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Short Story: We Met In Rome

November 26, 2017

 

 

My college roommates and I made plans the year before our last semester to spend our last Spring Break in Rome, since all the cheap hotels in Ibiza were already booked. Everybody on campus was going to Mexico, as usual, but there were always those special few that deviated from the norm. I, John Francisco, was one of those relentless rebels.

 

It was March 1st when all the boys—my three roommates and our residence assistant—planned out our Roman course of action, exactly one week before Spring Break started. They decided that as soon as we placed foot on the ancient city, we were going to hit a bar. Of course, it was going to be morning by the time we landed, but they didn’t care, alcoholic adventures and Italian peculiarities were their two prime, and only objectives. These bohemians, as I called them, desired nothing but hedonistic indulgences, pleasure in all of forms of the word. But I, really just wanted to party.

 

The parties at our university were as dull and uninteresting as a terrible romcom, the complete antithesis of what college parties are depicted as in the movies. I was in shock when I discovered that all people did was drink and talk; the party’s music opaqued by the sound of sobbing drunks who’d lost in beer pong. I wanted to move and sway like Ricky Martin in a ‘90s music video, but no one, especially the most attractive of girls, wanted to dance. When I asked the drunken fellows why they didn’t dance, it was like asking a cat to bark: dancing to them was a foreign language, even for the sober ones. I needed to experience a real college party, like the ones in 22 Jump Street or Spring Breakers. Naturally, like the latter movie, Spring Break seemed to be the cure to my problem.

 

It was only seven a.m. when we landed, and Rome was alive. Hot, not humid, and packed with very interesting people, Rome felt familiar, yet super distinct. The air of antiquity filled my lungs and so many ancient buildings surrounded us like a maze. Rome truly felt like a maze, the kind of maze you’d never want to leave, only explore. The streets were narrow and only some of them were fully brick-layered. Rome looked exactly like how the history textbooks depicted it.

 

As planned, the bohemians started asking for directions to the nearest bar and it wasn’t long until people realized we weren’t natives. There were some strange folks constantly staring at us, to the point that we felt we were going to get robbed. Luckily a taxi came by, taking us straight to our hotel. It turned out that the nearest bar was also right next to the hotel; a blessing, but also a curse. That morning the bohemians and I got so drunk that we completely forgot we had never checked into our rooms. It took exactly 30 minutes for the hotel clerks to understand a word we were saying, not because we didn’t speak Italian, but because the bohemians kept ordering whiskey as if they had never left the bar. My Italian wasn’t great but I managed to finally get the keys to our room. Once in the room, everyone immediately fell asleep, some on the couch next to an oddly-slanted window, and I on the floor next to the queen size bed my drunken eyes failed to see.

 

We woke up many hours later in the night to loud knocks on our door. Apparently, we weren’t the only students from our university who decided to spend their Spring Break in Rome. Some other guys had also booked rooms in our hotel; they were staying right next to us. A number of them even knew one of the bohemians. They wanted to introduce themselves, but best of all, they managed to snatch an invitation to a local beach party and they wanted us to come along. We didn’t hesitate to give them a yes and in no time we were already on our way to the fun. For once I felt that I was going to experience the college parties I’ve always seen in the movies and finally, for once, my expectations were met.

 

The cold night had swallowed the beach completely and only what seemed like Christmas lights lit up the place like a dance club. There was a bonfire adding light to the darkness and loud speakers surrounded the fire like Roman pillars. The bonfire emitted a type of shrine essence as almost everyone at the beach kept close to it, but unlike the parties at my university, everyone here was feeling the music. It wasn’t long until I found a dance partner. Her name was Dianna.

 

At first I didn’t really notice her face, or payed much attention to her physique, as I just wanted to dance. But when light all of a sudden slid by her face like a smooth criminal, I discovered that I was dancing with one of the most beautiful girls I had ever laid eyes upon. We were dancing to Basshunter’s “All I Ever Wanted,” and all I ever wanted at that moment was for that moment to never end. The way she swayed back and forth—her hands gripped to my waist, her blonde hair swerving like a wave—engraved in me a feeling of incredible infatuation. We continued dancing, emulating the movement of the bonfire as it danced with the wind and with passion running through my body, I spun her around and held her close to me, just as the bassline of the song hit its final key. She was my fire, and I needed to add more fuel to the flame.

 

The DJ once again played another Basshunter song, “Don’t Walk Away,” and Dianna and I were at it again. This time, she was in control. Our bodies were closer than ever before and I could even feel the beating of her heart as the sweat of her skin splashed against my clothes. It was a cold night, but never had I felt as warm as when she held me in her arms, like if I was her’s and only her’s. We were in sync.

 

When the song ended and our dance halted, I knew I was probably going to never see her again. She was probably an Italian city girl who lived nearby, oblivious to any college freaks like the bohemians and myself who only come to cities like Rome to get wasted. But boy was I wrong. Her English was perfect and for good reasons.

 

“No way! We are in the same class,” Dianna said.

 

She was from my university and like me, decided to spend her Spring Break in Rome. Incredibly, we were taking Public Relations together. I wasn’t surprised, though, that I had never seen her in class before, since it was a class of over 100 students. But the chance that this perfect girl whom I had just met in a foreign city, was also in one of my classes back home, couldn’t have been pure coincidence. This had to be some kind of celestial sign: I’d found the One.

 

Dianna was American, but her parents were Italian. She always traveled to Italy whenever school was off, but, her principal priority whenever she came to Rome was to party and visit the Musei Capitolini, the city’s oldest museum. Back in school she was part of a very prestigious sorority, the kind only the richest of girls could get into. Despite the stereotypes that comes with being in a sorority of such galore, Dianna wasn’t a “mean girl,” she was actually the exact opposite. That night at the beach party, after we danced, we talked for what seemed like forever. We sat by the bonfire exchanging stories about our families; my Dominican background seemed to match her Italian culture. And, whenever I told her some of my awful jokes, she actually laughed—not because of how lame the jokes were, but because she sincerely found them hilarious. Her personality intrigued me and I just wanted to keep talking to her. Then all of a sudden the bohemians appeared out of nowhere, interrupting the amazing conversation Dianna and I were having. Right after, Dianna’s roommates approached us. The gathering turned into a jumble of small talk and when everyone started exchanging phone numbers, Dianna was gone, nowhere to be found.

 

I went about looking for Dianna, but the beach was filled with so many people it was almost impossible to find her. I checked by the beach bar just a couple feet away from where the DJ was set, the bodega by the beach’s boardwalk, and even the parking lot that was a quarter mile afar. But nada. Dianna had seemingly vanished, but then, I heard her voice, slowly creeping like a crescendo through the bodega alleyway. Worried for her safety and thinking the worst, I ran as fast I could to the alleyway, but when I reached that dark narrow entrance into the unknown I discovered a truth that shattered my newfound love for Dianna: she was kissing a man and that man was her boyfriend.

 

I knew it right away. The way he kissed her, pace slow and romantically calculated, could only come from a place of intimacy, the kind of intimacy a husband shares with his wife. The way he held her surpassed even the warmest sensation my mind had perceived from when I held Dianna. But Dianna’s facial expression was the biggest giveaway, a sensual, almost orgasmic expression that only years of ever-growing dyadic passion could create. These two individuals were in love with each other, and as I watched love unfold in front of me like a scene from Singin’ In The Rain, my martini-infused mind drifted away and the alleyway became the stage for a play that never was.

 

Vincenzo was the intruder’s name. I pointed my finger at him and proclaimed to the gods, Jupiter and Mars, that I would save Dianna from her impending doom. Vincenzo tried to kiss her once more, but I unsheathed my sword and pushed him away, with so much force that he fell to the cold and wet ground. Dianna was now in my arms, but the evil trickster Vincenzo was not ready to accept defeat. From his right arm he protruded a dagger hiding under his long sleeve. Suddenly, the trickster shouted to the moon in the night sky, asking for reverence, but goddess Dianna chose me. My sword was ready to deflect any attack from the worthless demon Vincenzo, but as soon as he grasped Dianna and I’s romantic connection as she covered behind my armor, he kneeled down in surrender. I had defeated the incompetent intruder without striking a single blow. Dianna, though, begged me to finish him. I lifted my sword high, and with Mars guiding the weapon’s descension with glorious momentum into Vincenzo’s neck, I vanquished the demon down to Pluto’s hellish domain. Dianna was now mine, and I was her’s. The moon welcomed the sun and we lived happily ever after.

 

When I woke the next morning my head was in pain. The beach party martinis were a little over my tolerance level and it wasn’t long until vomiting ensued. The bohemians were all sleeping on the floor and the queen size bed was still as neatly as we found it the day before; no one had slept on it yet. When everyone finally woke up, we headed out for breakfast and spent the rest of the day visiting museums. Purposely, we spent a little more time exploring Il Musei Capitolini. I enlisted the help of the bohemians in looking for Dianna, but luck was not on my side. We couldn’t find her and when the bohemians texted her roommates, none responded. The following day we tried again and on the next day we gave up completely. As the week continued and Spring Break came to a close, I never saw Dianna again. That is, until we found each other in Public Relations class some days after I returned from Rome.

 

Dianna sat next to me, and, like children used to do in elementary school, she passed me a paper note with a web link written in pen. I typed in the link into my phone’s web browser, taking me to an unpublished blog post, oddly titled We Met In Rome. This was Dianna’s personal blog and as I started reading, I couldn’t believe my eyes:

 

That night in Rome, John and I danced and danced and never stopped, until our feet got tired. We sat by the bonfire and talked about our families, museums and other topics. Topic after topic, our conversations elevated my interest in him and I didn’t want it to stop. The bonfire’s heat kept us close, so I was bummed when my friends came by, separating us for the time being. With all the people around I felt claustrophobic and went on a quick walk. I wanted to feel the air of the Rome that I love, so I could never forget one of the best nights the old, enchanted city had given me. When I returned to my friends, John and his entourage had left. I kept looking for him, and when I found him, he was with another girl. The alleyway they were in reminded me of a scene from an old musical movie, but unlike that movie, happiness was not in the air, at least for me. It started to rain and as they kissed under the rain, I couldn’t watch another minute. That night I met a wonderful soul, but for reasons I don’t know, he changed in the spur of the moment, infecting my own soul with sadness after he had just brought it to life.

 

Confusion deluged me as I read her words. Was my recollection of that night in Rome an illusion? Did Dianna have a boyfriend named Vincenzo at all? As I started to think of that night, I couldn’t fathom a mental image of what had happened. I remembered a dream I had of sorts, but I was terrified when I couldn’t remember the moments after Diana and I talked by the bonfire. Was it me who was actually in that alleyway with another girl, as Dianna claims? Or was Dianna also a little drunk that night? I didn’t know what to say. It was clear now that her and I were never going to be friends, that no matter how we remembered that night, no matter how we met, where we met and how it made us feel, we had more trust in our memories than in each other.

 

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