They say FOMO is fear of missing out, being excluded from something others are experiencing, or not being somewhere you think you should be. 

FOMO unexpectedly surrounded me when all of my friends in Sweden had a reunion, and I was not there. Actually, I am not sure if it should be considered a fear. I’d say it’s nostalgia combined with sorrow, happiness, and missing out, similar to a desire when you want to be in different places simultaneously.

I had read about their gathering in the WhatsApp group we share. They were about to get together while I was aimlessly wandering the streets of Bologna with a friend. We didn’t know where we were heading to. The sun made us tired, and I was thinking of my friends in Stockholm; Marie, Bjarki, Protiti, Øivind, Hanna, Karin, and Lena. 

I suddenly saw the old University of Bologna and felt overwhelmed. I had to say something, so I opened the WhatsApp group and wrote: “I couldn’t help missing you all”. 

The entire ceiling of the University was full of spectacular old paintings, that were probably seven hundred years old. They said it was the third old university in the world. The guys had decided to meet at Marie’s, order pizza, and play games. 

Walking in the random streets, I saw a tiny art gallery. Some paintings were also published as postal cards; each cost fifty cents. “I will arrive late and you can start without me.” Protiti wrote in the group chat. I looked at the postal cards carefully and chose two. The salesperson was a lady, maybe in her 50s, who didn’t speak English very well. She only accepted cash. Hanna and Øivind also wouldn’t be on time either. People nagged, but Øivind replied that as a person who was always late, there was nothing to blame. 

I had no cash. Although I loved the cards so much, I decided to leave. Hanna and Lena liked my message and told me that they had missed me as well. The lady telepathically understood how much I loved the paintings, so offered them to me for free. As I was wearing a radiant smile, I left the shop. 

I found a restaurant with a big line of people in front. It was a good sign. The more hungry people waiting to get in, the higher chance of getting good food. fifteen minutes passed and we still had been waiting. I was talking with my friend to avoid boredom. We were reading the words written on the small black chalkboard at the restaurant’s entrance to practice Italian. ‘Tavolo’ means ‘table,’ and ‘attendere’ means ‘wait.’ We randomly used Italian, English, and Persian words in our conversations, when we noticed a guy in the line looking at us. “He is probably wondering what kind of f* language they speak?” my friend said. We both laughed loudly. The waiter came and asked the guy: “Are you two?”

“No. Only one.” He replied.

The waiter nodded his head and entered the restaurant again. I looked at the guy, and we both smiled impulsively. He was wearing black shorts and a t-shirt that I can’t recall its color. Perhaps it was white. All I remember is the sunglasses that were hanging on his t-shirt’s collar. He was tall and had grayish hair. I couldn’t guess where he came from. – Are you visiting here?” I asked him. 

“Yes. And what about you?” He replied.

“Yeah, we study in Padua. It’s just an hour away…hmm…may I ask where are you from?” I said.

“Germany. And you’re from Iran. Right?” He replied.

 “Yes, how do you know?” We said.

“I heard you speaking Farsi.” He said with a big smile.

It is not that common for a foreigner to recognize Farsi. I have come across a lot of people in Europe who think that Farsi is Arabic, or when I say that I come from Iran, they think Iran is Iraq. So I got impressed by this German guy in the first place. “ It’s really fascinating that you distinguish Farsi,” I said.

“ There have been many Iranians around me. That’s why,” he responded.

I kinda got a good vibe from him. He looked nice. The waiter came in again and said that there were some free tables. He looked at us and said: “ if you agree, we eat together.” 

We looked at each other and nodded our heads. I looked at my phone. The little green icon on the screen reminded me of the new messages in the WhatsApp chat. I locked my phone, and as I was putting it into my purse, I entered the restaurant to eat with my friend and the random person we just met. 

Dinner took around an hour. Although it was more like an introduction session, it also felt like a reunion of old friends who had lost contact for ages. His name was Mark. His work was about something in management, I guess. 

Since he could work remotely, he traveled from time to time. He planned to go somewhere in Tuscani after Bologna and finish his trip in two days. I liked his flexibility. “Some people need to be at the office even when they work online. That’s not my case; I can work everywhere.” He said.

Mark lived in Munich, and he rented his flat as an Airbnb. I realized that after his phone rang. He told us about the Israeli couple in his apartment. Our conversations went beyond ordinary topics. “ I wanted to become a psychologist and help people, but maybe it was my mom who kinda made me afraid to make that choice, saying that I wouldn’t end up finding a job or earning a decent salary if I studied psychology. So I went after a safer option and chose management.” He said.

Although Bologna was famous for its Bolognese pasta, it didn’t make much difference for a few vegetarian people. That was another thing that we had in common with Mark. We’re all vegetarians. He was also into sports and participated in several marathons. 

As I was rolling Tortellini pieces into the butter and tomato sauce, I felt lost in our conversations. Time flew so fast that I even didn’t realize that dinner finished. I took a piece of bread and mopped my plate, just as Italians do, and asked Mark to walk with us till we leave Bologna.  

The sun was shining as a big orange circle in the sky, making the cobblestones glow in a specific way. We were too lost in our talk while walking and eventually ended up on the same street as we had been. 

Mark told us about his Iranian friends and a few random phrases he knew in Persian, such as Happy Birthday, you’re crazy, hello, how are you, and you’re beautiful more than angels. As soon as we heard him say the last one, we laughed ourselves silly. He had learned it from a book and memorized it. 

I don’t remember why, but somehow we ended up talking about one of his favorite books; “Forty Rules of Love.” The book is a love story between Rumi and Shams. I told him that I didn’t buy the whole idea of a transformative love that changes one drastically. Rumi was searching for a change within himself, and Shams had just met him at the right time. That’s what I thought at least. Apparently, my comment was a great motive for Mark for trying to change my mind about the concept of life and love. 

It felt like I was blind to seeing things as he could. Love felt so magical and beautiful from where he was standing. It seemed to be a necessity and an inseparable part of life. 

His eyes shined with excitement. He was saying all these sentences like an actor giving an authentic monologue. His words were so deep that we sometimes had to stop walking just to stare at him. It was unbelievable how a stranger a few minutes ago seemed so close all of a sudden.

“ I really like this book. Especially the part when Shams told Rumi that you shouldn’t mind what other people think of you. If you lose everything, you have nothing to be worried about.” that’s the last thing I remembered him saying. And that was the end of out trip.

We left Bologna after hours of unexpected philosophical discussions. When we arrived in Padua, it was already around midnight. My friends were still at the party in Stockholm and realized that I hadn’t checked WhatsApp for hours. 

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