Monday, March 7, 2011

169. Such Great Heights

For the second time that day, we pressed our hands against a glass display case and drooled over the Italian delicacies that were taunting us on the other side.

"There are so many options," Cayden said. "How am I supposed to pick one?"

"Pick two," I answered as I stroked the glass case and sighed.

It was Cayden's first gelato experience. I'd had my share of gelato when I lived in NYC but I heard the real thing was like nothing my somewhat adventurous tongue had tasted before.

"What's that one?" Cayden asked the man behind the counter while pointing toward a creamy brown selection in the back.

"Dees one?" the man asked, pointing at a yellow mound.

"No, that one," Cayden said, trying point more accurately.

After some back and forth and a lot of pointing, Cayden and I both decided on one scoop of Nutella and one scoop of mint chocolate chip. I'd eat Nutella on just about anything. And I'd take a bath in mint chocolate chip if I could. We walked back into the Piazza scooping spoonful after spoonful of heaven-in-a-cup in our ravenous mouths. Our post-nap sex had burned off the pastries we'd had earlier.

We sat down at a fountain and let the sun soak through our shirts. We licked the gelato as fast as we could to keep it from melting. Behind the fountain, what seemed like hundreds of steps reached up to the top of a hill behind us. We pulled out our map and identified it as Pincio.

"We should go look for the Spanish Steps," I said, looking at the map over Cayden's shoulder. I didn't exactly know what the Spanish steps were, but the desk manager in the hotel lobby said it the top of the steps was the best place to watch the sunset over Rome.

Cayden traced his finger from Pincio to the Spanish steps. It was closer than we thought. We polished off our gelato and walked hand in hand along the cobblestone. The foam sole inserts were a welcome cushion on my throbbing heels. We walked down narrow paths of cobblestone, lined with apartment buildings with cute, funky shops on the first floor. I couldn't keep the smile off my face.

"Babe, look," Cayden said, squeezing my hand.

I'd been too busy trying to peer into every window we passed, hoping to see a little Italian woman cooking meatballs, to notice the open space ahead of me and the Spanish steps just beyond it. I stared up in amazement. A circular fountain trickled in front of us, adorned with what looked like a sunken boat. Cayden kissed the top of my head.

"Think you'll make it all the way to the top, old man?" I asked with a smile. He was only three years older than me, but it was still fun to poke fun at it.

"You're the one hobbling around with padding in your shoes. Think YOU can make it?"

He had me there.

I let go of his hand and started before he could, taking the shallow steps two at a time. Cayden caught up in no time. Two steps. Two more. Two more. We passed couples sitting down holding hands. We passed groups of teenage girls, texting instead of admiring their surroundings. We passed at least six flower vendors who tried to force flowers in my hands and chased me when I turned them down.

We laughed and climbed. Two steps. Two more. I tried not to wheeze. My thighs burned and my knee creaked with every step. Two more. Two more. Two more.

We made it to the top without so much as an asthma attack or a pulled muscle, although we were both winded. But what we saw once we made it to the top, now that was breathtaking. Out in front of us, looking out across the steps, we saw Rome. All of Rome. It was incredible. Behind us: a church, another obelisk, more beautiful narrow cobblestoned roads.

When Cayden wasn't looking I wiped a tear from my eye. I was overwhelmed. We spent the next hour watching the sun slowly creep down the Roman sky. We sat on the ledge of the balcony at the top of the steps and watched the flower vendors chase down other unsuspecting visitors. We kissed every few minutes. We talked about the week ahead of us, the months to come, and this year and next. We talked about us.

And we didn't stop talking until we quieted ourselves to watch the sun drop below the horizon of Rome.


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