There was a dinginess to all of the foreign airports that Alice had been to until she had found the airport in Dublin to be pristine and sparkling, which had been good for a layover. It was not that the American airports were cleaner, but she could always see the shine peaking from behind the dirt. As she and her husband, Doug, exited the tunnel from the plane into the Fiumicino Airport, she was not surprised by the literal lack of luster in the terminal.
She thought that Doug looked goofy. The entire right side of his head was a big cowlick from sleeping on the plane, and combined with his enthusiastic grin, it made him look like a six foot tall four year old. She had never seen him look as happy as he had in the previous three days. Even though it was difficult to find him attractive in his current state, she assumed that she probably didn’t look much better to him, after having been mostly awake for nearly twenty four hours.
She ducked into a bathroom quickly to splash water on her face. When she came out, she saw that Doug was standing at the empty luggage carousel. He was the only person smiling, among the eleven other people that were standing around waiting for the luggage to come up. It was only 8 P.M. but everyone else was glassy eyed and ready to be done with the airport.
Once they had retrieved their luggage, they went through the doors to the greeting area, where a crowd of people held small handmade signs. They approached the crowd slowly, each looking for ‘Connelly.’
They had read through the different signs three times each, and they saw no sign of a ‘Connelly’ sign. The crowd was thinning as more travelers met up with their drivers and families.
“I’ll call the hotel.” Doug said to Alice, the smile was still on his face, and there was no worry in his eyes. She couldn’t help but notice again that he had been acting so out of character. He was usually the nervous wreck, the one who feared being late, and being left behind. Now they had been literally both, and he wasn’t panicking. She wasn’t sharing his newly found sense of calm.
Alice had read the time on the ticket which had said 18:00, as if it had read 8:00, and so they had been two hours late to Logan airport and missed their flight out of Boston. It was nearly five hundred dollars to get the next flight, but Doug wasn’t upset or worried. ‘Maybe marriage has calmed him down, relaxed him’ she thought.
He hung up the phone, and looked at her. “The woman at the hotel says he should be here, so she’s going to call him and find out where he is.”
A couple minutes later, a tall thin man, wearing jeans and a worn leather coat walked in. He had a cardboard sign dangling at his side, in his hand, that says ‘Connelly.’ Doug walks over to him.
“Hi, are you from the Campo De Fiori hotel?” His smile slightly diminished but not completely.
“Uh… Yes. I sorry. The futball was on. I was in the car.” He turned quickly and starts walking very fast out. Doug was able to keep up, but Alice fell behind.
“Doug!” She said, knowing that he was not even aware that she wasn’t keeping up.
He turned and saw her lagging, and asked the driver to wait a minute, which he did, but clearly didn’t want to.
“Is not far.” He said pointing to a car on the other side of the parking garage, perhaps 50 feet away.
After he had forcefully and thoroughly shoved their luggage into his trunk, they got into the car, and he immediately turned the soccer game back on. Alice was in the back seat, and had a hard time hearing, because the of the game. It didn’t look to her as if Doug and the driver were talking anyway.
As they drove she admired the palm trees in small patches on the side of the road prior to entering the city. In the already dark, but still early evening, she found the streets to look nothing like her imagination of Rome. It looked more modern, more industrial.
After a few minutes of driving, the city began to look like what she had imagined, and the roads became thinner. Alice cringed several times, as the roads became busier, but their driver didn’t seem to slow down at all.
Eventually he slowed as they began to wind down tiny alley ways. Without any warning he stopped the car, and began looking around. Alice assumed they were lost, but a moment later he began inching down the road, and it was clear he was looking for the building numbers.
“Here!” He proclaimed triumphantly, pointing to a building with a giant wooden door, and nothing but a sign reading “134.”
They each stepped out of the car, and grabbed their bags. He walked over to a small intercom on the door, and pressed the button. “Caio!” a man’s voice greeted them from the small speaker.
Their driver begins talking to the box in very rapid Italian. Alice is only able to pick up a couple words, mainly “Connelly,” and “aeroporto.” The door clicked, and cracked open. “You go to third floor.”
“Grazie.” Doug said handing the driver a five Euro note. He walked quickly to the car and drove away.
Once they got to the third floor, there was a large man in his early sixties waiting with a big grin. He immediately grabbed their bags, and helped them in toward the front desk.
“Uh… Welcome!” His English a bit awkward coming out as he settled behind the small desk. “I am Giacomo! My English is not great, sorry.” His accent was thick, and his pronunciation wasn’t great, but he spoke slowly and they both understood him.
Doug handed him his passport and credit card, and Alice passed him her passport. When Giacomo was done all the paperwork he passed them back their passports and the credit card.
“You eat yet?” He asked them. Alice hadn’t thought about dinner, but she knew that Doug would be wanting to eat. She often told him he should star in a Snicker’s commercial, because he became so irritable when he was hungry.
“No, we haven’t. Would you be able to recommend a place?” Doug asked without a moment’s pause.
Giacomo smiled, and pulled out a big pad of identical maps of Rome. He tore off a map neatly, and circled a spot that says ‘Campo De Fiori.’ “This is just down the end the alley.” He said pointing in a direction that meant nothing to disoriented Alice.
Giacomo circled a second spot that said ‘Osteria La Quercia.’ “This good dinner. You order the carbonara. Is traditional Roman dish.”
Giacomo folded up the map, and handed it with their room key to Doug.
“Grazie!” Doug said grinning ear to ear.
Giacomo pointed them to the door directly next to the front desk. Doug unlocked it, and they found a rather large room with a king sized bed and small bathroom. They brought their bags in, and Alice collapsed on the bed. Doug went to close the door, and found that in order to lock it, he had to put the key in from the inside.
“I want to shower and change before we go out.” Alice told him without moving a muscle on her otherwise lifeless body.
After an hour, Alice was ready to leave, although she was relaxed enough from the fresh clothing and shower that she didn’t feel the need to go out. Doug had made it clear to her however, that he wanted to go get some dinner, and that he was looking forward to a walk.
As they left the building, Alice found herself being a little intimidated by the dark alleyway that it lead out into. Without the driver, and his headlights it seemed much less safe.
Doug took her by the hand, and lead her out of the alley into the piazza where there were a couple of small bars still open. She began to feel a little safer as it had opened up, and there was more activity.
They walked the cobblestones to the other side of the piazza and down a side street, it was wider than the alley, and it was clearly leading to a much larger street, and there was clearly still some traffic.
On the main street they walked along, and when they came upon the first restaurant, which Alice thought was charming, she tried to get Doug to stop at it.
“But we’re only a block or two from the one that Giacomo told us about. Let’s just keep going to that one.” She was enjoying the night air, and strolling around, but Doug didn’t really know how to stroll, and again she was struggling to keep up with him.
After passing a couple more restaurants, Alice told Doug he just needed to pick one, and they agreed the next open restaurant they passed they would stop at.
When they came to the end of the block there was another piazza, and the first restaurant had all of their tables out on the patio, underneath umbrellas. All of the tables were empty.
“Caio,” a tired and unfriendly looking man said to them from the host’s stand. “Are going to be eating or just drinking?” His tone was less friendly than he looked.
“Eating.” Doug said with a smile.
“Our kitchen is about to close so I will go ask them not to, but if you could pick what you want quickly please.” He lead them to a table and handed them their menus before rushing off to the kitchen.
After a few moments he returned.
“Can we start with a bottle of Chianti please?” Doug said and gave Alice a side glance and a raised eyebrow. “Also I’ll have the rigatoni all-amatriciana.” He stumbled over the pronunciation but tried to sound confident which Alice knew was to impress her.
“I’ll have the carbonara.” She added with a smile.
“I’ll put that right in for you.” The host said with a genuine smile and walked away.
“I think he’s happy we’re not taking our time.” Doug said taking her hand gently.
“I’m glad, it was a bit ridiculous.” She was getting irritable from exhaustion, but Doug never stopped smiling. She took a deep breath, and looked around at the tiny window of Rome she had.
She laughs at his big grin. “You know, it’s really pretty but you’re like a little kid right now.”
He blushes. “Inhale. The air is just amazing here. It’s cool and soft, and perfect.” He turned so that he could see the main street, and there was an old man pushing some kind of cart. “That guy looks so content, just happy. That must be how you feel when you live here. It’s not as special as it is for me, you know? But he’s happy, he’s home! I don’t feel that way ever.”
Alice relaxed a little, Doug wasn’t much of an optimist, and he complained a lot. He had made no secret to her, or anyone else who would listen, that he didn’t like living in New England. But when he talked to her about the trip he had taken to Italy a year before they met he was always so passionate. She could feel warmth spreading throughout her as he spoke. This was the Doug she loved.
When their food had come, they had each had an entire glass of wine, and were feeling much more relaxed. The plates were massive for individual portions, and were completely filled with food. Alice saw an almost animalistic gleam in Doug’s eyes as he lifted his fork.
Alice hadn’t eaten anything as creamy and heavenly as this carbonara in her entire life. “Mmmm.” She moaned almost inappropriately.
Doug barely covering his full mouth said, “Amazing isn’t it?”
Alice nodded in agreement, twirled a little spaghetti onto her fork and extended it to him for him to try. He took a bit and nodded, scooped up some of his and fed it to her. Alice had no tolerance for spice, and her eyes widen when she realized it was too spicy. Doug laughed and she took another sip of her wine.
“Buona notte.” The host said after they have paid him.
“Buona notte.” Alice said back with a big smile.
They walk out of restaurant’s patio area into the rest of the piazza, and Doug pulls the map Giacomo had given them out of his pocket.
“Let’s just go back and go to bed.” Alice said softly.
“Yeah, I’m just looking to see if the way we came is the quickest.” He looked for another minute, folded the map, took her hand and began to lead her to the opposite side of the piazza.
In the corner, they found a little via which had a little gelato shop closing up for the evening. A little further down was a pizza shop that was only just a storefront and was offering rectangle slices of eight different types of pizza. They were still open and a woman of about fifty years was bringing out a giant metal cooking sheet with another pizza to put in the display case.
“Well we can always come back here if we get hungry after dinner tomorrow.”
Alice rolled her eyes at him, and snuggled in closer as they walked.
Once they got back to the room she collapsed onto the bed again. “I love…” She was asleep before she could finish the sentence.