Sorry for too much but my mind is over-active before bed after a cold shower (nothing like on a hot night) and before I pray and try to sleep.
Around 18:30 (we work on the 24-hour clock around here and I will use it from the time out – this is 6:30 pm for those unawares) I headed out of the Casa Santa Maria, affectionately know as ‘the Casa.’ I had been in all day trying to work on my package delay with FedEx, unpack the simple things in the suitcases, try to get a lay of the land and taking an afternoon nap. The Casa is quite empty, and I mean empty. Not even the Real Presence remains in the Tabernacle. There are only odd markings of humanity here and there – an odd sound down the hall, a sleeping bag found in the air-conditioned TV room, things like that. But not actual people.
I left in clandestine garb, shorts and white shirt. This was mostly to stay cool as it was about 97 degrees and rather humid so thus clothed I went out into the Roman summer evening. I was greeting by a group of about 5 Polish girls wearing bright neon colored shorts. It was jarring to say the least as their faces did not match their bright short. Indeed, like everyone else, they were red-faced, glistening slightly and looking oppressed by the heat. As I walked the streets – it was better since the sun was low and the buildings kept most places shaded – most everyone looked the same, red-faced, a wet sheen and looking mostly like they wanted to find some place cool.
A short walk gave lie to the myth that Europeans don’t like air-conditioning. Not true. Every restaurant and store has A/C and every apartment building has the units plastered on the back-side. They don’t like paying for A/C and so it is hot in people’s home but the stores and restaurants are niiiice. Heck, even the tobacco shop had A/C. It made sense too since the streets were littered with people feeling the heat. It was not pleasant. Of course, it’s better for the weather to be not pleasant when you can have a cool gelato while looking at the Pantheon with a little violin music in the background. Not pleasant, but not bad – better than sweating in some anesthetized suburban park – but that’s a different post.
My first mission was to search out the cellphone company stores in the area. With some sound advice from good Fr. Putzer I found the Vodaphone/WIND store and was able to check out their offerings. I wasn’t sure where the TIM store was but I followed my Roman gut and found it only three blocks away. In short, I have pretty good options and hope to have an iPhone and a plan that allows me to call home soon. We will see.
On the walk back I went to the Cartoleria Pantheon, which I love. It is a store entirely devoted to stationary, pens, seals and every sort of journal, etc. It is delightful. I bought some stationary on which to write home. By now is was about 19:45 pm and the heat was not letting up. People were looking for places to eat and those walking about seemed mostly like they wanted to be not on the street, which was understandable.
I walked to the Piazza San Ignacio hoping to eat at the restaurant there. The square is one of the nicest in Rome as it is surrounded by three sides and beautiful baroque buildings and on the fourth side by the church of San Ignancio which, has a beautiful facade and houses the tomb of St. Aloysius, one of my great patrons. Also, it was big enough that a light breeze was moving through it making heat a bit more bearable. Sadly, the restaurant was not open – not sure why, it was open yesterday. Perhaps it is the weekly schedule, perhaps the ferragusto, as they call it. In fact, many places are closed. Mostly standard shops, like clothes, etc. and all the ecclesiastical stores are on vacation. There are even some cafes, restaurants and touristy places that are closed for some weeks as the Romans look to flee the heat.
So, I went to the little restaurant right outside the Casa and sat down for caprese, piazza and insalata pomodoro (that’s a bowl of tomatoes) and a cafe. I read my book waiting for the courses and tried to mind my own business, which was not easy.
First, the table next to me was an interesting and loud couple. She was a Swede and he an Italian. The language of choice: English, loud English and her favorite word was s***. They were both ex-military (she was a translator) who had met on some NATO missions. They both agreed that The Congo is the worst place on earth and that the American military was the only group that new what was going on until Obama became president – just reporting what I heard. The conversation broke only for moments when he would reach over and kiss her fingers. Ackward? Sort of, mostly I was reading my geeky book (by geeky I mean awesome) book about Athanasius Kirchner – shout out to Will L.
There was a little reprieve when the nice American couple sat down in the next table over. They were recent college grads and even more recently married taking their honeymoon in happy Rome. My heart was a moved to think about a number of the happy couple I recently married and those to be married – EMILY & NICK I LOVE YOU – in coming days. All in all I kept to myself but was enchanted by all humanity around me.
Eventually the cafe had been drank (drunk?) and it was time to head home. Home. This is is now and, strangely, it feels that way. As I walked the streets of Rome I didn’t feel like a stranger, I felt like a local, like one who belongs here. Maybe that’s just sentiment but it’s still true, or at least feels true.
I am home.
But lonely a bit. No one else is here. I have the entire palace empty to myself. When I pulled out my keys I noted the little charm I had attached to it. My little heart – Libby – had given me a charm she made shortly after she heard I was leaving for Rome and I put it on my Roman room keys. I hadn’t really noticed it until just that moment as I put the key into the door of the Casa feeling all alone in my huge Roman home.
I realized I am not alone. There is a good God Who brought me here. Parents and family that will always support me. Friends who will pray for me and help me if I need. And Libby.
Not bad at all.
There are still a few mountains to cross but I will get there. Pray for me.