Richard Wagner

I guess it will make lots of sense to tell about a turning point that I considered crucial to my self-discovery and therefore to the set of my life priorities. I was sixteen, maybe seventeen. I was in Venice for the weekend with my boyfriend back then who was named Paolo, as you expect my Italian boyfriend to be called. We had not a care in the world but our beauty, youth, and love. We were meandering around the city as it is right to do in a city like Venice with all those lanes and all that water that could mirror the whole world. As it seemed to be for us to mirror humanity as a whole in that wandering in the dark.

Late the first night there, we ran into the Casino. Too young to get into it, we hesitated at the door. There was a plaque carved indicating that that formerly that was the house of Richard Wagner. Somehow, we were shocked by that revelation and we stood quietly with the back to the Casino. A homeless man in his 50s came to us and started talking. It was always clear to me that homeless people have a special attraction for me: either they felt my willingness to hear and talk to them or they felt the vagrancy of my hippie childhood. Whatever the reason, that man (that lately was renamed Ricky Wagner by Paolo and I) started staggering and talking, drinking, smoking. He told us a story I am sure we would never forget.

He simply told us how he was an artisan there in Venice and how a humid and foggy day he slipped on the street and hit his head. Then he started having seizures. Those never stopped and he could never go back to his normal life. He said he had no one. I guess that was shocked us was the man’s indifference to his destiny. He was not angry, he was not sad, he was just drunk. That moment touched me more than my volunteering experiences or anything else did. I was so young, it was a prelude for my empathy with justice. The sky was purple and a random man gave me a hint of the tragedy of human life in less than a minute. What could I expect from future to come? Where and how could I help out?

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