When in Rome, the only souvenirs I bought for myself were seven or eight packs of gum. Whenever we left a gift shop or a supermarket, and there was a display of gum there next to the check-out counter, I'd get one. These packs of gum had no very special qualities. Some of the brands, even, were the same as in the U.S., just with labels in Italian, and often the same flavors. With a few exceptions, of course. There was a pack of Tic-Tacs I found that are black cherry flavored. Black cherry Tic-Tacs seem to exist only over there. These packs of gum have only the distinction of having been bought in Italy. Even though they are probably all made and packaged in some obscure town in the continental midwest or Belgium or something, it still makes me think of Rome when I chew a piece of the gum.
I went to Rome in May of 2010. And today has the distinction of being the day upon which I finished one of those packs of gum. I think it's the first--though it might be the second--of the packs of Italian gum that I've finished. I don't chew gum too frequently, and I'm always buying new packs of gum, and losing packs of gum in jackets I don't wear too often, packs that'll turn up a while later. As a result of this gum shuffling, I don't finish a pack of gum frequently. And as a result of one pack of gum lasting me a few months, I can sometimes keep track of time with a pack of gum.
Finishing a pack of Italian gum means that my trip to Italy ended long enough ago that I finished a pack of gum. Soon, probably, I shall open another pack of the Italian gum, thus beginning another epoch of time that will make my trip to Italy that much more distant into the past. As I see it, this means I can either become depressed that my trip to Italy is only getting further away from me, or I can see each new pack of gum as a metaphor for the incitement of a period of my life yet untouched by adventure. The former is an attractive option. After all, I shall probably be unable to go to Italy again soon. As I chew this minty gum and remember the particular shop where I bought it--and the smells and the difficulties of ordering a sandwich from a deli manned by a person who's probably inept enough at communicating in his own language to be getting on with, thank you very much--I miss my time in Italy. I miss how the sun shone more gently and the marble-paved streets hurt my feet even through my boots, how the Classical Era ruins littered the cities like dumpsters litter Denver and how the clovers are, unexpectedly, just the same as they are at home. I'm inclined to hoarde the gum away, hide it and save it, as the last of Italy that I still have with me. If I don't protect it, from wind and tempest, will it not slip away to nothing? Lost forever. Perhaps. I don't know.
Of course, if I don't chew the gum, I will never know how tasty it is. If left unchewed, the gum will be useless, lifeless. Better to go find another of the packs of gum from Italy and sample them. Better to treat them like the packs of gum they are, and enjoy them. Or, even better than that, enjoy them and share them, and, perhaps, share stories of where from they come while the gum is chewed.
I think this gum metaphor has extended from what I originally intended. How it has expanded is obscure to me, just now. I think I'll go share a pack of gum with a stranger in a tea shop, though, and see what stories I can buy with it.