It is fitting that the word romance comes from Roma. And for me, happily married mother of five, Rome weaved its magic and proved that even the matronly were not exempt from romance.
It was one of those golden evenings with fabulous light. A breeze was blowing. The cameras were dying to see the world. My sister and I decided to let my mother rest in the hotel while we took the 15-minute walk from the hotel to the Colosseum. Who knew that that short walk could make memories that still make me smile even now months later when I think about that brief encounter?
I have no pictures of that walk which wended downhill through quiet neighbourhoods and through the fringes of a park. But try to imagine: two Chinese women talking and laughing walking downhill. We were not sweet pretty young things that would turn heads anymore but in that moment, in that light, fresh from a shower, our slightly damp hair lifting lightly on a breeze, we felt like a million dollars.
We were walking in the park when he caught up to us. He smiled and said “Ciao!”, this short, dark slightly portly Italian man with salt and pepper hair, crinkly deep brown eyes and broad disarming smile. At first glance my immediate reaction was “Ohmygosh it’s George Clooney!”
Well it wasn’t of course but he could have passed for Mr Clooney’s Italian brother. Think George Clooney in The Descendents. Matured cute. Cute with the patina of age.
He tried to strike up a conversation but my Italian was close to nil and his English was non-existent. But what mattered was the effort I guess. Short sentences with funny awkward pauses, gestures and smiles. And filled with the kind of immediate crackling electric tension of attraction I had not felt in years.
I wasn’t the only one feeling it. My sister felt it immediately too and she punched me on the arm giving me a laughing accusatory glare as if to remind me that I already had a husband and five kids waiting at home so I’d best get my head screwed on straight. She said, “He’s trying to pick you up!” I laughed in protest to cover this huge confusion of feeling – a heady weirdness that emanated from a heart that suddenly went on overdrive, a strange unfamiliar rush that went straight to my cheeks in a long lingering blush.
He had walked on ahead by then but hearing us laugh, he stopped and turned back, waiting for us to catch up. There was another short half-baked lame conversation about “yes Rome is beautiful” and “I’m here for a few days” blah blah blah. Where’s google translate when you need it?!
We parted ways when the Colosseum came into view further down the hill. I watched him walk away carrying his bags of groceries, such a prosaic sight. Not your typical sleazy pick-up, and with the most unlikely cast for romance on a balmy evening. I think that in another place, another time, who knows?
In my life packed with raising a family, maintaining a relationship, struggling up the workplace ladder, romance kinda takes a backseat. As a woman in her 40s, in a body mellowed and filled out by age and babies, you don’t particularly feel like pin-up material. So I am thankful for and I treasure this fleeting chance meeting and I’m glad Rome’s romantic pixie dust was sprinkled on us for just a bit that evening.