The green pharmaceutical sign flashes in the distance as I wait for the tram back to my apartment at the heart of Milano. The crisp air whisks around my hair. I unzip my jacket to let out the heat I’ve held inside my body from my day at work. I fit my earphones into my ears and press ‘play’ on my phone. I watch the cars pass by me as I wait.
An old man with a grey woven hat, a cane in hand and a crooked smile, hinders over to me. His grin causes me to smile in return. He opens his mouth as if to say something, so I quickly rip the headphones out of my ears from the base and tuck them into the pocket of my jacket.
“Ciao Bella!” he says to me in Italian.
“I’ve always said una donna is most harmonious when she smiles” he continues as he approaches. His light eyes fixated onto mine. I continue to smile as I study him steadily.
“Da dove sei?” he leans on his cane asking me where I’m from. His smile doesn’t move, stays the same size even when he speaks. His yellow tinted teeth make short appearances at each spoken word.
“Sono Italiana ma vengo dal Canada” I respond that im an Italian in Canada.
Elders must be lonely. I always think about how I would feel when I am older with no conventions that allow me to make friends such as school or work, leaving me to converse with strangers. I like to entertain them. Why not? I think to myself.
“Oh wow Canada!! I have been there only una volta! You know, I was once in the circus and I travelled to a lot of places. I went everywhere.” He pauses, but never stops smiling. His eyes fairly glazed and slightly reddened. He looks around him with wonder. His energy does not persist danger, instead emits confusion. I stay and inspect this stranger curiously.
I can smell the scent of booze lingering on his breath. I light a cigarette. It makes me feel safer, although I doubt I’ll have to use the subtle weapon.
“I go sometimes to this bar down the road. The boys there are very nice! Just like you they smile to me too and listen to my stories over beer. You know I always think girls are most harmonious quando sorridanno”. He talks again about my smile. I can’t help but feel my cheeks burn red.
I nod as I puff on the cigarette laying in between my index and middle finger. He looks raggedy and dirty; his leather jacket grey instead of black from over use, his red shirt untucked and ripped at the collar. I look around, I’m not alone, the sun is still dimly shining. I make the verdict that I am safe.
“Yes I love smiling” I say smiling wide as I try to match mine with his.
“Did you want to take a picture of me?”
My eyes widen as I stare at him awkwardly. I definitely did not expect that.
“Maybe later” I say as I take a step back, continuing to look amiable.
The tram rolls by just in time to save me.
The doors open. I put my earphones back in, look at him and wave as I specifically use different doors to increase the distance between him and I.
I stand at the unstable part of the tram where the two carts connect and the ground shifts as the tram takes lefts and rights through the paved city streets.
I listen to my music quietly, attentive to the background behind the vehicle’s windows.
I look up to see the old man staring back at me as he hobbles towards me. Once Im reached, he perks his cane against the structured wall next to me.
I hold my phone closer to myself in case I need to use it to call emergency. The tram is full but I hold onto my phone for dear life none-the-less.
The old man, always smiling, reaches out to the safety handle rail above him. He grips one hand on the right rail and the other on the left rail so that he stands with arms forming a ‘Y’. I try not to catch his eye as I sneak intrigued peeks.
Instantly he lifts himself off the tram floor in a pull up motion. His elderly biceps quiver under his jacket.
I quickly unlock my phone and start texting my boyfriend about the sight that is unfolding before my eyes.
“Guardami!! What’s the point if you don’t look at me!” he scorns at me laughingly.
The man bends his knees to his chest, slowly twisting himself so that his legs lift up, over, and through his arms so that they lay vertical with the tram ground. He surprisingly holds himself up steadily. The whole tram is being entertained but no one seems to notice, as if this was a regular occasion. A couple individuals lazily look up to analyze the situation and just as effortlessly shift their consciousness back to their own private world.
Comparably to a Hollywood film, the pretzel of a man slowly unwinds himself. He picks up his cane from beside me, takes his hat off and bows. As if choreographed perfectly, he ends his presentation just in time for the consequent stop, and walks right off the tram.