I had passed by this little side street behind the church many times before I drew it. It intersected with the very old, very narrow road that acts as a pedestrian cut-through to the Medieval section of town, where my family and I were staying.
Sitting on my stool drawing, I watched as a man approached me from the corner building (to the left). He had come out of his apartment to smoke. He wasn't Italian; I could tell. When I said I was from America, he got excited, because he liked to speak English, but hadn't lately.
He told me that he was mad that the Italian government had just denied him something over the phone, because they did not know of his street. "Look!" he said and pointed at the sign on the wall next to us. "It exists!" I looked down at my drawing and thought. "Yes, it exists."
His mood changed when he followed my eyes to the drawing. "You draw? I draw too!" he said. "I'll show you one of my drawings!"
He went back to his apartment and returned with a reproduction of a Michaelangelo drawing. I said "That's a wonderful drawing by Michaelangelo." and he agreed, saying "Yes, Michaelangelo. I should draw more."
He looked for more that we had in common. "You are left-handed? I am left-handed!"
"Michaelangelo was left-handed!" I said.
"Do you have a family?" he asked.
"Yes." I told him. "A wife and two sons."
"I have a wife and two sons, too!" he said. "But they are back in Sri Lanka. I live here with my sister and her family and we all look for work." He was probably my age, or maybe younger. But he looked older.
My heart sank when I asked how long he had been in Italy, away from his family. "Ten years." he said. It had been okay at first, he explained, but since 2007, Italy had gone downhill. He shook his head. "Very bad here."
His brother-in-law came out the door and they went off together after he asked If I'd like to join them for coffee. I turned them down. The contrast of our lives made me feel awful, but also lucky. I packed up my art supplies and headed back to my apartment, a short walk away, but a world away from the Sri Lankans. My family waited for me there, as we had plans to eat together.