I’ve heard people talk about being sad when a vacation ends, when they come back home to their ordinary life.  And I can understand that.  Even if they’re comfortable at home, they’ve been uprooted temporarily.  The world changes a little, boundaries shift, and then it’s hard to go back to an old, maybe smaller world that too often is shaped by routine.

Still, I always like coming home.

I wrote this quick note to myself in Italy on Monday, sitting on a step in the piazza della Republica and waiting for the rains to resume:

Once in a while, not so often that he would have thought to wonder about it or question his sanity, he felt a melancholy and a loneliness that almost incapacitated him.  He didn’t understand it, but it felt, if he could have put the feeling into words, like homesickness.  He had felt it sometimes even when he had no real home to return to, so it made no sense to him.  But still.  Homesickness.

I enjoyed Florence.  I loved seeing David and standing in front of Bellini’s Lamentation and da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi (two great incomplete works – almost like looking over the artist’s shoulder while he’s working, interrupting the act of creation) .  I loved the profound sense of age in the city – the frescoes on the ceiling of the Uffizi depict scenes from the Palazzo Vecchio right outside, the setting transposed two thoundand years in the past.  I loved that Abbe and I seemed to be among the only Americans in the city because it’s no longer tourist season (probably because of the rain, as we discovered), and that our attempts to understand and speak the language didn’t always work out so well, as with the spaghetti and octopus (al polpo).   It’s good to laugh a lot in a strange city.

But still.  Homesickness.

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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By Tom Howard


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