Friday, March 9, 2012

don't forget to breathe


We finally arrive at Stazione Termini. Seven time zones, multiple flights, two absurdly long lines of earthlings later. The sound of matches striking to create flame. The intoxicating rush of the smell of sulfur followed by the nearly nauseating stench of ubiquitous tar. The sound of relief and familiarity as people of all tribes and tongues engage their cellphones to connect with loved ones and relay good news of safe arrivals and meaningful, immediate travel plans, "I'm getting closer (to you)."

My feet instinctively launch across the street and the rest of me immediately dives backward to avoid getting hit. Rental cars, taxis, crotch rockets all remind me I am mortal. Two steps forward; two steps back... Rome on wheels careening at breakneck speed to their destinations. You know, this is Italia... live, love, enjoy... and really - don't live as if you will be held accountable. A cautious life is not worth living.

This town is everything. Love. Sex. Sensuality. History. Nostalgia. Politics. Mafia. People arriving for the first time. People leaving for the last time. Nothing in your past or future matters. Get caught up or get swept away. Just let it happen. Don't deny Roma what she wants from you. She can be a hateful bitch.

The Connection. When you arrive in Rome you search everyone's eyes. "Do you have what I came here for?" You are looking for the answers to the questions. The holy grail. I am here. The universe is with me.

From the moment I first landed here, over ten years ago, I had the distinct feeling I was being beckoned by a muse. A sensual, tantalizing force drawing me in, "follow me." she said... in a way that left nothing to question.

I remember this look. The way the little girl on the bus looks at me... she must be around ten. I was that little girl once. She wants to know my story. She speaks to her gypsy mother... knowing her future is uncertain and asking her mother what she thinks of me: what kind of life do I lead? do I have a dog or a cat or a dream or a family? . Knowing in fifteen years she could just as easily be a young woman on a bus in the U.S. looking at a 10-year-old girl thinking of this exact moment.

I remember Piazza Navona. New love, old love. Worn out artists. restaurants, servers, hustle, bustle, digital cameras everywhere... but mostly just creative souls begging you for $20 to give you something so invaluable you might sell your soul to keep it forever. If you were to be mummified, nothing would be closer to your corpse than this keepsake. Rome burns itself into you... branding you in a way that only means anything to you, specifically.

The magic of the city can only be realized when in complete, complex relation to its ancient wonder. Walking down a cobblestone street in high heels, past bookstores and families and gelaterias. Seeing natives and knowing that they aren't distracted by the vivid sensationalism of the lotus blossom that is Rome. So new (but not at all). Everchanging... yet steadfast. This town will always be here for me. and you... just give her a chance. She can be everything you need her to be. An old man clutches his chest as I walk by, "...Mam-ma Mia!" I have to give him a beaming smile and a piece of my heart.

The city that never sleeps... is that New York? Rome may sleep... but she dreams so loudly you can't help but fall down the rabbit hole. She is strong, sexy, alluring. She knows why you came here even if you don't.

Roma. Roma. Roma... this place has something nowhere else does. You will find alleys, hills, nooks, crannies and staircases all leading to places you will remember vividly from your deathbed. You will chase multiple versions of yourself in dizzying circles while your soul marinates in her pulsing radiance.

What kind of destination can be such a journey in and of itself that one never feels he or she ever truly arrived? I stayed there for three days... then six weeks... conversing with students, bus drivers, old widowed Swiss tourists - everyone so eager to connect. we all know she called us. from a dream. from a thought. from a past life. from a memory. she beckoned and we knew we couldn't say no. What kind of destination can be such a journey that one never feels he or she ever truly departed? Do i have enough soul to leave such a chunk of it with curvaceous, passionate, unquenchable Rome? Do I have a choice?

To ride the bus is to be a local for a moment. Smelling yesterday's work on today's clothes is just as intoxicating as the city itself. pure humanity, experience, sweat, lust, life... knowing what it smells like on the human body to create dinner, then breakfast, then lunch, time and again for those you love so fiercely your embraces leave bruises.

What is life? is it not the intensity of connection and passionate discourse? flirtation, jealousy and passion? Rome is not a melancholy lover... she is instense and demands much.

rome- there are meaningful coincidences to occur and alleys and bus rides with your eternal identity etched all over them.

stepping out of Stazione Termini, the smell of exhaust, tar and sulphur... i smell hope and anticipation. i feel experiences that i haven't had yet. I see dreamers, lovers, vendors and wanderers that can't help but be here. right here. right now. i am among them. i am human. we have everything in common.


"How was Italy?" you asked.

"it was Italy...." i respond... and for the next ten minutes, i do you no justice as a conversation partner. I am transported to a different time and place where random strangers can relate but you can't. i loved, they loved, Rome loved.... but it was a fickle, fleeting infatuation that would be gone just as quickly as it came. I will hold on to the smell of her hair, her perfume.... her city stench forever. knowing if i could get another chance i don't think i could leave.

my intense desire for rome
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i hear a whisper in my ear, a spiritual giggle and my muse skips around the corner... for the first time i encounter the wind. face to face. fountains, wind, stone... and solitude. i think of whoever was commissioned to make this wind. his cheeks full of air, lips pursed, eyes playful and full of sparkle... threatening to nonchalantly blow your life wherever he pleases... because what can you do to stop him?

i cross the street to visit the next wind... he looks more fierce but still well-meaning... the water coming out of his mouth reminds me of what i used to love to do in the bath as a child. for some reason having bathwater in my mouth grosses me out now.... that really must change. i can't afford to be an elitist.

i walk miles and miles... thinking how familiar everything looks. I know i'm getting closer to the Tiber. i will never forget the tale of the river running red with blood when rome was conquered. when i cross the river i hold my breath and try to drown out the pleas of the dead... so rich and velvety are their souls and screams... the river is still macabre and bloody no matter what color it is now

across the tiber -- "trastevere" -- rome gives a sigh of relief... kicks off her high heels and relaxes. the real romans are here. you don't have to know a lick of English and people are engaging.  it's just past dusk and there is a luminosity to the air that constantly has you reaching for your camera and then reconsidering. leave it. memorize every detail. it is written on your soul.

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this time around i am back as an adult... I am not agoraphobic in the slightest while in italy. i love blending. like a drop of water in a pond. the organic quality of the marketplace is so vibrant, individualistic and yet sharing... begging to trade, everyone yelling and screaming and things escalate... anger, lust, passion, not wanting to be ripped off, hoping you can rip somebody off... never knowing how much you will arrive or leave with. some don't appreciate the crowds quite like i do. and to watch them from the outside you are almost afraid to join in. a mosh pit of pickpockets and body odor.. bad breath and people needing showers. fresh flowers, fresh fish, and homelessness.

its a beautiful picture. a crowded sidewalk. the spectrum of beauty is amazing. a young girl with a white, grecian tunic makes you think of those that are worshipped on mount olympus and why. its the kind of beauty you can't envy. you want to fiercely protect this girl and love her. worship her in her purity and innocence.  

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