Thoughts of Rome, Summer 2013
Like many great love affairs, I fell for Rome instantly. The food, the gorgeous men, the high-end knitwear. Around every corner was something old or even ancient. I was twenty years old, a six-foot-blonde with a wardrobe of miniskirts and an excitement for living that comes from too many years spent in a small Pennsylvania town. I smoked cigarettes, drank wine in piazzas, and danced all night, then I went to art history class in the morning.
I left Rome because I couldn’t get a work permit. My grandfather was the only member of his family to be born in the States, and hence, he was not an Italian citizen. The wardrobe of miniskirts would only get me the kind of job I didn’t want to do; I was going to be a writer and a job offer from a magazine in New York brought me back. I cried my eyes out the day I left, and it was 18 years before I went back.
Four degrees, two careers, one husband, a couple kids, and a tenure-track job later, I returned to Rome. It was like I never left. There was no sneaking into the Forum in the middle of the night and not a single cigarette. Wandering the streets of Trastevere long past bedtime and a succession of amazing meals fulfilled the same indulgent part of me. I found my way back to my old wine bar in the same way that tortoises navigate to spawn thousands of miles away. The graveyard with Gramsci, Keats and Shelly outside the Roman walls was exactly I had remembered it…but fewer cats.
What I found in Rome (besides a vintage MaxMara yellow wool jacket) was something bigger and badder than a piece of my youth. Rome was where I learned to live in the moment, say “si certo” when an Italian friend offers a Vespa ride, and to just sit and watch. I don’t always feel present in my own life. What’s for dinner? How will we get this one or that one to a doctor’s appointment? When is the book coming out? It’s mostly future tense for me.
As I drank prosecco in front of a 400 year old fountain, I wondered if it was the presence of the past that may me feel “present” in the right now. Or maybe it was the Roman low-key, “live your life” attitude. Could it be something in the air or the food that makes you just be cooler? I decided to stop wondering and drink the prosecco.
The only future tense I thought about was “When am I coming back?”