Rome I

On the Atlantic flight, my seatmate is actually Italian, Pisan.  He works for a chain of fitness centers that are just expanding in Italy, and I rudely suggest that I thought European women didn’t exercise.  The chain is like 24 Hour Fitness, or Curves, he explains.  Yes, I’ve heard of them.  Do I belong?  I laugh: no, no, I am not fit!

In a freak occurrence, the sandals I wore all over Disney World without trouble give me blisters just walking around the airports, en route.  So my first Roman purchase is acid green flip-flops, at Termini train station.  

Sleep deprivation and jet lag always hit me hard.  When a taxi driver at the train station explains my ride will cost 20 euros, I demand my bags back, muttering that I will take the Metro.  After fifteen minutes of dizzily studying the bus situation, I humbly return to the street and accept a 20 euro ride gratefully.  I can handle a subway on no sleep, but buses are too much for me.

For dinner, just around the corner from my hotel, I eat spaghetti with pepper, on a bed of fried cheese. Weird, but not bad.  I sit in a perfect gooseneck cobblestone alleyway, around the corner from my movie-set hotel.  When you live in a place that almost never appears in the media, it’s surprising how Europe looks like movies of Europe, or New York City looks just like “Law & Order.”  It’s easy to forget they build sets to look like Rome or New York, and not the other way around.  

An old man at another table reads in Italian.  A quartet of retired Americans and Brits chat.  Another couple gets on a motorcycle and rides away.  Tomorrow morning, this cafe will have disappeared like a speakeasy, the outdoor tables and plants and signs sucked back inside until the evening.  I surreptitiously look up how to say, “The check” in Italian.

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