Humans of New York@humansofny

New York City, one story at a time. Currently sharing stories from Italy. 🇮🇹

www.patreon.com/humansofnewyork

4,906 posts 9,224,410 followers 152 following

Humans of New York

(1/3) “My father was working on a construction site and a piece of iron fell on him. He lived for a few more days, and right before he died, he said: ‘Don’t worry. You are a man. You are strong.’ But I was only eleven. At the time I was taking my entrance exams for middle school. I had three younger siblings, and my mother couldn’t support us on her own. She tried. She’d spend all day on the sewing machine. But it wasn’t enough. Our town in Egypt is famous for linen, so I started working in a factory at the age of twelve. My mother begged me not to work. She’d fight with my bosses. She even told me that I didn’t love her because I wouldn’t go to school. But I had no choice. All the money I made, I gave to my mother. She’s like a goddess to me. But she always found ways to give it back. She’d sneak it into my lunchbox. She’d buy me things. And she wasn’t working any less. So after a couple years I decided it would be best to leave. One morning I was in a café and overheard a group of men talking about immigrating to Europe. I told them I wanted to come. I lied to them. I told them that I didn’t have a family and I was all alone.” (Rome, Italy)


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“I was living in Romania when the Soviet Union fell. For our entire lives we’d been communists and suddenly we were capitalists. Some were good at it. Others weren’t. My husband and I tried to invest in a computer business, but we lost everything. We were evicted from our house. He was able to live at the university because he’s a professor, but I was forced to move back in with my mother. That’s when I made the decision to leave the country. My husband wouldn’t come. He’s not impulsive like me. I took a bus to Italy and within three weeks I was out of money. But I was very fortunate. I found work as a home health aide for an elderly woman. Her children treated me like part of the family. We ate all our meals together. They didn’t ask me to cook or clean. And I made more in a week than I could in a month back in Romania. Every day I rode the bus to their house, and that’s where I met my new husband. His face was always in a book, so it was a year before we actually spoke. He’s gentle. He’s calm. He’s kind. The hard times are gone now. I’ve forgotten about them. And don’t worry about my ex-husband. I bought him a house.” (Rome, Italy)


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“Every single night I call my dad before I go to sleep and he tucks me in even though I can do it all by myself, and he lies on the bed next to me and he hugs me and tells me that he’s proud of me and that I’m a champion. It always helps me fall asleep. And he says that it helps him fall asleep too.” (Rome, Italy)


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“I was naive. I was coming to Rome from a very little town. I was Catholic and truly believed that people were good. And I was seventeen. Everyone around me was talking about love, and being in love, so I wanted to experience it myself. I met him at an audition. Both of us wanted to be in films. He was thirty-eight: tall, very attractive, and working as a stuntman. He wanted to spend all his time with me. I thought I was in love. But after several months of living together, I began to realize that it wasn’t meant to be. But the more I withdrew-- the more controlling he became. He went everywhere with me. He’d lock me in the house. Whenever he left town he’d take away my documents. And he warned me that if I ever left, he’d go back to my hometown and make a scandal. Reputation was something back then. So I was terrified. When nothing else worked, he would beat me. He was proud of it. He’d smile when someone noticed my bruises. For three years I lived like this. I came to believe that the only way to free myself was to kill him. But I didn’t want to go to jail, so instead I became very sweet and compliant. I convinced him that I loved him. And that I was happy with our life. So he became less guarded, and one day while he was at work, I took a taxi and escaped. From then on I started looking out for myself. I became cold and detached. I promised myself that I’d never fall in love again. And that if someone fell in love with me-- I’d use them. And that’s why I’m a bitch.” (Rome, Italy)


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“We were studying abroad in the same town in England. The first time I saw her I was like: ‘Wow. She’s nice. It would be amazing if I could talk to her.’ But she was older than me. She was fifteen. And I didn’t really know how to talk to girls. But one weekend our whole class took a field trip to Birmingham, and I noticed that she was sitting alone on the train. It seemed like my chance. So I gathered my confidence, sat down next to her, and just started talking: ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Where are you from?’-- this kind of stuff. Suddenly she started searching for headphones. She’s looking through her bag. She’s asking people around her. It was a complete disaster. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily she couldn’t find any. It will be our two year anniversary on August 30th. We were so young back then.” (Rome, Italy)


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“Life was easy as a child. I grew up in Burkina Faso. My father was a primary school teacher and we had everything we needed. But he died when I was eleven. And three years later my mother passed away, so I became an orphan. I was left with my brother and sister. They were very young. Almost too young to remember. And we had nothing. I had to learn how to take care of them. My brother especially was very traumatized. But I swore, swore, swore: we would never leave school and we’d never be separated. I dropped out of seminary and enrolled in a technical school. I fought hard. I sold small things. I started a theater company. We were contracted by NGO’s to perform educational skits in remote villages. Then I studied social media and learned how to be a community manager. I have my own business now. I help artists and organizations with their digital presence. I have eight clients. Through all of this my brother and sister have been allies in my fight. We talk all the time. Even though I’m in Europe right now, I know everything that is happening in their lives. I paid for their education. I taught them what my parents taught me. Be honest. Work hard. And never give up. The best thing to do is never give up.” (Rome, Italy)


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(3/3) “It was very exciting to see the molecular composition of the moon. Eleven percent of the moon is composed of Ilmenite, a metal which contains oxygen in the bounded phase. So if you treat it with hydrogen, you get water. Water on the moon! It can all be done with solar energy. Forty years ago this research was quite important. It meant the possibility of lunar colonies. But nobody talks about it anymore. Because something happened. Everyone got excited about Mars. I could never understand it. Mars is so far away. The moon is so close to earth. So why not moon? Why has everyone forgot about the moon? But recently the moon has made a comeback. Mars is second place now. People are becoming interested in the moon again. And I’m ready. I’ve done this research for fifty years. I’m eighty-seven but my mind is still perfect. I still have a lot to contribute. I’m waiting by the phone. If anyone has the money, I’m ready to go.” (Rome, Italy)


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(2/3) “The Americans offered me work in a laboratory, but I didn’t want. I was nostalgic for Italy. I missed the artistic tradition. I missed the warmth of human contact. I missed the laundry hanging in streets and people singing from open windows. So I proposed to continue my research in Rome. I specialized in silicon carbides and sent all my data back to NASA. I’m not sure how they used it because those are secrets of NASA. But I know they used it, because they pushed me very hard and gave me plenty of money. Then 1969 came around. Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and returned to Earth with a collection of lunar samples. But none had been given to Italy. Fifteen of our laboratories made a proposal with no luck. Everyone wondered: ‘Why not Italy?’ So I asked myself: ‘What can I do with a lunar sample?’ And then I had an idea. If I vaporized the sample, perhaps I could learn the molecular composition of the primordial nebula. The origin of the solar system! But people thought I was crazy. Vaporize a lunar sample? Who would suggest such an idea? But I made my proposal anyway. Then one morning I opened up the newspaper and saw a headline: ‘Lunar sample to Italian scientist, Giovanni De Maria.’ And later that day I received this telegram, inviting me to pick up my moon rock at the American embassy.” (Rome, Italy)


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(1/3) “I was born in an ancient town in the hills of Southern Italy. Science and technology were unknown there. But I was not created to do repetitive things. It was my nature to learn and create. When I received a pen for my seventh birthday, I didn’t use it to write. I went into the bathroom and took it apart. So I developed a bit of a reputation. Everyone said: ‘If you give Giovanni a gift, he will destroy it.’ I grew up wanting to do experiments. Real experiments. So I studied hard, majored in chemistry, and eventually received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Chicago. Those were the most interesting and beautiful years of my life. Five of my professors had Nobel Prizes. If you didn’t have a Nobel Prize, you were nothing. These men were like gods to me, and suddenly we were eating in the same cafeteria. I decided to focus my efforts on an apparatus called a mass spectrometer, which allowed me to individuate atoms and molecules in the vapor phase. And my experiments were very successful. We were discovering new molecules and some of them were quite interesting. They were resistant to high temperatures. The US government became very curious about my molecules. Because of course they were quite competitive with Russia back then.” (Rome, Italy)


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“It’s a beautiful place by the sea. There’s a big beach just behind the house. It has a vineyard. There’s a garden in the atrium. My grandmother designed the house herself, and she loved it so much. We have so many memories there. The whole family would gather at Grandma’s house for every holiday. But she died a few years ago, and now my uncle wants to sell. I’d love to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, but we can’t afford to buy his share. So now there’s a battle over the house. He’s suing us. The lawsuit has been going on for three years. Nobody is speaking to each other. My mother is depressed. Meanwhile the house is rotting away. It needs renovation. Last winter there was a strong storm that caused a lot of damage. And it’s been burglarized several times. It’s like a beautiful part of my life is ending and deteriorating. I used to feel so happy and protected there. I felt like I could control what happens in life.” (Rome, Italy)


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“We met in the cinema club at university. Both of us dreamed of being filmmakers. But Daniele was so arrogant. I hated him at first: the tone of his voice, his expensive clothing, his posture, everything. Whenever he sat down in a chair he’d take up as much room as he could. And he’d interrupt others in class. He was always full of ideology and weak on details. It was the kind of confidence that didn’t come from knowledge. And it was a complete façade, of course. The first time we actually spoke was at a lunch table. I’d just taken an exam and was in a very bad mood. Daniele overheard me complaining to a female friend about the conflicts in my life. ‘Everyone either loves me or hates me,’ I told her. That’s when he leaned in and said: ‘Personally I’m completely indifferent to you.’ After that we slowly became friends. Day by day. And forty years later, he’s like my brother. He’s very kind. Very empathetic. He’s been by my side through tough times, losses, illnesses, and many surgeries. I’m not sure where I’d be without him. He’s one of the reasons I’m still alive.” (Rome, Italy)


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“I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was eight years old. I always dreamed of starting a family. But we’ve been trying for three years now, and we can’t get pregnant. We keep going to check-ups, and the tests are fine, and everyone says that there’s nothing wrong—but still nothing happens. It’d be easier if we had a reason. Right now I feel powerless. I’m already thirty-five. I can feel the clock ticking. And it gets harder and harder as time goes by. It’s especially difficult during that time of the month. I usually isolate myself on that day. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to do anything. He usually orders us a pizza. We watch movies and cuddle. And he reminds me that the most lucky thing has already happened. We were born in the same city, and we went to the same school, and we were able to find each other. What are the odds of that? We are already so lucky. And no matter what happens, we’ll always be here.” (Rome, Italy)


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