The next couple days fly by in a whirlwind. During the day I walk down new streets, exploring new corners, seeing what else I can possibly discover. I eat and drink, eat and drink, never tiring of pasta and white wine. I now laugh every time I pass a chestnut cart.
In the evenings, Christian comes over and we stroll to a bar or buy a beer and then end up back at the flat together. His kisses are sweeter than the wine I’ve been drinking. The conversation is light and playful. I’m shocked at our similarities and how easily we understand each other. But there’s always a bittersweet edge, because very soon, I’ll be hundreds of miles away, on to the next country, the next adventure. Love on the road is fast, short, but still very sweet. And with it comes an unmatched purity. There’s no worry of tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now. Because there’s a set end date. There is incredible freedom in love destined only for a moment. There is no room for tests or walls. You can just exist in this space together, this tiny moment where everything is good and happy and wonderful. And when it ends, it gets to live on in its own perfect time capsule, unspoiled by life and human error. And that end date raced towards us faster than we could blink.
There was no long, dramatic goodbye. Just a final night together, a final kiss. Gentle as the closing of a wonderful book.
January 28th, 2015
My final day in Italy is spent touching the last few unexplored sights on my list, and re-visiting that obelisk I sat on, drinking beers and smoking with Christian that first night. My feet and fingers write my invisible love letter to Rome into its cobblestones and stucco as I traverse the city one last time. I take deep breaths, as if I could breathe the city into myself and never let it go. But it’s time now.
Back at the flat, I re-pack all my things, the system perfected now. I haven’t felt the weight of my pack in over a week and when I heft it onto my shoulders, it takes me a second to settle into it. I walk out into the hall, where Nadia is waiting for me. I choke out a “Grazie mille, arrivederci”, and her eyes instantly well up with tears. She grabs her tiny flip phone, motioning to me to hold on. Sniffling, she calls her daughter in the United States, emphatically saying something to her in Italian and then handing the phone to me. Patrizia is on the line and says her mother wants to say I am always welcome and can stay as long as I want any time. I hand the phone back and Nadia says goodbye to her. She starts motioning to me and speaking painfully slow Italian, and to the best I understand, she says she wants me to stay for as long and as much as I can, because she’s usually alone there and loves having the company. The tears well up in my eyes now too as I hold her hands and slowly tell her in English that I would stay longer if I could, I would stay forever if I could. I give her one last big hug, and head to the door.
We take one last ride in the rickety elevator and I walk out the front door, turning to see her waving at me in the doorway as I disappear around the corner. When I first emerged onto this street, I had no idea I was going to fall in love. Not only once, but three times here. First with Nadia, second with Christian, and finally, with the city itself. And now I have to say goodbye for now to all of them. Maybe forever. But there’s something absolutely breathtaking in that motion all the same. Because love is what I’ll be leaving this city with, held tight inside my bones and my heart. And there is no souvenir, no photograph in the world that can outmatch that.
As I step onto the airport express train, I pray for another breakdown. Anything to give me a second more here, but today, it runs perfectly, whisking me back across the ancient walls and away from the city. There’s just two countries left to go now in this adventure. I say one last goodbye and then set my eyes ahead for my next stop: Brussels.