On Friday morning, after I waved goodbye to the tour bus, I climbed back in bed and folded myself up. What if Steve had actually masterminded this disappearance, worked out a plan to drop out of the rat race? Maybe he was just tired of being in the tour group and found a way to establish his own pace. He kept me out of the plan so I wouldn’t object. Ah, that must be it. But, going off with another couple knowing I would not know how to get around on my own was something else. Something about that couple kept bothering me.
The police had called me before a former missing person report had been filed. I guessed the manager’s relative was doing him a favor of checking up on a lost tourist. Or, all police were on alert for unusual events such as this one. Americans missing in the middle of a busy Piazza would not look good in the papers. That last thought buoyed me. Yes, Americans count, I thought. Everyone pays attention to us. It was a good feeling that gave me hope.
I never did fall back to sleep. Instead, I decided to explore the neighborhood, find things to see and do, let myself calm down. Yes, a good walk, a clearing of the mind would help my disposition.
It was Good Friday, and a major procession was taking place right outside our hotel, winding for blocks, with a passion play at the corner piazza. A man-God, someone with a mother and a father and a country would die today, and His mother would search the streets looking to find him. She would find Him on the cross, after his death, and her pain will be felt by all believers.
I walked a couple of blocks aimlessly, noticing people shopping with big bags with children in tow. Many others were taking their place on the street, standing and waiting for the procession to come through. The procession determined where I'd go, since streets had been closed to traffic, and the shoulder to shoulder crowds prevented anyone from crossing the streets.
I stood a few blocks from the hotel, shoulder to shoulder with people I never met, all of us feeling like lost souls looking for redemption. At the first sight of the Virgin Mary wrapped in her shawl, eyes turned down, tears etched on her child-like face, tall on the shoulders of strong men, tittering with each step they took, a line of penitents behind her, I found myself tearing up.
Something in that face, in that desolation, was mine to feel. This is our destiny, right here in front of us, asking for forgiveness from a higher power, I kept saying to myself. This is day for me to ask for forgiveness. Yes, this is the day to confess and repent.
We were all pinned together on this map of remembrance.
We were all reviewing the sad contents of our lives, the difficult path to redemption each of us knew was waiting for us. The face on that statue was too much to behold. She was real to me. Not a Madonna, but a mother. Oh, I thought as tears streamed down my face and my neck, Oh, how I wish I had a mother now, how I wish my mother too would look for me now that I'm lost.
I want to be found, I wailed in low tones.
I want to go home.
I want to be loved again.
I want my mother.