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  • Writer's pictureNadja Eriksson

Si, signora!

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Seeing the alps from above was pure magic. (Photo by Ruud Brinkhuis on Unsplash)

The Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome is a busy place in tourist season. Mostly Italians vacating in their own country, but also some Scandinavians and Germans, the few foreigners who aren’t afraid of traveling to Italy in June 2021.

As we make our way to check-in, I’m trying to not get overwhelmed by the human voices, fluorescent lighting, and colorful shop windows advertising Gucci and Versace bags.

We’d just come out of a weeklong therapy intensive, where we dove deep into our childhood trauma in order to release old patterns that were unconsciously sabotaging our relationship.

It was raw, messy, and glorious.

Now, only one day after the closing ceremony, my whole system is wide open. I feel thin and permeable, like silk paper made for wrapping delicate Italian lingerie.

We have plenty of time before our flight departs, and I did my homework. All Swedish citizens and residents are allowed to enter the country without a COVID-19 test. So I printed out my proof of residency and neatly folded it into my German passport.

I’m safe. Everything will be fine, I reassure myself.

At the check-in counter, a young Italian stewardess with dark-red nails and heavy make-up explains to a Danish man that he can’t board the flight to Copenhagen without a negative test.

“What do you mean we need a test?! I’m a Danish citizen! I checked the airline’s website, and it said we don’t need a test to enter our own country!”

But the girl won’t budge.

“I’m sorry sir, airport regulations. Unless you can prove you’re not contagious, I cannot let you board this flight.”

Fuck. He’s Danish, and if he can’t even get into his own country, how are we supposed to travel through it?

Now he’s furious. Turning away from the counter, he drops his suitcase and walks off, sullen. His teenage son looks embarrassed as he picks up the luggage and follows his father to the test center. For a moment, I’m considering reversed roles.

Then I look at my husband Daniel. He can see the panic in my eyes.

“Relax baby, we’re going to make it. Everything is fine.”

He remains calm and directs me to go downstairs and find the test center.

But I can’t move. Like a raccoon in floodlights, I’m standing there with my anxious mind dreaming up the worst-case scenarios.

What if we don’t make it on time!? What if we miss our flight, and we can’t get home, and then everything is fucked…? Aghhhh….!!!

He grabs my hand and leads me through the crowd.

When we reach the test center, I see a long line of people. My heart races. It seems like the world is dissolving around me. I’m trying to catch my breath, breathing in and out at the count of five. Six deep breaths per minute, the ideal rhythm for regulating a stressed nervous system.

When I’m finally able to sit down in the waiting area, the Danish dad shows up again. He’s in a better mood now, and he feels the need to make a speech to his fellow Scandinavian travelers, mostly young Swedes, fashionably dressed in black bike shorts, sunglasses, and stiletto sandals.

“You know you can claim your 20 Euros back. It’s the airline’s fault; they didn’t communicate with the airport. It happened to me last week already when I dropped off my other son. It’s not supposed to be like this, but hey, this is Italy, and they’re making a lot of money down here.”

For a moment I’m considering if it’s worth the hassle, but then decide against it. I don’t have the energy to deal with bureaucracy.

Suddenly, a high-pitched voice cuts through my ruminations.

An Italian nurse is screaming my ticket number. I jump up and rush to her boot, but it’s too late. She’s already yelling again. This time, I’m standing right next to her. I feel a painful jolt running through my body as her words pierce my ears.

“Yes, I’m here!” I yell back with a mischievous grin.

We look into each other’s eyes and start giggling as she hands me my negative test.

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