Despite how little sleep I’d gotten over the last couple days and the jet lag I was fighting, I woke up early in the hostel, more than an hour before my alarm was scheduled to ring, and immediately checked Facebook like a real loser.
I’ve rarely been able to say that checking Facebook was a good idea or use of time, but in this moment it actually was. My inbox contained a message from my cousin, Ryan, whom I only see a couple times a year. Ryan was strangely and coincidentally in Rome right now too, on a vacation with his immediate family. He wanted to meet up for lunch and through Facebook we arranged to meet that afternoon.
Kay and I planned on visiting Vatican City before this reunion/lunch date, and on our way we stopped in a cafe for breakfast and coffee. We ordered croissants (y’know, Kanye-style) and coffees. Italy hadn’t gotten any less scorching since yesterday, so I ordered an iced coffee to cool myself down. Forgetting that I wasn’t in the good ol’ US of A, where an iced coffee is this enormous plastic cup filled with enough coffee and ice to make you pee twice, I was pretty surprised to find that my coffee was cold without ice cubes, was nearly black in color, and was contained inside of a tiny champagne glass. Be warned, ignorant traveling Americans: Coffee comes smaller in Europe.
The taste of the coffee, though, was bold and sweet, and I drank it all too quickly. Kay and I talked and chewed our pastries for a while, and then I got a phone call from Ryan. I told him that our plan was to visit the Vatican City, and then meet him for lunch. Ryan said that wouldn’t work–that the line to get into Pope Town is usually around four hours long. So Kay and I just went ahead and met my family for lunch. The Pope could wait.
Ryan is technically my dad’s cousin, so I’m not sure what that makes him to me (I’m bad at family math), and we’re both much closer with my dad than we are with each other. We don’t see each other much, and so it was good to catch up with him and his family, but I found it ironic that I had to travel across the world to actually spend some real time with one of my relatives who has always lived in the same state as me. A photo was taken of all of us, Kay included.
While everyone was still conversing, Ryan texted me at the table: “Is it alright if I put this picture online? Your family will see it.”
I think he thought I might be having some sort of sexy adventure around Europe with a random Sheila I’d met. I was thankful that he would have protected my sexy privacy from my overwhelmingly Baptist family, assuming my privacy was indeed sexy or needed protection; and I was happy that I made someone think I was capable of going on a scandalous escapade, the kind full of accented women and whatever the house wine is.
I spoke to him from across the table, “You can put the photo online, yeah.”
After failing to finish the platefuls of heavy pasta, we all hugged goodbye, and Kay and I hopped the Metro towards Pope Frank’s Stomping Grounds. On the way we passed a cute collection of outdoor shops, roofed, and made of shelves. I was attracted to the stands at first because it appeared that they only sold old and very-cool-looking books. When we stopped to take a closer look we found that these shelves also housed serialized comics, American movies on DVDs, vinyl records, and hardcore porn movies. I can’t remember any of the specific titles, but they were along the lines of “Sweaty Sluts 7” or “Big-Game Whores 3.” There was nothing really appealing about these movies (we all know that sequels are never as good as the originals), or anything else sold on the stands, so we continued to Vaticanville.
In Vatican City, we stood in awe of the beautiful surrounding buildings, and also of the absurdly long line of people waiting to get into The Vatican. The line was not in the shade, and Kay and I were already feeling fried, so even though I wanted to give ol’ Francis and high five and check out the fancy haberdashery I assume The Vatican has, we decided to spend our time on the shady steps instead. Ironically, the Catholic Holy city was hot as Hell.
Dinner took place in Trastevere again, and the event was sandwiched (paninied?) between breath-taking sights. Previous to dinner Kay and I took a gander, or maybe more like a jaw-dropped stare, at the Trevi Fountain and also The Pantheon. These sculptures would be impressive as a modern artistic achievement, but knowing that they were constructed so long ago (Trevi Fountain was constructed in 1762, and The Pantheon in 126 AD), and by people without college degrees, was really messing with my mind.
Following dinner, on our way back to Hostel Pink Floyd, we walked along the river, which was lit up, full of shops, and very crowded. In the dark, the lights bounced off the moving water, and it was beautiful, and the temperature was cooler down by the river. Getting closer to the hostel, we dipped our heads in the cool water of a random fountain, and then walked past the Colosseum, which was also lit up, but from the inside, and light shined from the many doors and archways like a mountainous jack-o-lantern. Casually walking beside the Colosseum was incredibly surreal–it was hard to comprehend that I was able to walk past something so immortal and important, as if it were just another building.
Romans are modern people living in an ancient city. Rome in 2013 exists and functions simultaneously because of and in spite of these massive tourist-attracting statues, monuments, and amphitheaters. I imagine many Romans wake up, put on their suits, and speed to work on their scooters, uncomfortably bouncing on the cobblestone streets, without even noticing their famous surroundings anymore. What a juxtaposition of two things: the scooter-riding, iPhone-owning Italians and their still-standing neighbors built in the first few centuries.
When I think about it, this day in Rome was full of odd juxtapositions and ironies. Like that I had to visit Italy in order to spend some quality time with a cousin of mine for probably the first time ever. Also there was the Hellish heat in Vatican City. And even as I’d stood in the shadows of such beautiful structures throughout the course of the day, each inspired by religion and the strength and creativity of mankind, it was strange to know that not far away, a used DVD copy of “Back Door Babes 8” was available for purchase.