Romance In Rome

Doug Thornton 


Copyright 2004 by Doug Thornton 

Photo of a cupid with drawn bow.

Weary—I had finally made it. After two and a half months of traveling Europe, which included a short stop in Venice that left me dazed and cold from the worst snowfall they had seen in thirty years, or so the locals had told me. I had finally reached the storied city of Rome. I was full of expectations for this part of my trip, as I had heard so many great stories from people who had already traveled through Rome. It was just the sort of thing that would put me back in a mood of elated joy

As I stepped out of the train station the flood gates of activity opened. Rome is a conveyor belt of activity; I was just along for the ride. It’s very easy for something interesting to come your way. To my left, banging bells, honking horns, Italian profanities—transportation workers were on strike and much like the first sip of a fine Italian wine, they wanted everyone to taste the richness of their ideas. Vapors of fresh brick oven pizza serenaded me from the right with the lingering smell of fresh tomatoes and homemade bread wafting through the streets. A couple of streets up, I found my hostel, but because of the lack of fear and anxiety the people in Rome show, it was a struggle in itself. Whether they are in a hurry or just enjoying the beauty of the great city they do it a their own pace and embrace their situation. I had the good fortune of finding a hostel that gave out free breakfast and dinner. My money was desperately low and the less I spent on food, the more I got to spend on alcohol—at least that’s the way I looked at it.

After check in, I was whisked away to my room where I found two beautiful South American girls unpacking. They were voluptuous in every sense of the word, but when I entered what seemed to be a cheerful, upbeat room everything stopped. I received a steely-eyed look from one of the girls. She erupted in a fury of Spanish that sounded like the rumbling of a great storm, which to a certain extent was the case. I didn’t understand Spanish that well, but I’m almost sure there were some harsh words in her blatant pleas that don’t have definitions in the dictionary. It turns out she was mad because I would be staying in her dorm and when she realized this hostel didn’t separate boys and girls her face turned red with an annoyed look of anger. What a shame! As the door closed behind me an eerie silence fell over the room. I felt awkward and out of place with just the three of us in the room, but hey, that’s what traveling is all about. I glanced at the other girl; she smiled at me as if to say “sorry.” I took it as a peace offering and stripped down to my boxers and went off to take a shower (the best remedy for a long train ride hangover.)

I was received well at dinner and served noodles and ketchup sauce—it didn’t have the taste a traditional Italian meal would have, like the chunks of tomatoes swimming in a fine vinaigrette dressing topped of with the aromatic smell of spicy meatballs and a nice chunk of bread, but either way it sure tasted good on an empty stomach. At the table I met a man from America. He politely said hello to me and from there he told me about how he had just got to Rome and what a desperate relief it was to have a free dinner for a change. The further into the conversation we got the more intrigued I became by this man. He seemed desperately in search of something. Then he told me of a plan he had to hitchhike to Greece. “Just think of it he said, nothing but me and the open road. It may take me years to reach Greece.” This man had no real plans, all he wanted to do was experience life. I felt liberated after the conversation, so after dinner I went to a nearby park. Rome reminded me much of New York City (move, move, move), but sitting in the park I realized the importance of their movement. Rome, the eternal city, was based on movement; it is instilled in the body, mind and soul of all the people of Rome. I first realized this when I was making my way to the hostel earlier. It was the empire of a great nation, a world where people moved with authority and self-confidence. My walk back to the hostel was enamored with respect and love for the city itself. I was somewhere, the center of the world perhaps!

My head popped in the common area of the hostel—no one. It seemed like a good time to read a book. Not three words into it I look up and see a divinely beautiful Mexican girl making eyes at me. Her eyes shaded dark by her jet black hair provided a mystic appeal about her. The smile on her face opened up the heavens above and I pondered my existence in such a great work of art. Her shirt slid delicately off her shoulder to reveal her sun-kissed skin, which put me in a flirtatious mood, but just as I was about to motion her to come over, she got up and left. What luck! So I start reading my book again—three more words and I noticed she appeared again. At this point, I believed my book was holding some sort of magical power that was bringing her to me. This time she did not leave, I noticed, but I had no time to react, her hypnotic eyes were already focused on me and she was headed straight for me. She bent down and kissed my cheek—I wasn’t use to that sort of greeting. It was as if I was a peasant and the queen had just granted me permission to be in her presence. It was a spark of life to me.

“My name is Mali.” Her Spanish accent flirted with the English words to give her voice a lusty sexual feel. As we talked her eyes never left mine and our hands remained close. We stayed up for hours talking—books, places we’ve seen, what brought us here, there was never a lull. By nights end we made plans to tour all of Rome, of course, not before our free breakfast in the morning.

It was a beautiful Romanesque morning, the sun was shining, old friends were yelling across the street to each other about what they had for dinner last night, everything seemed to come to life. I was casually late for my meeting with Mali. By the time I got there she’d already had a seat for me waiting patiently. The breakfast was nothing special, some burnt eggs, hot dogs, cereal, and orange juice—oh, the orange juice tasted so wonderful it almost drowned out the burnt egg and hot dog taste. However, I was not going to complain, it was free! With our stomachs full we were ready for our mission to see Rome.

My first interaction with the people from Rome was an intimate one, I should say. I was on the metro at mid-day and the wave of people that flooded into the trains seemed absurd. It was quite a feeling of caution and pleasure at the same time. I was pinned up close against Mali and some other good looking girl—who just by chance I happened to be standing next to—but I also had to watch for pickpockets. Our bodies were close; close enough to spark that eternal flame of romance. We got off at a stop that was very accessible to the Coliseum.

And there it was in all its pride and prestige. The glory days of the Coliseums bloody past have been erased and the only vision that remains are the photos and trinkets the street vendors try to sell. We became overcome with excitement by the sheer thought of where we were standing that I threw my arms around Mali and we danced through the crowds of tourists to the gates of the Imperial city. The majestic facades of the old buildings brought a sense of brilliancy. The marvelous structures created an atmosphere of a once great city worn by time and the human struggle for greatness. Soon, Rome faded into the background and all we could see were each other’s eyes. We stopped and asked a lady who was in a tour group to take our picture. She smiled at us with that kind of smile a grandma gives her grandson and she made a note to tell us how cute we were, not once, but twice. I remarked on how cute the matching hats the tour group had on were, but I said it with a spray of innocence so no offense was taken.

We became exalted with joy and chased each other down to the pantheon, where Mali then pulled out some white chocolate and began to eat. She asked me if I wanted a piece, I said yes, but when I reached for it she put it on her lips and gave me a seductive look. I immediately felt a bit nervous and excited all at the same time. Our lips met around the small piece of chocolate. Her lips soft like the sunlight that bathed us in a serene reality that only our lips could feel. The kiss was such a sweet, delicate kiss. We could hardly pull ourselves from each other as our lips seemed to melt together. When we finally pulled apart, we decided to visit the Trevi Fountain, which we found ourselves lost for a good hour or so trying to find it. Alas, we stumbled upon it.

I sat there with Mali and admired the surreal grandeur of the fountain. It was a hot sunny day, the perfect atmosphere for the Trevi Fountain. Mist flowed down the fountain giving us a shady spot to sit under as the sun brought the fountain to life and then of course, there was us. We found ourselves arm in arm passionately kissing in front of the fountain. It was perfect! We didn’t care what anyone thought, we were caught up in the beauty of the moment. We hopped on the wings of romance and took off! There was only one thing holding us to reality—Mali was leaving tomorrow. She was going to Florence to see the heart of Tuscany. I suggested she come with me to the Cinque Terre, but she couldn’t, her time in Italy was almost up and she was flying out of Florence. When she invited me to come with her, the sense of adventure and a pretty woman overruled all logic and I forgot about the Cinque Terre altogether.

It was getting late and before our free dinner we had a glass of wine to aid our aching feet. We devoured our dinner, which was quite good on this occasion. Some wine, linguini and meat sauce and the stars in an endless Roman sky, a great last dinner in Rome! After dinner we scheduled a time to leave for Florence the next day. Everything was set. She would get me up at 7:00a.m. and we would leave from there. I walked Mali to her room and kissed her delicately, the gentle kiss that had become a need for me before I bid her goodnight.

The following morning I awoke at 10:00am. I thought nothing of it and went down to go eat breakfast. I did not see Mali and started to get worried. Check out time was 10:30a.m. so I waited until then but still no Mali. I couldn’t wait any longer, I would have to catch a train or I’d be stuck in Rome with no accommodation. I tenativly walked to the train headed to Riomaggiore and hopped on. Riomaggiore was the first city of the Cinque Terre. The train ride was a very somber one. Had I imagined Mali? Was she not real? My subconscious nagged at me torturing my already tortured mind. She must have been real, I thought, she was so perfect. Gone without a trace, only a picture of her remained in my memory. I arrived at Riomaggiore in the evening and couldn’t help but be saddened by the divine romanticism of the small fishing village. I had no one to share it with. I walked aimlessly around the streets watching lovers embrace, children playing, and old women sitting content watching the sun set over the Mediterranean. I stumbled on to a nice pizza place and decided to go in. There were only two other girls in the place when I walked in. They were American no doubt as their attire reeked of it. I inquired where they were from. They said New York and soon I was sitting at their table chatting up a storm. Mali was still in my head, but I was ready for new adventures that were on the horizon. And I came to the conclusion that the world is a beautiful place, filled with beautiful people, with beautiful minds!  FINIS

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