I didn't sleep a wink. I tried. As tired as I'd been all day, I thought I'd fall into such a heavy sleep that Cayden would have to pour a bucket of ice on me to wake me up at 3:15. No luck. My body was restless. My foot twitched non stop. I tossed and turned carefully, afraid to wake Cayden from him peaceful slumber. But part of me wanted to slap him awake so we could hang out. I was finally wide-awake and in the mood to chat, but Cayden was dead to the world.
I closed my eyes and tried to dream about Rome. Dream about the post cold-shower sex we'd had to warm me up. Dream about what it would be like to find that hill from the book, climb it, and look down over all of Rome. Would I be able to spot the Colosseum? The Pantheon? The Vatican?
I thought about getting out of bed to blog or read the rest of Four Seasons in Rome or start The Pioneer Woman's book, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. But before I could slip out from under the covers, Cayden's alarm was going off.
"Get up," I said loudly in his ear. "It's time to go to Rome!"
"Why are you so.... awake?" he asked.
"Because I haven't slept! C'mon. Let's go!"
He groaned and pulled himself out of bed.
While he showered I created makeshift Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts out of layered tube socks. I wrapped my heel with another tube sock like an Ace bandage. I wasn't going to let a pair of shitty shoes ruin my trip. I pulled another pair of socks over my feet at the sock pads to keep them in place. I looked down at my feet and saw that my heels looked like they were the size of softballs. Shoving those into my suede zip-up boots was another feat of creativity.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Cayden said when he came out of the shower wearing just a towel. I immediately wanted to rip it off, but decided to hold off on Valentine's sex until we were in Rome.
I accepted his kiss, though, and smiled to myself the whole way to the airport.
In line for security, I panicked. I had to take my boots off to go through the metal detector. What if they saw my bulging heels and thought I was smuggling drugs in my socks? How embarrassing would it be to strip off layer after layer of tube socks in front of Cayden and a uniformed airport security official only to reveal red, swollen heels with what might have been permanent grate indentations?
Surprisingly, we both made it through without a strip search, and less than an hour later we were on our way to Rome. I always pictured what it would be like to travel with Cayden. I imagined myself leaning against his shoulder, sleeping peacefully for the duration of the flight. But for some reason I was still wide away. Cayden, on the other hand, well, that was another story. He leaned his head on my shoulder and was fast asleep in minutes. Not exactly what I'd pictured. I leaned my cheek against his head while I finished reading Four Seasons in Rome. It was already the best Valentine's Day I'd ever had.
When the plane landed, I couldn't get out of the airport fast enough.
"Babe, we're here! We're in Italia!" I said, pulling him toward the passport-check line. "Can you believe it?"
He shook his head and laughed at me. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning, but behind those laughing eyes I knew he was just as excited. Rome was the No. 1 city in the world he'd always wanted to visit. What are No. 2 and 3, you ask? Chicago and Boston. Go figure.
We grabbed a map from a booth and studied it while we waited for the train station. Cayden studied it top to bottom, left to right, taking a mental picture of the entire city. I knew Cayden would be the navigator on the trip, so when I studied it, I searched for landmarks and streets I'd read about in Four Seasons in Rome, more for curiosity's sake than for directional purposes.
"Oh my god. You look like such a tourist!" Cayden laughed, reaching for my camera. I ignored him and searched for Janiculum Hill. He took full advantage of the Kodak moment.
Once on the bus into Rome, our eyes were glued to the windows. I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing.
"Is it what you imagined?" Cayden asked without looking away from the window.
I thought about it for a while. When I thought of Italy, I pictured narrow streets, cobblestone roads, hole-in-the-wall trattorias below apartments that had their windows open and a clothesline stretching to the next window, all of their undergarments fluttering in the breeze. But when I thought of Rome, I thought about giant, ancient buildings like the Colosseum. Where did the Colosseum fit into that image of quaint clotheslined apartments? I was stumped.
"No. But..." I thought for a moment. "I guess I had no idea what it would look like. But this wasn't it." I gestured out the window even though I knew his eyes were already there.
It's hard to describe what I saw, really. If I had to guess, I'd assume it looked like what Miami probably looked like in the 80s. Palm trees, brightly-colored four-story apartment buildings, gas stations, storefronts with displays of 6-inch tall high heels with clear platform soles, and a sense that everything was dirty. Everything appeared to be written in English and Spanish, until a closer look revealed that wasn't Spanish at all.
"Yeah, this wasn't what I was expecting, either. Maybe it's different once we get into the city." His tone was hopeful.