April 7, 2016
On a Bus From Rome to Catania
It is 7:37am. I set my alarm for 5:15, then decided to close my eyes and count to 100, and woke up in a panic at 5:22. (Thank God I didn’t wake up any later!) Simona woke up to give me my last espresso in Rome and then I gave the drowsy boys a kiss good-bye before stumbling to the bus stop with a combination of baggage that I’m pretty sure weighs more than I do. Luckily there was only one flight of stairs that I had to carry it up — what’s even luckier was that there were no pickpockets around to take advantage of me because I’m pretty sure I was an easy target. Then as calm and collected as one can possibly be while navigating the Roman metro with an enormous suitcase and three bags, I made my way to Tiburtina to catch my 11 hour bus ride to Catania — dear Lord, the things I do to save money sometimes!
In a way, I am glad there was no ceremonial goodbye with a chorus of trumpets and endless hugs and kisses. Even as it was, I teared up and had to look away and think about something else. I just can’t say goodbye – and yet, I’ve been doing it so often lately. I keep walking into people’s lives and then walking right back out, reminding myself to keep my eyes faced forward. Sometimes I hate the sound of “forever.” Oh, sometimes it can be wonderful…but it can be downright horrible too. Goodbye forever: perhaps the saddest combination of words in the world.
Yesterday was my last day in Rome. It was 26 degrees and beautiful. It has been very hot lately and I’m already as tanned as I want to be and covered in freckles (not too pleased about that last part). I felt very pensive walking down to the Colosseum, and via del Corso, and down to the Trevi Fountain knowing that this is it – for a good while yet anyway. The eternal city where I wake up to the sound of cars angrily honking at each other and where something beautiful – that you didn’t notice before – is waiting just around the corner. Rome with its charming streets full of history (ie: the balcony where Mussolini delivered his important speeches), and Ancient Ruins, and mythology and art.
I remember how cautious I was when I first arrived; how I didn’t trust anybody and was thoroughly convinced that everyone was set out to rob me (there was even that time I moved away from a nun because I thought she was a gypsy. A nun!) I hoped Rome would toughen me up and I think it did. Probably I shall always have to work on being less timid and more confident in my decisions, but I think Rome was good for me. It taught me to be trusting but not too trusting; brave but not reckless. Most of all it taught me that sometimes in life – perhaps even most of the time – people aren’t going to politely stop for you and wait for you to cross the street. Instead they will keep trying to get to wherever they’re going, and you’ll be waiting in the same place an awfully long time if you think they will stop. So thank you, Rome, for teaching me that sometimes it is necessary to step onto the road and make others stop for me in order to get where I need to be. It really is necessary…sometimes, in life.
I will miss so much about this city! The crazy streets for one, and the flowers crawling up random buildings for another. The hidden cafes, and beautiful bridges, uneven cobblestones, and vespas so picturesquely parked. It really is a crazy city though! People don’t necessarily wear seatbelts (even the kids!) and there are apparently no rules about texting and driving (if there are, they are not heeded) and many times, I have seen kids sitting on their mom’s lap in the passenger seat or standing in the back seat. It’s crazy!
I was listening to “Arrivederci Roma” as I did my last walk, feeling the familiar sense of longing I always feel when it’s time to say goodbye. I’m always left yearning for more time, wishing I had done this or seen that. Time really must be the most precious thing in the world.
“Arrivederci, Roma, Goodbye, goodbye to Rome. City of a million moonlit faces, City of a million warm embraces…”