One wide-ruled line in between. Tuesday afternoon would have to share one line with Tuesday evening. With all the English. And Chinese. Spanish and Italian. The latter, un po’. But enough!
Late afternoon on a weekday in Roman September, and the siesta was waning under a crush of people and things that spilled into the street. They did not go quietly. The broad newspaper littered sidewalk on the Largo Torre di Argentina was awash in streams of rollercoaster Italian. Some streams rose as others fell, and then there would be screaming as if the rollercoaster’s riders started free fall. Screaming came from car tires, burning and screeching past a line of taxis that somehow enjoyed its own separate lane, a ribbon frozen in the middle of a busy nexus of transportation. The tires’ owners did not seek the protection of their glass and metal; instead, their heads protruded from windows, hair slicked back, rippled by wind. Strands tickled the side mirrors of the parked taxis, any laughter drowned by the rumbling and squeals of smoking rubber underneath. This was Determination, where not even the glass of a windshield dared separate the seeker from the goal.
Leaning against the bus ticket dispenser I learned of unfocused eyes in chaos. Washes of color blended together and dimmed all shades until they faded into darkness, so one second was no different from the rest – the same movements, the same swirling colors. And then audio glimpses punctuated the black. Some Italian, words I just learned. English in snippets, their speakers obviously distressed; nothing new...
And words that rang like home and childhood and vacations in
Scusi...Termini? The man’s pointed fingers left his pale hand, motioning towards the ticket machine in uncertainty. The machine motioned back with little words scrolling across a cracked green screen: INSERZIONE…
Yes… I knew, and answered. È rotto. Broken. Cantonese and Italian in the same breath! His eyes brightened and the swirl of noise began to wane.
Where do I… Pause.
Buy a ticket? I finished the sentence for him, cringing inwardly at my rough American-accented Cantonese. Too much twang. Over there, at the newsstand. You can say ‘vorrei un biglietto, per favore’ - I want a ticket. The woman at his side turned her hat three degrees. Red, white, black. Or ‘due biglietti.’ For two. And Termini you can reach by bus, the 64 or 40, the stop is on the main street.
Smiles and bows. We laugh at our coincidence, our luck. Three cultures, two languages, one sidewalk in
No, study, with an American university. And you? The man nods, adjusts his glasses.
Fourth week. Sono di Roma.