September 23-September 26
After arriving in our hotel late at night, we slept in until late morning. I remembered about 9:35 there was a free buffet breakfast and grabbed my sister and my pants and ran down to shove my face with all things food. Mostly the coffee though. I was quickly reminded in Europe that they don’t abuse coffee like us Americans, and they find one shot of espresso to be a perfectly acceptable size. I need like 20 of those, so I went to town while I could.
We made our way to the Coliseum. Helpful hint: if you are planning to see it, book your tickets in advance. I did ours just the day before and it saved us over an hour of standing in line. Its 14 euro and it gives you access to The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and something else I didn’t go to. It is definitely worth every penny.
The Coliseum was pretty mind blowing. Helpful Hint: Download Rick Steves Free App. You can then download walking tours of just about anything known in Europe, including this. We did that before we left the hotel and listened to it as we walked. We learned a LOT more than we would of just looking at the building itself, although it is amazing in it’s own right.
Then we headed to the Roman Forum. I was getting pretty low on blood sugar and the sun was pretty hot, so I kinda checked out at this point. There was a lot of information to be learned there, unfortunately I can’t tell you any of it. But here’s some pictures of it. If you want to learn more, you’re going to have to google it. Or dowload that on the Rick Steves app, too!
We grabbed some lunch near the Forum and debated on doing a horse drawn carriage ride. The cost was pretty high (100 euro) and only took us around the sites we had already seen. Had I of known this before, maybe would’ve taken it to save my fat ass some steps, but such is life.
I text my friend that I made the last time I visited. He was working at one of the restaurants we ate at and I thought he was pretty much the cutest guy I’ve ever seen. He didn’t speak very much English, but his coworker did who seemed to be happy to step in as wingman last time when we were having issues exchanging numbers. He also brought me not one, but TWO desserts that time. He could see me eyeing them from the table and had decided to give me both. Maybe this is why I liked him.
I told Alessandro that I was going to be by the Vatican and would come by his work to eat, if he wanted. He wrote back and said yes. I got excited.
We took the bus back to our hotel. Helpful Hint: if you can, always take the metro. The metro runs 1.50 euro for 100 minutes of riding, or if we had been smarter, you can buy a 24 hour pass for 7 euro. The metro can get you ANYWHERE. It’s very convenient, runs often, but sometimes gets crowded. It’s still worth it. The traffic there is insane, and taking a bus doesn’t entirely free you from traffic, although some places they do get their own lane.
I sat on the terrace with my sister that night and we talked about our adventures. Prior to the trip, my sister almost didn’t come, for a couple reasons I won’t get in to because it’s not relevant. I didn’t know if I’d be doing this trip alone or with family. Now it will be both. However, in my adamant push for my sister to go, one conversation I told my mom I would be an asshole and guilt her into it if it came down to it. I wanted it for her so badly.
My sister is arguably one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, person on earth. When I first started having suicidal thoughts at 13, I remember writing her on my big old block computer at my dads house confiding in her about it. She had recently moved to Eastern Washington and wasn’t just down the street for me to run to. She always wrote back letting me know I’d be okay, she was there for me, and everything else that made me feel better.
At 19, with my first official attempted suicide, I remember waking up in a hospital bed from an overdose and there were her and my mom at my side, holding my hand. She had left work when she heard and stayed by me, never judging, only loving me, regardless of what a disaster I was.
At 20, 21, 22.. drunk and a mess or having suicidal thoughts where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep me safe from myself, I’d call her at work (she works night shift) and she’d sit and talk to me until I could feel okay enough to live another day. She’s who I spend all my Friday nights with just sitting on her couch and talking about anything or nothing. She’s gone through more than anyone I know, and would still give anyone the shirt off her back. She’s my strength and my idol and I wanted nothing more than for her to experience something so amazing.
We sat on the patio overlooking this park and she told me she was reminded how amazing this world is. That it is so easy to get caught in the day to day bullshit that you forget about this big, beautiful, giant, amazing world just outside. She said the Coliseum was possibly one of the coolest things she’d ever seen in her entire life. She said her eyes were opened to how possible travel really is and that she plans on taking more, instead of once every 17 years as it has been for her.
And then she said she was so happy she came. And that made every pre-trip stress, frustration and anxiety worth it. For when you read this QB, I just want to say one more time, I love you to a million little pieces and you are truly one of the most remarkable people that I am proud to call my sister. I love you so much. And thank you, for all you’ve done for me.
Monday morning came and I again annihilated the buffet. Every croissant, tart, bread and coffee was inhaled. There were no survivors. I am a merciless eater.
We caught the M-line to the Trevi Fountain. It was just as grandeur as the postcards. We walked a little further to the Spanish Steps. We walked to the Roman Pantheon. We walked to the Vatican. This actually took a bit longer because I took us on the detoured route by accident, but we made it.
Then we headed to Alessandro’s restaurant. I surprisingly knew where it was, without knowing the name or GPS, but I think it’s because I had eaten some of the most amazing pizza across the street from it and that shit just doesn’t leave your memory bank, ya know?
We sat in a table outside and I walked in. Alessandro was leaning over his phone at a faux host stand and took a glance up at me. He smiled, big. And he came out and put his arms around me tight and squeezed me. I got those butterflies and flushed face feeling. This. Boy. *😍😍😍
We had a brief exchange of basic hello’s and food talk. His English isn’t spectacular and my Italian consists of “gelato” and “lasagna”, so we weren’t really able to talk too much without the assistance of google translate in hand. I made a mental note to download that later. I then told him I was going to pee. *facepalm* I am just fantastic with my words when I’m nervous.
Dinner was good, and I introduced him to my mom and sister. This may seem fast for our second unofficial date (that he doesn’t know we’re on), but I had decided upon seeing him we were going to get married and I need to fast track this shit. He’s still gonna have to ask my dad’s permission and I’m thinking a nice winter wedding so we gotta move things along. The leaves are falling, if you know what I mean.
When we left I asked for a picture, but really it was just so I could touch him. Not very many people do I quickly become so obsessed with, but Mr. Alessandro *insert last name here* is one of them. I should probably find out my last name, but I think I’d rather have the surprise after our vows.
I hugged him goodbye and we went and waited for the bus for nearly an hour. (Seriously you guys, USE THE METRO!!!). We finally got on it, and after 10 minutes I decided to check google to see how close to home we were. I had gotten us on the wrong bus.
Whoops. So after another few minutes, we got off and waited again for the other bus. We got on that one and I prayed it was the right one. Mom was gonna lose her shit on me if I navigated us wrong again after the Vatican incident and now this. Directions are not my strong suit.
Within a few minutes of leaving, Alessandro text me. He told me I am beautiful and that if I would like to, he would see me after work. I said yes before I remembered he told me he gets off around 11. My bedtime is 8 but sometimes when I’m feeling wild I push it and stay up until 9.
I was debating on what to do and if I should meet him and I posted a poll on my WanderLust and Laughter Facebook page. I asked my mom and sister what they thought. It was a unanimous “FUCK YES” on all accounts.
My mom, who loves to tell me I’ll be kidnapped, raped and then sold into sex slavery by literally anyone, had no qualms about me going out with this guy. She was, in fact, encouraging me.
“Drink some caffeine. Here! Take a caffeine pill! You need to go or he’ll think you don’t like him.”
“What in the actual fuck, mom? You’ve been GPS tracking me on every Tinder date ever, but you have no issues with this guy picking me up and taking me wherever? What’s the deal?” (Personally, I think she’s getting pretty desperate to get me married off and is willing to take a little more risk these days).
“Oh not him. He’s so wholesome. And sweet! The way he was looking at you. You couldn’t see it but he kept coming out every minute to peak around the corner and look at you. And HE’S CUTE! Go put some makeup on though, yours has worn off from the day.”
I text Alessandro that I had downloaded a translate app and that could help us. I have gone on a date, a 4.5 hour one in fact, in the past with a German guy who didn’t speak much English. It’s doable, but everyone there needs to be comfortable with long silences and have lots of patience. Trying to understand each other can be hard. I think this is even the case when you do speak the same language sometimes.
He picked me up and I got in his car. He sat there staring at me with his huge brown eyes and even bigger smile. He’s just one of those genuinely happy people.
He asked if I had been to somewhere and I said no, not because I hadn’t but because I didn’t really care where we went. I just wanted to spend some time with him. I’ve been alone a long time and something about being in his presence just felt right.
We parked the car and walked to this ledge that overlooked Rome and the Vatican. He kept calling is Saint Piedre (I think), and I kept saying Vatican? We never came to agreement on this. I found out later the actual building that I know as The Vatican, is the church- San Pietro. Vatican is the city. The more you know…
Then he drove me to another place. He got me a Diet Coke and we parked the car at this cul de sac. It looked right at the top of the lit up dome of San Pietro. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Alessandro apologized again for his “bad” English. I kept telling him not to and that he spoke better English than I do Italian (see: none). He then told me he used to be fluent. He used to speak English and Spanish very well, and that 5 years ago he lived in London for 8 months.
I know you can lose the language if you don’t use it, but I was pretty confused. This isn’t a guy that seemed he’s picking up after being fluent. He saw my confusion and he grabbed my hand and put it on the right side of his head. He traced the line of a very large scar I hadn’t noticed, and I’m not sure how I didn’t. It was a very defined upside down horseshoe line, and the same size as an actual horseshoe.
“Tumor,” he told me. “Surgery.. Take tumor. Here. Three year ago they take out. One year, no speak. Two year, no walk. I learn again, but I slow. It hard for me, now. To speak English. Because this.”
Never in my life would I have guessed looking at this beautiful, tall, dark and handsome Italian man that at 30 years old had to have a tumor removed from his head. Never.
It snaps me to reality. To remember each fucking moment is precious because one minute you can be fluent in 3 languages and the next laying on a bed have you head operated on at THIRTY YEARS OLD. This man next to me, I wouldn’t of ever guessed. I kind of stared at him in disbelief, and amazement.
Perhaps that’s what makes him so happy. Perhaps his close proximity to death gave him the reminder so many of us seem to lose in that daily hustle and bustle. That life is precious and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Be in this moment. Embrace your loved ones, and make new loved ones. Love your fucking life. That’s what we have, and that is ALL we have. Its so cliche but so damn true.
I’m not sure if I leaned in to kiss him, or if he saw my complete amazement staring at him and he leaned in, but either way, it happened. And it was perfect. He may have forgot a lot of things from surgery, but kissing wasn’t one of them. Also, not a euphemism. That’s all we did.
Not only was Alessandro nothing but a gentleman, I wouldn’t of anyway. I have a strict rule I stand by and that’s not to sleep with anyone I like. That’s how you get hurt. And although I hadn’t really planned it, it was very clear from my feelings that I really liked this boy.
Eventually, and unwanting to, I told him I had to go home. It was nearing 1:30 in the morning. Not only was I tired, but he had told me he works at 10, has a 45 minute drive home, 1.5-2 hour drive in the morning, and still had to take me home. I was pretty sure he would have stayed up all night with me though. As we drove home, he talked to me more. About his family, his work, his vacations, his life. At stop lights he’d lean over and kiss me more. He drove with his hand on my lap, not knowing it’s one of my most favorite things. One stop light I have him Eskimo kisses. My nieces used to do it when they were little and it was the most genuine form of love they’d give, so it’s always been special in my heart. He doesn’t know it, but I only save that for people I reallllllly like.
He told me he was happy that we could meet again. I told him I was happy he remembered me.
“Yes, like you know who I am. You remember, from before.”
“Ahhhhh…….oh YES. Yes. I always remember you. You are so.. I see you the first time and you are *sonsoli*(I dont remember the word but it sounded similar to this, I also didnt know what it meant). You know sonsoli?”
“No, Im sorry I don’t know that word.”
“You are.. so happy. I see you outside before you come and you make smile and you smile so much. I don’t know word. You are nice. Yes. But you are, you are.. good. Very good. I like you. I always remember you. Always.”
I gave him a long hug goodbye. I had never thought I’d see him again and I don’t know if I will again this time. But I didn’t want to forget that moment. Not often do you find, especially with big ole’ language barriers, someone that makes your heart skip a beat. Alessandro is one of those for me. Inside my dead, cold, beaten and tired heart, I felt something I hadn’t in years. I told him goodbye and that I hope to come back to Rome.
“I wait for you” he told me. And I wanted to get back in that car, but knew I couldn’t. I told him goodbye again and he watched me as I walked in my hotel. It was nearly 2:30 in the morning and worth every minute of staying up past my bedtime. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of him when I woke up too.