It’s 5:00 A.M. The tethered sailboats sway ever so slightly on the harbor. I sway with them on the cobblestone pier. Jet lag always does this to me. Wide awake at hours that are not usually my finest and unsure on my feet as if I’ve spent days at sea. The boats only mock me as I kneel low to capture the perspective of the fisherman sitting nearby then lose my balance and fall over. He stares down into the water following his line to the world below. I right myself and click the shutter. The masts reflect straight and proud, not with ripples and waves as they did in the images I created in this same exact spot two years ago. I close down the aperture as the sun rises above the hills surrounding Trieste and the slanted rays begin to reach the Adriatic. I turn and face them directly. “Welcome back to Italy,” they seems to say. I’ve missed both the sun and Italy.
I follow the wide flat stones of the pier back toward Piazza Unita, the center square, in search of espresso. The majestic white courthouse and buildings surround the square on three sides, the sea closing in the final leg. It’s an impressive sight. The streetlights fade out and this town at the Northeastern end of the Italian boot begins to stir. Sunday morning, however, is not one for working. I check my favorite espresso shop but it, along with the others, are all closed. The newspaper vendor is the only open door.
The cloud of jet lag that wafts in and out over the next several days descends on me. There is a vague map of this town in the archives of my mind and I turn down a small walking street and take a shortcut to the apartment where I’m staying. I’m sure that my Italian friend, Laura, is still sound asleep. I reach her building by Braille and sleepwalking.
A man with a very well-designed dog reaches for his keys, and I follow him through the heavy wooden doors, many with amazing doorknobs I will continue to photograph, and begin ascending the stone steps to the fourth floor. I read the nameplates on each of the two doors as I reach the second floor and wonder how I missed them before.
On the 3rd floor I see a window outside of which laundry hangs and the orange of the upside-down shirt flutters, repeating the color of the downspout across the courtyard. Funny, I didn’t notice that yesterday, I think. I stop and take a few photos. I hear a top lock click into place as the man and his dog retreat into the apartment below. I wonder why Italians need two locks in a place that feels so safe to me. I arrive on the fourth floor, huffing and puffing, and reach for the keys in my camera bag. I lift them to the lock and jump backwards as a dog begins to bark on the other side. Suddenly it occurs to me that Laura does not have a dog. I’ve followed someone into the wrong apartment building, taken photos of someone else’s laundry and almost tried to enter a random Italian’s apartment. I hurry down that stairs laughing. What would I have said when a sleepy Italian in his underwear, along with his angry dog, confronted me at his door? “I’m that photographer from America who was here before. Do you have espresso”?
I am the reason Italians need double locks!