It all happened so suddenly.. Teresa’s school is just around the corner from the Pantheon, and I could see its heavy, brown walls like a giants’ foot from where I stood waiting for her after school yesterday afternoon. One minute I was pretending to understand the broken English spoken to me by a friend of Teresa’s mother – a woman with frizzy hair and English dip-dyed in Italian swag. The next, I glanced over my shoulder and there she was: her voice broke loudly through the Italian chatter:
I turned, she smiled, I smiled. Before I could speak, she spoke.
“Are you British?”
What blesséd words I nair heard spake before!
‘I bloody well am!’ I thought.
“Hi!” I waved.
“Oh, it’s so nice to meet you. I heard you speaking English you see, but I don’t think you are with the agency, are you? I don’t recognise you.”
“The girl…was tall, with silky, ‘Jasmine’ hair and high heels…and a warm glossy smile”
The girl was the most glamorous of the women, huddled at the school gate, (perhaps not too trying a feat, bearing in mind she was up against hairy, suited, fathers with shiny shoes and big smiles waiting for their kids).
Raashmi was tall, with silky, ‘Jasmine’ hair and high heels. She looked as if she’d stepped off a beach, a salon and from the most VIP of all VIP limousines all at exactly the same moment. She had a warm, glossy smile and looked a little older than me—I’m not going to lie, I felt younger and frumpier, as most people would.
It turns out she knew other girls who had arrived in Italy via the same agency. There was Sara, from Hawaii, an Austrian called Sonja and Jenni, a German girl. We were all going to meet up later that week for a drink. And that was that. Friend box ticked.
“We were all going to meet up later that week for a drink. And that was that. Friend box ticked”
After meeting Raashmi, a dark hole somewhere near my stomach bubbled up into a frothy golden orb and glowed. My mind cleared, and in a moment of profound reflection I understood how friendship is a type of deep, nourishing love. Back home, and for most of my life in fact, up until I moved to Rome I had always been surrounded by friends. A friend is a human-shaped cup of hot chocolate on a chilly day, at least those were my thoughts when one potential friend had suddenly come forth from my quite pleasant, but quite unsatisfactory current friend mêlée of various Italian children and their middle aged parents.
Teresa tugged my sleeve wanting ice cream and upon deep reflection I wanted one too. Eating is doing in Rome, whether you are going out with your dog, having a job interview, breaking up with someone: It’s all done with something in front of you to sip or bite into, (oh-er).
“Eating is doing in Rome”
Teresa and I took a little detour towards Castel Sant’Angelo, (also knowns as Hadrian’s Mausoleum) that squats in Parco Adriano, overlooking the Tiber. It used to be the tallest building in Rome but was overtaken by a less exciting equivalent: La Muratella: a dull set of offices, with disappointingly minimal historical value unlike the rest of Rome. There was a smattering of tourists, runners and people with dogs that afternoon. The area is rocky and dusty with trees embracing you closer towards the heart of the park. Off the to the left is the regal road that leads proudly towards Saint Pauls cathedral and the Vatican.
“I wanted to tell this nine-year old my good news, but felt like a dork”
On our way back, Teresa and I finished our gelato in front of Saint Paul’s, and laughed at a child chasing pigeons, and his granny flapping about trying to get him to sit still so she could wrap him up. I still felt excited about my new friends and the wonderful fact I had a friend (singular). I wanted to tell this nine-year old my good news, but felt like a dork. Once we got home, the phone rang, a bubbly girl from Teresa’s class inviting her to play at her friends’ round the corner. Since I was enjoying her sprightly, chatty company I felt rather sad at the prospect of her abandoning me. Fear not, I rallied internally, I too shall have friends before the week is out.