Home > Uncategorized > Confessions of a Transition Man – part one

Confessions of a Transition Man – part one

The Sunday afternoon train from Rome to Florence was the “milk run” one might say, with stops at many small villages along the way.  The views from my compartment window were especially inspiring for me in my professional position as a freelance journalist photographer.  We rolled slowly into and out of various villages along a track that bordered the back yards of poor villagers.  It was not uncommon to see goats tethered to spikes in the ground in some yards, chickens scratching around in wire mesh enclosures in some others, and pigs wallowing in sturdy sties in still others.

While the train had been rumbling along for about an hour, a porter with a small cart with sandwiches and soft drinks trundled down the narrow passageway outside the compartments.  The porter’s progress was very slow, given that the passageway was crowded with people who held third-class tickets that did not allow them to occupy compartments.  My first-class ticket gave me full rights to a compartment, but no exclusively.  I had the spacious, classically ornate compartment to myself for the early part of the journey.  About midway along, a casually dressed middle-aged gentleman rapped courteously and slid the door open a crack to inquire if he and his companion might join me.   I acquiesced with pleasure, hoping for some interesting conversation.  I didn’t know then that I was on the threshold of a source that led to this series of stories.

He immediately stuck two first-class tickets into the window frame, and I assumed it was his way to let me know that he and his companion were legitimately entitled to ride in a compartment.

He turned to me and introduced himself as Kevin Knight, and offered a warm, confident handshake.  His companion, an elegant woman clearly much older than Mr. Knight, had already taken a seat opposite me.  He introduced her at once as Le Signora de Montecenetti.  She leaned toward me and extracted a slender, steady hand from her white kid glove and extended it gracefully.  Almost the instant our fingers touched, her hand withdrew as if it was a fluttering dove.

Kevin Knight explained that Signora deMontecenetti did not speak English, and he was merely accompanying her to the next village along the train line.  Her villa, he explained, occupied a hilltop high above the village.  It had been her family’s feudal home for several centuries, and the village folk had been their tenants.   Meanwhile, the lady merely sat silently gazing out the window.  There was something in her manner that led me to believe that she was enjoying a kind of comfortable peace that she had sought for some time.

The train began to slow as it approached the small village station.  Only then did the lady move, to lean toward the window and look up at a splendid castle on the top of a tall, rounded hill, covered with rich, green foliage.  A smile of satisfaction illuminated her lovely, thin face when she saw it.

The man explained that it was the Signora’s home, and said that he’d just see her to the platform and return to ride on to Florence with me, if I had no objection.  He’d not had an English conversation for some time, and was eager for opportunity.  I said that I’d noticed that he sounded rather Canadian.  When he said he was,  I revealed that I, too, am Canadian.

When Kevin Knight returned to the compartment and the train rolled slowly out of the village station, he volunteered that I might be wondering about his relationship with the Signora.  I admitted that she was an unusual sort of woman, and that I was somewhat curious about how this Canadian man with an eastern Canada accent came to riding an Italian train with an older, elegant Italian aristocrat.

Kevin, as he asked me to call him, sat back comfortably and said that he was a transition man.  I asked him what a transition man does.  He appeared to be eager to explain, but was interrupted by the steward with the refreshments cart at the door to the compartment.  I offered to buy my traveling companion a Brio, which he accepted, and I took one for myself.  Thus refreshed, I prepared to listen and Kevin prepared to spin his tale.

(to be continued in Part Two)

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