“How come you don’t write postcards like your friends?”
I sat near the foot of Scalla di Spangna, or Spanish Steps, catching my breath after having climbed up and down the 138 steps to the Trinita dei Monti at the top. Around me a gaggle of college women on a school-sponsored trip dutifully poised cards on their knees and scribbled away, presumably to the parents who paid for this trip to Rome, or perhaps to boyfriends stuck back in the States with jobs as camp counselors or delivery boys in their fathers’ firms.
I had arrived in Rome that morning. Having come from Sweden, I was still stunned by the German, Swiss, and Northern Italian landscapes. At twenty-four, I’d barely been out of the Midwest, where the land is flat and vast. In the past few days, seeing my first mountains, Alps no less, I couldn’t get over the fact that humans had the audacity to cut into those monsters to lay train tracks, and that I could be bulleted through the bellies of those beasts.
I was stunned too by Rome. Fountains and ruins, trattorias and cafes, gods piercing the sky next to merchants hawking wares. Alone, I wasn’t quite a part of it, but I wasn’t apart from it either, not like the young women around me, who didn’t bother to look up from their writing much, who didn’t seem to notice the sunlight baking the medieval-looking buildings, who barely noticed a six-team horse-drawn carriage ambling by us.
“I’m not with them,” I said to the man who’d spoken to me, making sure my horror at his association of me with these tourists was clear in my tone. I wasn’t a tourist but a traveler, I wanted my tone to convey. Not merely a traveler either, but a solitary traveler, gaining worldliness at every turn. Hadn’t I just seen Alps?
You can read the rest of this piece at Gadling: www.gadling.com/2010/08/04on-the-steps-of-rome-on-the-edge-of-romance/
By the way, Gina Misiroglu of Red Room put me in touch with the AOL people, which is one of the great ways in which she's bringing traffic to Red Room and getting attention for Red Room's authors.