I sat atop Il Palazzetto. Why I had never been here before? Maybe laziness did really confound me. Sometimes it was easy to wander in Rome. When you weren’t tied to a person or a place. There have been so many days where I sit almost trapped in Trastevere dreaming of open streets unmarred by cobblestones, and of buildings higher than two stories tall.
I sat atop Il Palazzetto. It was a strange feeling—beautiful. What did that word really even mean? It could mean so many things at once. Free? Maybe. Yes. Kind of. It was a kind of freedom that I didn’t feel in Trastevere. But then freedom wasn’t what I was looking for.
There was something about this city that made me want more than just that. I wanted inspiration. I wanted to sit in a Piazza and listen to the old man with glasses playing that song on his guitar that I now knew by heart. I wanted to write about it. But I couldn’t capture sensation on paper. The same way a picture doesn’t do justice to a feeling, sometimes words don’t either. I looked out and in the distance I could almost make out the top of St. Peters.
I looked down and saw the vast Piazza di Spagna. Across, I saw Via Condotti and the people that didn’t really look like people at all. There were so many tourists and I wondered where the Romans where. Were they hiding from the tourists? Was I? I guess not since I was sitting in the most touristy of places. I hope people didn’t think I was one. That was always one of my greatest fears—being deemed a tourist.
The bar was pretty, in a quaint Romanesque sort of way. The flowers that stayed hidden all throughout the winter had finally begun to sprung and the railing next to me was filled with a vibgyor of coloured flowers. There were too many people around me, but my table felt small. The city was stretched out before me, but I felt alone. It was a strange feeling, feeling so big yet so small at the same time.
The table I sat at gave me a perfect view of the cafe one story below, and straight ahead, of the people down in Piazza di Spagna. The people in the cafe were speaking in English and instantly I looked towards them. It was a group of international people. One of them was Indian and I kept my eye on him. Wondering if he felt the same way I did. If he missed Desi music, and weddings, and samosas as much as me.
It was overwhelming, if anything. To be sitting so high up, surrounded by nothing but my thoughts. I ordered a glass of wine. The waiter looked at me and said “solo?” I nodded, trying to show him I was confident in my own company. My phone had no service. My bag had no books. I was alone. I hadn’t been alone in a while.
I tried to decide what to do as the waiter placed my wine glass in front of me, I call it a glass but it was more like five drops of Chianti in a jug. I sipped on it, feeling peaceful but extremely uneasy at the same time. I looked around me, people watching. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. The couple on my left sat taking selfie after selfie, tourists, I rolled my eyes at the air.
There was a man at the far end of the cafe, and I thought yes, someone else is here alone. But soon after he was joined by a woman and they sat looking elegant and classy sipping on some red wine. The woman was dressed in a white chiffon suit, and I secretly hoped her wine would spill on it. I wondered what I looked like to them. Definitely not elegant. Definitely not classy. My hair was in a bun, my denim shirt was swaying around in the wind, and my shopping bags sat in a fort around me. Yeah—definitely not classy.
I decided people watching was not working out for me so I began writing notes on my phone. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time,” I wrote. But then I didn’t know what else to write. Writing on my phone seemed silly. I scored through my bag for my notebook, why was today the one day I left my house without it. Finally, I found a pen and almost let out a little shriek. I grabbed a napkin that sat under my wine jug, since that was the only thing I could even think of writing on.
I slowly wrote my name, curling the M and the N like I used to in fifth grade when my teacher would tell me to write in cursive. But then the pen stopped working. Just my luck. The need to write was kicking in. Everyone was either laughing, or talking, or silently swaying to the music and I needed to write. I looked through my bag again. There was another pen, it wasn’t my favourite. I had grabbed it from the front office right before class the other day and it was not appealing to the eye. It wasn’t a writing kind of pen. But it was my only option. So I began.
The laughter coming from the cafe below would have been distracting on another day. But today didn’t feel like just another day. Why I didn’t do this more often? Why I didn’t do this everyday? I kept writing, trying to block everything else out. This was what I was here for. This moment, this feeling, this pen (well maybe not this one) and its contact with paper. I felt, after a long time, that there was something uplifting in being completely alone.
There was no phone to distract me from my thoughts. No book to guide my stream of consciousness. I could think of anything my mind let me. I was alone with my pen and my napkins. I didn’t need anything else. I realised that happiness was easy to find. In the small moments at least. Yes, it was fleeting and fickle. But it was also ephemeral when you found it. I wrote on napkin after napkin until the waiter came up to me asking if I was a writer. I smiled. Yes, maybe. In this moment, on this day, I am.
I sat atop Il Palazzetto. Alone. Happy. Writing.
Maybe this kind of happiness couldn’t be found just anywhere. It had to be the right place, at the right time. And today, it was. The music was low in the way my mother whispered stories into my ear as I lulled into sleep as a child. The sun was heavy in the way it scorched my skin on endless summer days at the beach back home. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time,” I wrote again. I called for the bill, picked up my napkins and headed down the stairs back into a reality I was all too familiar with.