Chapter 2/4: All around me are familiar faces.
Back in 2003, before I realized I could go to the cinemas in Fulham to watch movies as much as I wanted with the ugc card (and I was still paying 8 pounds for a ticket!), I missed a film directed by Tim Burton, Big Fish .
I've never been a great Tim Burton fan (and maybe the fact that the first film I watched in London in a cinema was the awful remake of Planet of the Apes didn't really help), and the only thing I loved about his Batmans was Catwoman (aaaah.. Michelle Pfeiffer...).
I watched it only by chance some months ago, recorded by my pvr thinking it was something else, and soon after I regretted giving it a miss 5 years earlier. What a great film.
The ending in particular is one of those scenes were grown men are allowed to shed a tear: the son finally telling a story on his own, the story that ends them all. The death of Edward Bloom, surrounded by all those strange people that he met during his life.
Flash forward now to the night of the 27th of March 2008, a day before the wedding.
So far it has been a very busy day for me, collecting and driving family and friends from different locations to Glenburn Lodge, where I booked in advance rooms for them all. I'm tired, slightly melancholic, but mostly tired. In only few hours a chapter of my life will be closed forever, and another one will begin.
I'm tired, and I can't find the keys of the car, and none of my guests. They are all gone to the pub, some of them arrived later and couldn't make it the safari I organized.
I haven't heard from Anna, Peter, who arrived earlier, and Johnny and Liz, who landed few hours ago from Atlanta.
I'm tired, didn't I say that already? And I smell funny. I don't think I had a shower this morning, and the swimming pool was a bit too cold.
Where the hell is the pub? I've been to Glenburn few times before, but in dark evening, trying to approach it from an unusual way, I can't find it. Finally I hear some laughter, and some Italian words: my sister is toasting someone, or something.
I finally walk into the pub, and there it goes, my Big Fish moment. Yes, the pub is quite dark, but how can I not recognized those faces? How can I not recognize those voices, if for so many years they have been part of my adventures?
I see Olga, my fantastic sister , complaining about a cocktail that probably hasn't been mixed properly, with Sara, her colleague from the Texas Pub. My dad is watching, talking in Italian with Dominik , who as usual is not drinking anything else than a coke. He's probably talking politics or history with my old man. But hey, with his Larry David 's charm he's quite someone to talk to.
Anna runs towards me, shouting my name with that high-pitched shriek that it's so familiar and easy to recognize. She looks tired, but happy, and Peter is just behind her, probably talking about his Jaguar collection!.
Anna quit her job to be able to travel to South Africa and be part of the wedding of an old friend. We met in the summer of 1991, on my and my sister's usual polish holiday, and we spent more summers together, trying to stay in touch in Italy too. And when Rob, the missing guest , the missing friend, was gone forever from London, she shortly replaced him in my last months there.
Thanks to Anna, everyone realizes I'm there. They don't approach me straight away, probably I smell funny or probably they are just waiting for a queue to form and to greet me formerly.
Beppe and Max are having another drink, and they are the first to put something in my hand. You can always rely on friendships that survived primary school, the masturbation age, football battles and adulthood. Only Mera is missing, stuck in Italy.
Paolo and Veruska are talking with my sister now. Damn, she's so tall. And he's not (but hey, fuffa is his name). But he's the one and only true friend that I made in Italy in the later stages of my life there. We both lost our job in the early summer of 2001 and instead of bouncing back straight after, we decided to plan our future by relaxing at the empty Aquatica in Milan.
I saw him playing around, and then deciding to take things seriously. 3 kids and a wife later, I think he took things a bit too seriously.
Obviously at the bar the Londoners are sitting: Jonny and Jason. With Liz (Jonny's wife) and Roy (Jonny's dad). Jason is the guy who hired me in the December of 2001, and this was probably the only reason why I stayed. Later, as a thank you gesture, I used him as my main cowboy in the western I shot in 2004, the Game they Play.
Just look at the credits in that film. You will find so many familiar names. Jonny and his dad were part of it. Jonny, who moved to America and married Liz, one the guy I missed the most when he left.
Only Guy wasn't there, stuck in London. I owe so much to these three guys!
Someone is touching my bum. It must be someone who had a drink too much and likes to touch my bum. It's Ian . He knows my bum, after years of shared changing rooms and showers while playing football in London. Ian, who moved to America in 2006 and made me realize that I was left with really few friends in London.
Where is my cousin Renato? Probably hiding behind his mighty
Canon (apologize, Nikon!). And there he is, drinking too and looking very tired after a day where he probably shot around 1000 pictures...
All those names. Talking to each other, connecting, sharing stories. Some of them embarrassing, some of them too incredible to be true, but yet still memorable. (You know, I like to tell stories, and I like to tell them the way I want).
I'm here tonight ready to get married because a chain of events took me here. And the links between those events were these people. Which I love, and respect, and miss every time I feel like I need someone to drink with, or to talk to.
Some hours later, my big fish moment became even more similar to the one in the film: Max, Beppe and Ian tried to see if I could really transform into a big fish by throwing me into the hot and not-so-clean pool at Glenburn. With my camera, wallet and mobile phone. I survived somehow (even if I was spanked hard), not my camera, which died the night before the wedding.
There is a line from Wear the sunscreen that says: Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.