Day 1: Rome

One of my favourite photos from a trip to Rome in 2013. It was mid-year and sizzling hot. I stayed in an apartment near Campo de’ Fiori. This was the view from the window: the opening frame for my stay, inside which the others nest:

Rome as apricot
wall – cautious retro morning
loosens cobblestones
A story-shook tourist mouths
terracotta sentences

I arrived after midnight one night and woke slowly, bleary-eyed, into a morning that felt lost. I got showered and dressed, physically ready to head out into Day 1 in the true city of love (seeing as Roma backwards is Spanish for love!). But mentally I was nervous, apprehensive about confronting this mythical destination in the flesh.

My breakfast plans were put on hold when I got trapped inside for an hour because I couldn’t open the door. The key wouldn’t work, the handle came loose and fell onto my palm. The situation seemed to mirror my lacklustre will that, I think, had to do with being on my first longish holiday without friends, a solitary traveller. Whatever the reason, I was annoyed with myself – unable to even get out the door.

The English-Italian dictionary gave me fragments of meaning and I transmitted these through the phone line to the Landlady. Fifteen minutes later she arrived with two men in tow. They came up to my floor, but had no luck. From below, their upturned faces caught my falling English and tossed up Italian in response. We worked our way through gesture and sound into resolution …

A ladder was placed against the external wall and one of the men climbed up to ‘rescue’ me. Surreal. Two turns of the key by Roman Romeo and the dead door opened. I waved my hands around and said sorry many times. I watched him walk away through the window, but bumped into him again later that morning. I grimaced, he gave me a charming smile.

Visiting Rome was awesome, but this interlude is what I remember most clearly – especially a sense that the key whispered ‘no’ because I was somehow out of place, perhaps not yet ready to appreciate the wonders I would soon be immersed in.

Another thing I remember Rome for, on the flip side, is helping me learn to be comfortable getting around on my own. I felt awkward and self-conscious with my Lonely Planet fold out map, stopping and starting, as I made my way to different sites. It was probably my first time sitting down in a restaurant for a serious solo dinner. The first night was cringeworthy, but it wasn’t too long before I started to relax and even enjoy myself. Something clicked into place – not a perfect place, but a better one.

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