a hospital where doctors and nurses speak a language you can’t understand !


Tosh had so much energy. She transferred it to me and I knew I would feel a special feeling for them from now on.


The funniest part was when the doctors were trying to shave Tosh’ scalp and she was worried about not looking good with the shaved head. Women, we are so vane – she was so comic, with a head opened, scratches and abrasions everywhere, worrying about her (beautiful long and curly brown) hair.


I translated to the doctors Tosh’s wish and luckily they could avoid cutting them.


It was quite late when nurses came to me and told me that the girls should overnight in the hospital but unfortunately there was no room for them and they would probably have to stay in corridors.


Loreto Mare Hospital in Naples is quite rough, I couldn’t imagine leaving those two young girls all alone in corridors, and this would have demoralized them. Even if the structure is decadent, I have to admit that doctors did a really good job and the girls were taken care of properly. I prayed the doctors to give us two beds since the girls were already too shocked, far from family and did not speak a word in Italian. I insisted and finally they give us two spaces in a room, where there was an old lady in a bed and a young girl with her mum. It was pretty depressing and squalid.


The bathroom had no toilet paper, the bed had no pillows. “we run out of them few hours ago” nurses told me.


I went few times to chase the doctor for this matter, and he finally gave us one pillow and we created another one with a blanket. When in need, is always good to open up to creativity!


I went to buy some drinks for the girls and when I went back upstairs the they already looked a little bit more relaxed, I found them laughing about how bizarre the situation was. And it was.


We contacted their school in Rome, I explained them what had happened and they were grateful I was there helping the girls.


I spoke to Cindy, the direct student representative, I told her not to worry as I would be with them as much as possible that night.


At some point I had to leave and go back to my house. I went back to the hospital after few hours with a Nutella cake for the girls that my twin Rubina had baked. I brought some extra toilet paper and a pillow.


Cindy took the first train for Rome that morning so to join us at the hospital. We both took the girls to do different exams.


I had promised the girls to buy them a pizza from “Michele”, which had been lately appeared in the Julia Roberts movie Eat Pray Love. In the afternoon I made their wish come true and brought a pizza to their hospital room. They looked so happy, as two children – and so was I.


When they got better, doctor released them and I took them back to the station where they would return to Rome.


After few weeks they all came back to Naples, this time with Natasha’s dad with two sisters as well as Natalie’s mum. They had all came from Chicago.


I took them up and down in the city for some sightseeing, and we all went for lunch to get a pizza at Michele’s. This time not in a hospital room. It was nice. We had a lovely time.


I knew I would see them both again anytime in the future, I promised them I would visit Chicago one day. They promised me to take me around their city the same way I had done with them.


And I kept the promise. In my American tour I couldn’t miss the city of Natasha and Natalie, my two new little American sisters.

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