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Phil Collins





So this morning I went to the gym again. I started going back after a long pause at the beginning of the week, when I found out that the book I have been working on for over two years is likely to be published in Italy.

As the good news started sinking in, so did the awareness of my stubborn extra pounds, that have been keeping me warm and chubby for a long while. What if I am invited to present the book in some fancy 14th century  library room in Milan? Or even worse, if I get to be invited to a TV talk show to describe the process I had to go through in order to splatter out my life to the world. How can I show up with my extra pounds? I mean, I would probably wear my usual Levi’s, but, let’s face it, they do look better on me with a flat belly.

Anyway, I went back to the gym, sore from the day before, and the one before that, but convinced to be doing myself a favour. On the way from Prince Street to Central square, where the gym is, I had picked some upbeat songs from my endless list of music in my new Iphone, and created a playlist, that I proudly entitled ‘workout’.

In the workout list I put songs that are not the ones I ususally pick while driving or writing or preparing my lessons. Among them one can find some Amy Winehouse, some Police, some Bonnie Raitt (70s stuff), some unknown Italian songs. And two songs by Phil Collins. OK, three.

I know. I am embarassed to admit it. But here is why: long time ago, while working in a small publishing house in Milan, I did listen to Phil Collins because I had a long commute, and my collegue had made me a tape with some of his songs. And, ok, I’ll admit it: I liked it. I mean, I liked a couple of the songs. I have never told anybody about this, but time has passed and I have done enough therapy to feel ok with it.

And they ARE upbeat. Perfect for my long and somewhat slow five miles a day. So shoot me.

As I entered the gym, a well built twenty year old boy greeted me as if he had been waiting for me all day. I handed him my “shut up and kiss me” key chain, which also has the membership card, and he scanned it. “Have a good workout”, he said, meaning it.

I went downstairs. Some people had already been there for a while. I could tell by their wet t-shirts and their accomplished expression of exhaustion (don’t they work? I wondered). Pretending I feel just like home, I take a left and then the second door to the right into the changing rooms. The second door. I have learned that lesson on my first day, when, full of pretend confidence, I entered into the first door, put my bag on the bench and started undressing, not noticing I had entered the men’s changing room. Looking embarassed at the floor, I quickly took my stupid Target bag and went back home.

Anyway, I took  my lock out of the green bag, I made sure I remembered the combination, grabbed my water bottle, my Iphone, went to pee (always in the same john, for some OCD reason), and stepped on the treadmill (always the same one).

I hit the shuffle button. The first ten minutes are the hardest: my heart never seems prepared for the long journey into the one hour five mile running in place thing, and I always hope for some kickass songs that can convince it that it’s all good. After ten minutes, when I find the right rhythm, I start feeling good, as I stare at the PRECOR,USA sign of the machine in front of me. I get into a meditative state and the music accompanies me, gently, melodically.

So anyway, as I run and stare, Phil Collins comes up. I look around: I know no one can hear it, but still I want to make sure everybody thinks I am cool no matter what. It’s a song I have not heard in a long time, and I focus on the lyrics, and a small and yet powerful miracle fills my breath. This song is what Luca would tell me if he could talk. I enter the song like a tunnel, like words I will never hear from my autistic son and yet I am right here, at the gym, with its strange smells and trying to get in shape in case I go on TV on the other side of the ocean. It hits me like a brick.

Now, I hope you will forgive me for forcing you to listen to it. I know it’s Phil Collins: the anti hip bold Brit that we all try to ignore. Put your headphones on, and act cool. No one will know.

Here it is. 
I Include the lyrics to make an even stronger impact. 
It’s called Find a Way to My Heart.



Find a way to my heart, and I will always be with you
From wherever you are, I'll be waiting
I'll keep a place in my heart, you will see it shining through
So find a way to my heart, and I will, I will follow you

This journey's not easy for you, I know
If your footsteps get too faint to hear, I'll go
‘Cos you know, questions are never that easy
And never the same
You have the answer believe me
If you have the faith

Find a way to my heart, and I will always be with you
From wherever you are, I'll be waiting
I'll keep a place in my heart, you will see it shining through
So find a way to my heart, and I will, I will follow you

Time may come, and time may go, I know
If you should call out for me, I'll go
But you know, there is a code to be broken
I wrap it around
Without a word being spoken
Without a sound

There's a reason I hide my heart
Out of sight out of mind
And when I find out just who you are
The door will be open for you to..

Find a way to my heart, and I will always be with you
From wherever you are, I'll be waiting
I'll keep a place in my heart, you will see it shining through
So find a way to my heart, and I will, I will follow you.

Luca was born fifteen years ago, and I never thought that I would find his voice in a Phil Collins song, at a gym in Central square in Cambridge. And yet. There is a code to be broken indeed. I can testify of that. He wrpas around it without a word being spoke, trust me. And maybe there is a reason for his heart to be hidden. A reason only he (and Phil) know that I still have to grasp. He will follow me if I ever find a way to his heart, and he will always be with me. And I know he keeps a place in it, and that I will see it shining through.  And that he is waiting.

And I will look decadent and just marvellous in my Levi’s.







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