Satori In Rome (In Progress) Day 17
Working on this short script since November 1st for NANO. It’s the opposite of what Hemingway would’ve done. No structure other than cementing a little each day. Sometimes it’s 1,300 words while lying in bed. Sometimes it’s 100 words while my eyelids are closing in on me. It’s something. Each day. —Every night, that is. While drinking a few. Yes. It’s the opposite of what Hemingway would’ve done. I’m sure of it.
Day 17 minus three days at the end of October equals day 14 in this short script. I’ll be writing in it — for it — until the 21st — when I’ll be in Stockholm for a layover. Until then…
Bryan cansado? (Actually, it’s stanco.) (I had to look it up.)
I’m standing up in the attic room and I’ve got that artistic thing going on — that bullshit. It’s not an attic room actually. It’s a room on the top floor with a bathroom and a room to the side with a desk. The slanted ceiling points upwards to the stars. And while I’m not used to writing from bed the room is growing quite chilly. QUITE. Listening to Mozart, suitcase on the floor, clothes are strewn across the floor and on the other bed. The light in the room is dim.
I’m wondering if the people downstairs speaking in Italian are talking about me. From the bed, I can see an empty bottle of wine and beer on the corner of the desk. I’d left the light on. Maybe one of them had just come up to ask me something. But I couldn’t hear them.
This is my last week in Italy.
Last week I was in Rome. I’ve been meaning to write about it. The days have gleamed into the storied sadness of knowing that I will one day (soon) be leaving this place. I must fix my grammar before I get this finished. Yes, and the beer drinking is going slow tonight because I was up late last night until two in the morning talking to a friend with whom I’ve not spoken in years. I was drinking beer and wine. When I’d got back from the grocery store there was a couple sitting on the couch — one was a woman with a baby suckling at one of her teats. I came into the house with my bags of groceries: beer, deserts, bread, water, salami, cheese, olives, nuts, fruit, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken, salmon. I was getting the hang of everything — except for the Italian language.
I left Termini station, effervescent. Ready for the day. I was finally in Rome. After a week all alone in a house, cooking delicious meals and working and drinking wine and beer at night, every night. I drink every night. That’s what writers do. Working on something new. I’ll drink to that!
I figured out how to get to the Colosseum from one street that led across the city, south — I think it was. And the shops called out to me and the light was golden, entrancing on my skin. I felt relieved, the first day of taking it easy. I’d waited my entire life to see that fortress, that spectacle of barbarism. One of the most violent monuments to the human species. Trapped, forever. There, right in the center of the city. One of the oldest cities on the face of the planet hurtling through space, belching pestilence, farting up doom and destruction and filth and crime and variants of subspecies of humanoid creatures who fight to the death, who have fought to the death — and who will continue to do so until long after the soil is no longer plentiful with fruits, vegetables and sassafras roots.
I swam with the current of time, snuggled underneath the atmosphere — a protective layer of sheen and gas and uncooked artichokes. Raw, if you will. That’s what it felt like, my skin against the sun’s rays coming from equidistant plasma enshrouded with chaotic dust moving invisibly, eroding the fortress, the spectacle, the arena where women and men and bears and lions and tigers and Christ knows what else all hated, screamed, belched, fucked, farted, died, were torn to shreds all under a baking sun. And the window-like curtain they pulled over the Colosseum at daybreak — during the midafternoon heat — it all played into the hands of the wealthy, the elite, the Emperor sitting there, eating grapes, drinking wine, getting his balls tickled by some Slavic horseradish of a woman with twinkling ballerina slippers.
I saw the Colosseum for the first time and I felt my eyes nearly tearing up from the beauty of the splendor that is Rome — hundreds, thousands of years after Romulus and Remus, after Julius Caesar, after Augustus, after Pax Romana, after Trajan, and the wildebeests running amok, the aqueducts from hundreds of miles away in the mountains, after Marcus Aurelius went out into the hinterlands with a sword, a stick and a pail for his piss and vinegar … after the Gauls, the brutes, the battalions of hoary toads with freckles and goose pimples. The wall of yesteryear, the amphitheater where men (and women) played out their sick and twisted, sadistic masochism. The Romans sacked Jerusalem and made thousands of slaves build a giant theatre to their desecration of life and humanity — their trophies of human skulls, human misery — a sacrilege to the sanctity of sand. Little tidbits and pieces of human flesh. For lunch, breakfast, dinner and a nighttime snack.
The sun felt good. On my skin. The beauty of Rome was like little droplets of years that fell from my eyes.
Mustafa, a guy. Came up to me. Selling bracelets. He asked me all sorts of questions. Where was I from. And did I have a wife or a girlfriend? Were my parents still alive? What was I doing there? Here! Take a bracelet for your mom and dad! He wrapped one around my wrist. HA KUNA. MA TA TA.
Kenya! He replied after I asked him where he was from.
I pretended like I was running from something. He laughed.
Then he asked for a Euro or two or three.
“For my baby!” he cried incredulously.
The sun was smacking me in the face. It felt good. Honestly.
That masochism was palatable — throughout all those years of dirt and dust and dandruff and grime and endless sunlight and rain and wind and loud belches, smelly farts, pigeons, peacocks, tourists, Cleopatra — Noah’s Ark waiting in the wings.
“Wait,” somebody called out. “It’s not the end!”
I squinted up at the sun.
When I climbed down from the fence surrounding the Roman Forum — the ruins in the basking sunlight of the midafternoon — I cut my leg on the metal. I was trying to get a good picture. That’s what this whole trip was about!
The clouds laughed at me. The blue sky shone steady and undaunted by my clumsy behavior. Pain. Shot up through the bone, to my brain. Sweaty pain. I drank some water and splashed some of it under my armpits.
The whole day passed like a dream. The best day of my life.
Fountains. Crowds of people. Crows cawing in the wind. CAW!
The Pantheon — where I stared up at the big towers, the columns. Hmm, Doric. I studied them and thought about the human misery, the suffering, the pain, the struggle that went into erecting them. I pictured people falling from ladders, broken arms and shattered pelvic bones. No hospitals. No ambulances. No paramedics. No EMTs. Just the howling pain of Rome in the summertime. That sadness that would never abate.
When I stood taken aback, I gawked at the cornice. It looked to me like there were bullet holes. What if those bullet holes were shot by Allied soldiers during the liberation of the German occupation during World War Two?
I moved onward, to see what else there was to find.
I came across a big expanse where the red, white and green Italian flag waved to onlookers and passers-by. Traffic went around in circles. I took more pictures and looked at the restaurants, found an ATM, got some money … and walked through the streets, enchanted, smitten, hoodwinked. Like a paraplegic who, somehow, could walk again. A new life. A new beginning.
I sat down and had a pizza and a beer. My first bottle of beer in Rome!
I kept the bottlecap and paid the man.
Grazie, I said.
Prego was his reply.
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