I am American but I’m not free. I feel as trapped as any other immigrant – on the outside of the US, looking in. I grew up in New England. I went to Red Sox games and Catholic School. I was a student-athlete and my favorite things were getting together with family – skiing in New Hampshire or sitting on the lake in Maine. I loved to travel, was interested in where my great-grandparents came from, but I believed I could never tear myself away from what I still feel is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Now, I write this from Florence, Italy, where I have been living for the past seven years. I traveled for so long that home lost it’s meaning, and I met so many incredible humans, and then one became my husband. Most still say I live their dream life – being swept away to be married in an Italian palace – living everyday life strolling through alleys full of fruit vendors and bakeries – spending my down time sipping wine by the Arno. I have those days, but I miss the ones on the rocky coast of Kittery or down the Cape. I miss the summers that are still just chilly enough at night to enjoy a bonfire and s’mores, and I miss my family the most. I am American and I have my love for the United States – but my husband is banned for life – so I am too, in a way.
I used to love airports, now they make my throat clench. Each time I walk through security, I’m looking back at someone I’m leaving behind. And in that terrible moment, the wound is fresh again. Six-hour flights sitting next to strangers, I go through the transition of transforming from one person to another – I live a double life. Up in the air above the Atlantic ocean, the pain hurts less. I become numb, but then as soon as I start to see the coast of the US or Italy come into view, the dull, throbbing pain of missing part of my family starts to lessen as I get closer to them, and the part of me that was numb starts to defrost.
It hurts just like taking ski-boots off, but it lessens and I’ll warm again, and suddenly I’m sitting in a car driving home – and I miss Rami and his parents and Italy and cappuccinos, or I miss my entire family in the US and Dunkin Donuts bagels and the mountains and the ocean, and nothing changes when I jump from country to country – but everything has changed.
I am torn between two worlds – one where I belong in, but where my husband doesn’t exist, and one where I am being openly welcomed and am learning to belong in, but where I am a foreigner, the straniera. Forever.