In this part of the story, Francis is playing marbles.

Red, white, and dark green. He’s sitting on a wooden bench in the Piazza del Duomo playing marbles, sketching them from sight for the first time, underneath the towering dome. Red, white, and dark green glinting in the sun protruding over the cathedral. Red, white, and dark green etched in pencil in a scrapbook he brought from Buffalo.

Everything else, he left behind.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del—but to name an object, to name anything … is to suppress three-quarters (sometimes all of it; sometimes the whole thing) of life’s pleasure, which comes from guessing, little by little … which comes from nibbling at the gift—like the way he is nibbling now, even now, on the edge of the bench—which comes from the enigma that must always exist in life—the life, at least the one Francis had made for himself, here in Italy, here in Florence, here in 2005 for three months and seven days—for it to remain exciting in a world of numbers, formulas, cauterized calculations. A world of measurements.

And he is guessing: Julie, Amanda, Mary …

She passes again, under the dome, in the midday sun. Always at the same time (Francis checks his watch), always with the same gait: a frisky skip with an air of something practiced.

Mother of God.

He could look at her for hours. Hours that became days, days that became weeks (three months and seven days made thirteen) … and sometimes he could (would) look at her, and forget he was even looking at her, forget he was even sketching the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore from sight.

For the first time.

Francis had a ritual. Walking through the aisles, peering at the faces. Nuns were good; nuns were the best. There were no nuns. At least there were children—a dozen or so, and almost all under ten years old—and one or two small dogs. As far as he could see.

Walking through the aisles, peering at the faces …

The air felt cool and stale as always, except this was only his third time on a plane. Cool and stale and the smell of coffee on carpet and the sound of seatbelts clinking. A stewardess with rosy cheeks and too-red lips smiled above him and began tapping shut the overhead bins. Peering at …

“Please direct your attention to the video monitor as we perform our safety procedures and follow …”

… the faces.

He didn’t want his plane to fall from the sky; he didn’t want to disappear. Up here, up in the air, alone and lonely, he tried to feel all the love he was afraid to feel on the ground.

Born and raised, and born again.

He had to get out, leave Buffalo, study abroad. He had to leave his life there too.

Study Abroad continues...
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About Chris Campanioni


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Chris Campanioni likes sweating, making mixtapes, and the Eighties, at least according to his Facebook profile. He has worked as a journalist, model, and actor, and he teaches literature and creative writing at Baruch College and Pace University, and interdisciplinary studies at John Jay. Through every medium,...read more he writes about media representation and the cult of celebrity, how we construct our selves and our identities, and the ways in which we communicate and correspond. There is no such thing as memoir; everything is memoir, so he keeps saying. Skin, sensation, and memory have produced two novels (GOING DOWN, TOURIST TRAP) and two poetry books (IN CONVERSATION, ONCE IN A LIFETIME), and Best Debut Novel (2014 International Latino Book Awards) and Academy of American Poets Prize (2013) distinctions. Find him in space at www.chriscampanioni.com or in person, somewhere between Brooklyn Bridge Park and Barclays Center.
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  21 months ago
Thank you Red Fez for publishing Study Abroad, an excerpt from Chris Campanioni's forthcoming novel, Fashion of the Seasons. I really enjoyed reading & rereading it yesterday & today. Mr. Campanioni has the talent to create images that stay with you long after you have finished reading...read more one of his stories or poems. I just love the way he writes & I hope to see more of his work in Red Fez in the future.

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