I'd be lying if I said my trip to Rome wasn't partly inspired by the Starz TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the mini-series prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. If you haven't seen it, you should. And if you have seen it, well, then you'll understand my obsession. It's like 300 meets Gladiator: naked beautiful men, naked beautiful women, fighting, swords, champions, sex, sex, sex. Oh, and there are a few love stories interwoven throughout the historical depiction of ancient Rome. Brady got me hooked on the show. Then I made Cayden watch it, and he was hooked. I got my family hooked. My roommates? Not so much.
So when Cayden brought up the idea of taking a trip to Rome, there was one thing I knew I wanted to see. No, not a half naked gladiator with killer abs and an array of scars and bruises. Although, that would have been nice. But I wanted to see the Colosseum. I wanted to see where it all used to happen. Where the gladiators used to fight to the death. Where they kept the lions and Caspian tigers.
Cayden wanted to see it for the architecture. Either way, it was a win-win.
So when we woke up Tuesday morning, the Colosseum was the first thing on our to-do list. Well, after a plate of pastries and two steaming cups of rich coffee, of course. I woke up excited, pumped, and it all kinds of pain. You know that cobblestone I'd been so looking forward to? Well, walking on that cobblestone all day in my non-supportive boots did a number on my legs. Shooting pains sprang from my heels to my knees on the sides of my legs. The area just above my ankles was tender to the touch. My hips ached when I bent my knees. My knees hurt when I shifted my hips. My lower back hurt when I bent anything.
I was a mess. Oh yeah, and the soles of my feet were another story.
I tried not to limp. I tried not to complain. But I was transparent.
"Don't worry, my legs are killing me, too," Cayden said, trying to make me feel better.
I took a deep breath and tried to keep my wincing to a minimum. Clenching my teeth helped. I thought about pooching my belly out and holding my back on the subway so people would think I was pregnant and let me sit down. I could turn my leg all the way around and hobble around the train until someone let me have their seat. So many options.
But when we stepped out of the subway station and into the sunlight and slight breeze, I forgot all about my legs. Forgot about my back, my knees. Forgot my own name. Forgot who Cayden was. Forgot about his sexy accent. Forgot what today was, what tomorrow was. Because this was staring back at me:
"Holy shit," I said to no one in particular.
"Holy shit is right," Cayden responded.
If were a cartoon character, my jaw would have hit the floor and then rolled back up like a projector screen. I couldn't move. I just stood there watching the sun pour in from behind the massive structure. I was afraid if I got any closer, I wouldn't be able to see the whole thing. Afraid I'd be missing something.
"Ready?" Cayden asked, giving my hand a tug. "Let's go see the inside."
I let him pull me across the street. I don't remember walking because I didn't feel any pain. Next thing I knew, we were staring up at the massive structure. Men dressed in cheesy gladiator costumes posed for photos. One of them put a helmet on Cayden and told us to pose for a photo.
"Kiss, kiss, kiss," he chanted. Where had we done this before? Just like we did the night we met in NYC, we listened. We kissed.
Then we joined at least a hundred other people in line, just inside the walls.
"I don't even care how long the wait is," I said to Cayden. "I just can't believe I'm INSIDE the walls of the Colosseum. This is ridiculous."
To pass the time, I watched two brothers in front of me play an extended version of paper, scissors, rock in a language I couldn't understand. Cayden rubbed my shoulders and kissed my neck. We both craned our necks to see through the arching hallways we assumed led to the inside of the Colosseum.
At one point, I squealed with excitement. Yes, I, Whitney, squealed. LIke a pig. Or a piglet. Or something else that squeals. Not like a mature, 25-year old woman.
We finally made it to the front of the line, bought our tickets, and pushed through the crowds until we stepped into the stands of the Colosseum. We stepped into the sunlight and froze.
It was huge. And ancient. And powerful. I felt like I was a grain of sand in the world's largest ant farm. The sky was huge. The arena was massive. From the lower level we saw down into the underground mazes.
"That's probably where they kept the lions while the show was going on," Cayden said, pointing to sections of the intricate maze. I pictured Gladiators down there, sweaty and bloody, listening to the floor rumbling above them, the crowd cheering for their champion. Yes, I watched too much TV.
We sat down on a flat stone and soaked it all up. Cayden held my hand and we both sighed and we relaxed against the rough stone. We didn't care that we were surrounded by tourists. We didn't even mind that we were tourists. I imagined us as a Roman couple, watching Spartacus defeat another gladiator with one slash of his sword.
"Look," I said, pointing through the archway behind us. We were surrounded by beauty.