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I had always wanted to go to Roma, or Rome, as we Americans call it. The antiquity of this place always got me thinking. There never seemed to be three consecutive buildings built in the 21st century. I’m pretty sure most of Julius Caesar’s empire is still standing today. But how can history, with all its war and destruction and temperamental rulers, leave a city like this—so untouched and constant and… beautiful?
“Now this I could use in my paintings,” I thought, as my rolly suitcase and I went noisily along the cobblestones.
A dab of carmine on the buildings, maybe a bit of violet and cerulean on the clouds, mustard seed yellow for the grocery store sign, dark black and burgundy for the little baby buggy, shadows and mystery for the hill…
Then my good foot gave way beneath me. My other one was already sprained.

“Man, what was I thinking? I hate these stupid, senseless…”
I was walking in my medium-height heels, mistakenly advertised as “good walking shoes” in Vogue. These things were massacring my feet with every painful, loathing step. I had arduously peered through hundreds of fashion and travel magazines before I came, trying to find the perfect balance between utterly gorgeous and perfectly comfortable. It’s a very subtle and clandestine happy-medium, and I don’t think God intended for me to find it after only 20 minutes of flipping through glossy pages.
I wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn, my idol. I wanted her grace, her poise, her confidence, her charming laugh, the way she was so kind and considerate to everyone she met. I often came across as hiding behind Mommy’s skirt with my teddy bear and thumb in my mouth hoping no one would notice me.
So, I bought a pale green blouse, with pearl buttons that suited my average coloring perfectly, (I have to say, I look pretty hot in it, so it’s my new favorite) and some new dark blue jeans (which I also look awesome in). When I saw a pair of stunning white kitten heels from Fiorangelo that fit my outfit exactly, and looked precisely like the ones Audrey wore in “Paris When It Sizzles”, I ordered all of it immediately, despite the exorbitant price of the Fiorangelo’s.
I could never have expected the havoc these monsters were wreaking on my poor, dejected, helpless little feet.
I teetered over to a fountain in the middle of a quaint plaza, a couple blocks away from the museum I had popped into on a whim. I had seen an advertisement for an expo for Pablo Picasso. I don’t usually enjoy cubism, but Pablo is special. Mr. Jefferson, my favorite art teacher from high school, had a screw loose and a special place for Sr. Picasso in his heart, so I try to take Mr. Jefferson’s perspective on some things. Sometime though, it’s stressful to try and be him. He’s a very… interesting person.
I pictured myself in the local’s eyes, a naïve American making a fool of herself in a foreign country. How absurd. Not really though, as I knew that whatever degrading thought those people were thinking was probably true, as much as I had tried not to look touristy. I sat down, and tried to surreptitiously rip off the twin hounds of h*ll, hiding behind my suitcase, and quietly place my grimy feet in the fountain, glancing around to make sure no one was giving me the evil eye. Coast all clear.

Oooooh, that feels good…

Turning my thoughts to a more pleasant path, I gazed at the clear azure skies, the trees, and again, the antique buildings.
I wonder what the famous Italian masters would have done; what kind of spin would they have put on what I was seeing right now? I had a habit of envisioning my surroundings as they would look after I had arranged paint and brushstrokes into gorgeous scenery. It always helped to get an A, and consequently become a bit of a teacher’s pet, especially Mr. Jefferson. He set me up with neat projects and scholarships, and I always tried never to disappoint. I think sometimes he thought I was too young to be studying the moldy-oldy paintings, but I’ve never been a party animal.

Deciding my hurt feet had had enough soaking, I rummaged around in my bag for something I could use to dry them off. Finding the towel my mother had insisted I pack—who knew it would actually come in handy? -- I dried my feet, observing the people and places around me.

People milled around the plaza, going on about their business. One lady examined rosy peaches, a couple strolled along the sidewalk, an old man sat on a bench, sleeping with a newspaper over his head. None of them wore designer shoes.

Stupid, stupid, stupid…

But no one noticed me, so I guess I was okay.

The little grocery store was cute, with a little yellow awning advertising fruit and vegetables, which one could clearly see in neat stands outside. Nearby, there was a pretty steep hill that would be the death of someone, some day.
The lone stroller I had noticed earlier was parked near the grocery store, slowly inching toward the breakneck hill. Any minute that buggy would be long gone, with the baby tucked inside it. Seeing no motherly figure anywhere near, I was, understandably, slightly anxious.

“Perhaps she’s in the store. But maybe I should go after it?” I deliberated.

Of course, the buggy chose my moment of indecision to trundle down the incline of death. I was always paying attention at the most inopportune times. Which meant, most of the time that I was the unfortunate one paying attention in class when Mr. Jefferson was picking his hairy nose.

“Ohhh dear…”

And I was off, leaving all my precious luggage and my posh shoes (though I can’t say I was unhappy at that thought), at the fountain, leaving me to run after a stranger’s baby barefoot.

“Now the locals will REALLY think I’m crazy!” Especially considering the fact that I was barefoot like some primitive caveman.

My feet were pounding, my blood spiking from the refreshing exercise. My fingers brushed the handle of the stroller, but I lost it.

Then it sped up, which I suppose a dangerous incline can make a speeding baby buggy do.

SLOW DOWN YOU STUPID BUGGY! I’M TIRED!

Wind rushing past my ears, my feet hitting the centuries old cobblestone, not really paying attention to where I was going, I finally came close enough to grab the handle, and supposedly stop the buggy from rolling much farther.
I latched on, my fingers curling protectively around the wooden handle.

“Aha! Got you!”

Yes! My first athletic achievement beyond jumping rope 90 times in a minute! My PE teacher would be so proud of me!
But not for long. The instant I grabbed the handle, time held back, and I could see the widening eyes of an Italian local drinking his coffee in front of an adorable café registering that a stroller and a half-crazed young woman were barreling towards him.

Then the inevitable happened, of course. We collided with as much efficacy and grace as would be expected-- none. The table turned over, his coffee splattered on my favorite chic blouse, he fell down and miraculously caught the baby who up until then was about to land on some old lady’s pastry. I fell onto him, and as I gravitated towards his lap, I noticed he had gorgeous eyes that looked like chocolate. Then time sped up to normal, and everything that had been airborne came down with a clang that the Warner brothers and Buggs Bunny would pay a million for.

I tried to stand, but I felt dizzy and had to lie back down on foreign Monsieur’s lap. I fell back down with a thud. Ow.
This guy works out…

“Mi dispiace tanto! Siete tutti giusto? Credo che il vostro bambino è okay,” he said, with a sexy Italian accent and deep voice, chucking the “bambino” (I think) under the chin.

I mentally rifled through my Italian phrasebook that I left in my luggage. How convenient.

“Non parlo inglese,” I muttered nervously with an absolutely atrocious accent. I realized I was staring up at him from his lap. I scrambled to my feet and brushed off my pants and wrapped my arms around my soaked shirt.

“Scusami?”

No! Stupid! I don’t speak ITALIAN, not English, you dunce!

“Non parlo Italiano?”

“Ah! Why didn’t you say so? I speak okay English. I said earlier that I think your kid is okay.”

“He…” Or is it she?
I quickly glanced down to see an adorable face with the bluest eyes I had ever seen, and a pink nightie. Definitely a she.

“I was chasing her down a hill,” I bumbled on, not wanting him to think I was a kidnapper or anything, “The buggy was rolling away and I didn’t see her mother so I figured someone had to save her. I left all my luggage up there too.”

I looked down.

“And my shoes,” I added.
“Well that was brave. I’m Dominic, by the way,” he said. As his warm and firm hand shook my own shaky appendage, I got my first good look at him, and wasn’t disappointed. Curly dark brown hair, glasses, lean and athletic body (soccer?), and did I mention his deep and sensitive chocolate brown eyes? He was dressed nicely, in that European way only Europeans can achieve, scarf and all.
He looked me in the eye, confidently, as if he really cared about whether I died in a tragic baby buggy accident, unlike the guys back home.
Why was he being so friendly? Aren’t the guys handing out candy always the ones that take little kids in vans off to some faraway hut in Nebraska so they can make you wash their dirty underwear or worse? Maybe I’m being paranoid. Males in general don’t normally look twice at the shy art students.

He interrupted my musings when he gave me the once over and saw his cappuccino or whatever cascading down my shirt.

“Oh I’m so sorry! Ahm, I know of a Laundromat near here. We can go there in a second…” he glanced at the baby. “Aza, shall we escort your savior to the Laundromat? Then we’ll look for your madre.”

Does he know her? Why’d he call her Az…

Wait. He said “we”. What are we going to do as a “we”? Who said I was going to go anywhere with a European stranger? Hello? Stranger Danger? But Dominic was walking up the hill, pushing Aza in her stroller, presumably to get my luggage and then go to the Laundromat. Don’t leave me!! I hurried and caught up with him.

“So… where are you from?”

He’s from ITALY, idiot!

My small talk skills were exceedingly close to nil. Great start.

He laughed heartily. “I’m from Turin. But I’m studying in Rome to be a photographer.”

Now my interest was piqued. He didn’t look like a photographer. I was thinking cricket. Wait—no, cricket’s from England. What do they play in Italy to give guys such confoundedly buff arms?

“Really? Not too fond of photography, but I love paintings. I came here to study all the Italian masters. Carletti, Carpaccio, Pisanello... The abstract beauty of the Ena Villani Figura Astrale is… undescribebable. The colors and the astronomical quality of it is daunting. I can’t paint anything like it.”

“Interesting. You didn’t look quite like a tourist. Only slightly confused. But that could happen anywhere, even if it was in your own country, no?” He regarded me with—I flatter myself—admiration and interest.
Aza was whimpering a little.
“Quiet down, little one, shhh,” He hoisted her out of the stroller and onto his hip. I allowed myself a small smile. He’s so handy and… nice with kids. Personally, they make me squirm.

“I suppose. Oh, here’s where I left my luggage. It’s gone. Ugh, my mom will kill me. And my shoes… aren’t… here….”
My eyes scanned the archaic cobblestones, behind the fountain, in the fountain looking for any trace of white Fiorangelo kitten heels. To my delight, they weren’t anywhere that I could see. Dominic looked concerned.

“Are you sure? I hope they were not stolen. We sometimes have that problem…” his face twisting into a beatific grimace as Aza poked at his face.

He seemed genuinely puzzled by my chipper demeanor.

“No! I’m so glad they were stolen! I mean, yeah, it was 700 bucks down the drain, but they murdered my feet! Hallelujah!”

I grinned. Then, on a sudden impulse, I jumped in the fountain. I didn’t care about my shoes, or my luggage. I didn’t care whether I’d get a schpiel from my mother when I got home. I didn’t care what Dominic—or anybody else, for that matter-- thought of me at that moment. Shoes or not, I was in freaking ROME! The cool water, circular discs of Italian currency between my toes, and a super hot guy I couldn’t help trusting looking at me with flummoxed awe was all I needed to shake off the frustration of the day. No, scratch that. Of my life.

Dominic started grinning, and his milk chocolate eyes glowed with amusement. I could tell he was enjoying this. Aza smiled too, drool dribbling down her adorably fat chin. When I thought Dominic’s smile couldn’t get any wider, he deposited Aza in the fortunately shallow fountain while he started taking his Manolo shoes off and rolled up his pant legs.

One gorgeous foot in the water.

Two gorgeous feet in the water.

Then cold. And wet. I hated being cold and wet! But no, today I liked it. It felt new, and refreshing. I splashed him back, and grabbed Aza from the buggy and tossed a little water onto her soft head, and she giggled, and giggled, her yet young soul of happiness bubbling out into the open. Dominic splashes me again. I turned around with surprise, already forming my plan of attack. This is just the beginning…

Thanks Audrey.





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Tongue_Tied said...
Aug. 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Loved your story and love the movie! Long live Audrey!
 
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