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Chapter 3: Roman Linen Closets and Pink Boxer Shorts

Rome Travel Blog

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We landed in Rome the next day after a short flight.  Guards were carrying automatic machine guns at the airports but after an initial glance it didn’t faze us.  We were American and though security back in The States weren’t armed as heavy, everybody else was.  I had made contact with a friend from college who was studying in Milan so we scheduled a meeting place at the Spanish Stairs, a local hang out for both tourists and locals in the center of Rome.  Dan and I checked our backpacks at the train-station and started walking the streets.  Again, it was a beautiful, sunny day; third in a row and pretty accurate prologue of weather to come.  We had no idea where The Stairs were or how far, which was perfect.  We saw so much of what Rome was about, what Italy embraced in those first few hours.  It was all so decadent:  the architecture, the outdoor cafes, the five lane round-abouts circling an average statue to them, but a work of art to us.  The traffic was nuts!  We saved each other’s lives several times with a quick yank of the collar narrowly avoiding drivers whom would make New York cabbies cry.  Above it all, the most interesting Italian representations were the scooters and motorcycles racing around any and everything in their way.  The long, black hair of the girls attached to the back of the bikes was almost enough for me to buy a Vespa and finish out the summer in Rome.
I had met Wendy back in Ann Arbor at the University while taking a creative writing class in which we wrote about our experiences being big brothers and sisters.  We were poetically paired within the same family:  her with the bookworm daughter, me with the misguided, rebel son.  While she was showing off the medical library and computer laboratory, I was in the park drinking a forty with his friends and talking about girls.  (I thought if I didn’t get down to their level and do what they did, anything we talked about would go in one ear and out the other.)  Actually, I first noticed Wendy when she, in front of the whole lecture, asked about how to overcome the differences between our “little sibs” and their influences on each other.  She could have been talking about us, as different as we were.  The answer we would find out in the years to come: the differences don’t have to be a problem.  If you’re working together and balancing each other out, the differences can be a huge advantage.  Thinking about them often, I sincerely hope our “little sibs” were also able to figure out how to use each other to their mutual advantage.  
After the perfect amount of time of people watching, smoking cigarettes and trying to look as cool as the locals, Wendy arrived and within our first embrace I knew our wonderful platonic relationship had just gone out the window, Italian style.  She was a very together chick!  Remember the library and computer lab, those weren’t for her “little sister’s” enjoyment alone.  She had a hostile picked out for us, knew her way around and what to do:  my little, “Italian,” Jewish American princess.  It was checking into the hip little hostile that the very cool manager reminded me of a slight advantage / disadvantage that I would have to endure in Italy.  I had read in the newspaper a few years ago that one of the most notorious, ruthless leaders of a very feared Italian mafia family, whom had been recently captured after twenty years of being on the run (plastic surgery and all), had a last name one letter different than mine:  mine Rinna, his Riina.  I had wondered if people might think that this was no coincidence and that I was “connected.”  My speculation was answered in the long stare Mario gave to my passport.  What I didn’t forecast was that no matter how vehemently I denied a relation to the ruthless Godfather, Italians would still be very careful and very nice around me.  They couldn’t risk it!  And the one time that I didn’t directly deny it, now that’s a different story.  
We were settled in and on our way to our first bottle of wine within an hour.  The three of us were perfect together.  We were so excited about whom we were with and where we were.  It’s funny, with that kind of excitement and comfort level, you can travel half way around the world to happily sit on a hostile bunk bed for hours talking and joking with hometown friends?  A quick clean up and we were off to the streets to find food and excitement.  The slight differences between American cities and European can sometimes come down to shadows.  On this night, that shadow was that of the Coliseum cast down on the outdoor patio where we ate a fabulous Italian dinner.  It may have been commonplace to the locals, but to us, it was heaven.  It was that night, after the three of us had repositioned ourselves to sit at a table with some friendly locals, helping to finish off what seems like endless carafes of wine that Wendy and I took our relationship to the next level.  It was our first kiss:  in the middle of Rome, under a clear summer sky.  That kiss lasted all the way back to our hostile.  With Greener jumping on every parked motorcycle we came across imagining himself winning the Rome Moto X, Wendy and I were literally stopping traffic engulfing each other at various intersections, park benches and cleaner looking sidewalks.  There was a sober moment thrown in the middle of our trek back to the hotel when we came upon an ambulance.  Looking closer at the action, we discovered they were removing a dead body from the street.  Homeless O.D. probably, mafia execution maybe:  we weren’t sticking around to ask any questions.  
Even though the wine was turning our love into lust, it was for all the right reasons.  We were so good for each other, the perfect balancing act, ying and yang.  I gave her a little excitement and infinite reasons to not take the world so seriously; she would give me stability and the unconditional loyalty I have been searching for my whole life.  For her, it was an even trade-off.  For me, like all of the lonely fools in the world, it wouldn’t be enough.  
Dan was a country boy, didn’t live on a farm, but was taught the virtues of hard work early.  As kids, spending the night at his house was always the same:  you would stay up late watching TV alone after Dan had passed out at ten and regret it when Dan and his family woke up at seven.  The only time that this inevitability didn’t occur was one night when we were eleven years old, Dan’s Mom and Dad reluctantly left us home alone for a few hours when two convicted murderers escaped from the nearby prison.  I received the phone call.  “Is your Mommy or Daddy there?”  “No,” I replied.  “Why, what’s wrong?”  There was a long pause, “Well, just lock your doors!”  That was actually a fun night, all night planning our defense and escape routes.  
Reverting back to the way nature takes over, Dan was asleep in bed the minute we arrived at the hostile.  Still, the passion Wendy and I were exerting was going to be a little too intense for any witnesses to endure (nocturnally or otherwise).  We went from door to door until we found the linen closet.  At least, it would be easy to make it comfortable for Wendy.  Six months of friendship was thrown into that experience and turned into sexual gratification.  We worked each other over for hours!  It’s amazing that we didn’t wake everyone in the hotel; maybe they were just being nice?  From that moment on Wendy and I will always have Rome, or at least their linen closets, bed sheets, pillow cases, table cloths, and towels …
After our late night laundry excursion, while walking back to our room, we passed to see Mario sitting in the small reception area with three others smoking cigarettes.  Conversation and a quick cigarette was exactly what I craved.  I put Wendy to bed and joined the group.  Mario and two Israeli women had gone out to see an Italian Guitar player and brought him back to the hostile after the show.  I was experiencing “after sex” energy and happiness so conversation was easy, interesting and appreciated.      I’m like Pavlov’s dog, put me in the middle of some new, interesting people, smoking cigarettes and I am thrown back into a comfort zone that can take over space and time.  It didn’t take long to figure out the time was right for another one of those late nights.  We found some beer and wine, the girls broke out a little hash and I tiptoed through my room to find my Amsterdam care-package.  I quickly learned in Europe the hard part wasn’t finding the party, but getting it to stop.  We went to early morning discovering each other’s backgrounds and upbringing.  It was all so different where everybody came from, what our homes were like, what our worlds were like.  Under that cover of different cultures, different accents, different styles, it’s wonderfully hard to judge, predict or assume.  The similarities came with where we wanted to go and what we were open to do.  We were travelers and we wanted to go everywhere and do everything.  We wanted to go all the way.         
The sun was up when I jumped in bed with Wendy.  To write that the booze, smoke and exhaustion made me a little jittery understates Wendy’s sarcasm, “I didn’t know hooking up with you meant I had to sleep with a little, old man!”  With a good night’s sleep, Dan and Wendy were up at ten ready to see Vatican City.  I was thankful for so many things that morning!  I was thankful that they had each other for the day.  I was thankful they didn’t mind me staying behind.  I was thankful for the dark blinds on the windows.  I was thankful for the comfortable bed that smelled like a woman.  I went into a deep sleep for entire day.  I dreamt of something compelling that day, one full dream.  I can’t remember what it was about, just that it was important enough to help me sleep the whole afternoon and granted me the rest I needed.  I woke when Dan and Wendy came back later that day we all had a good laugh about the night before and my day’s non-activities.  I would make up for it.  There was no time spared for the rest of our stay in Rome.  We walked and walked and walked.  We made it to Vatican City and sat in its center looking at the people of worship and those of curiosity.  No matter what affiliation you consider yourself, in that place you feel like a Catholic.  There’s a lot of cloth walking around and “His Immanence” was around there somewhere.  The cathedral made me want to confess my sins, so I told them to Wendy with a smirk.  She just shook her head and wondered what she had gotten into.  The art and pottery and furniture and carpets is endless!  The Vatican obviously hasn’t had a yard sale in centuries.  The Sistine Chapel is amazing in person and even better through an “Amsterdam spectrum of flavors.”  All of the ruins reminded me of song lyrics, “The streets of Rome, are littered with rubble.  Ancient Footsteps are everywhere.” ♠  We played with the venders and artists making friends of everyone and even better for the camera, making fun of ourselves.  I love the European philosophy:  why put just a bunch on stairs on the front of a building when you can use it as the canvass for a huge fountain or a backdrop for a grouping of immortal statues.
The three of us were a great team and we went as fast we could from idea to idea, from place to place, memory to memory.  Everything was like the speed train we took from Rome to Milan, fast and fun.  Traveling at over a hundred miles an hour does something to new lovers, I suppose.  Wendy started rubbing my leg and before you can say, “ All aboard,” we had joined the 100 mph club.  Damn, are those bathrooms small and damn was my baby a trooper!  With me “indisposed” waiting in the bathroom, she went out to look for a condom.  After no luck, Dan pulls one out for her with a smile.  That’s my main man, Dan.  Of course, this summer would be strangely the only time for this role reversal:  Dan has always been the Tom Cat, while I have been on the side … holding the protection.  We shared such passionate time together, the three of us.  It was only a week, but when Dan and I left for Venice, Wendy cried.  It was easy for Dan and I; our journey had only just begun.  It was impossible to be concerned with the present situation of that day when tomorrow was holding all new places and faces.  It wasn’t easy to let Wendy go, but I was there with Dan and I knew I would see her again.  And I did.  And it would start as it had ended.  
It’s strange the life you find in Italy?  It’s everywhere.  It’s in the food, the people, the music, even the cemeteries.  In Milan, we visited the most beautiful cemetery I have ever experienced.  Every grave, every tomb, a work of art!  A statue or a symbol or a picture encased to give evidence of the life and the love lost.  We were the only ones in that cemetery, but we sure didn’t feel alone.  At first, I was concerned that my Italian heritage is  afraid to let go of the past, and we are.  It’s why I write, it’s why I take pictures.  But with that past, that security, there isn’t a reason for enjoying today and looking forward to tomorrow.    It may have been the emotions and spirits of the cemetery, maybe it was because it was our last night in Milan, our last night together, hell maybe it was the anchovies on the wonderful pizza we had for dinner, but Wendy and I made love that night with an engulfing intensity.  We were young, but we were close to being an exact fit together, like two pieces of a puzzle.  She covered me in the areas I wanted.  I covered her in the areas she needed.  I think we both had been feeling lonely and that time in Italy cured it if just for a little while.  A kiss goodbye, quick and less painful and Dan and I were off to Venice.  

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photo by: vulindlela