AN AFFAIR IN ROME
I had been separated from my "then-wife" Sylvia for several months. I had moved out of the apartment we shared in Sausalito into a spacious one bedroom apartment on Washington and Gough in San Francisco just minutes from my job as a salesman at Toyota of San Francisco. I liked the Pacific Heights neighborhood. The building was quiet and well maintained.
Sylvia wanted to get back together. I wasn't so sure that was what I wanted to do. She suggested as a way of reconciling, we should try a second honeymoon of sorts, in the hopes that we could re-kindle our love and start again. She wanted to go on an art tour of Venice. I wasn't so sure about that either. We compromised and agreed to meet in Rome after she did her art tour and go to Majorca from there. We had a mutual friend who was in Majorca living on a luxury yacht. That part sounded like fun. Our mutual friend was a writer and the owner of the yacht, his publisher, was an acquaintance that we had socialized with several times in San Francisco.
We had agreed to leave a more detailed schedule at the American Express office in Rome as soon as we arrived. This all happened before cell phones were invented. Sylvia had already been in Venice for a week when I arrived in Rome. I immediately went from the airport to the American Express office to find out whether she was still in Venice or when she planned to arrive in Rome or; if she was in Rome, at which hotel. There were a number of people in line at the American Express message desk when I arrived. I took a position behind an attractive young woman. She turned as I walked up and we smiled at each other. Since I was African-American or Black as we were called in those days, (however not Black enough to be mistaken for an African) it was quite natural that she asked me where I was from.
When I said San Francisco, she said "I'm from California also; Los Angeles." Well how was that for good fortune; meeting what appeared to be a young single and very attractive woman after being in Rome for only a couple of hours. We introduced ourselves and she told me her name was Robin and that she was a teacher in LA. She was in Rome alone for the time being but expected a girlfriend to join her in a few days. This situation couldn't be more perfect to have some great fun. We continued to chat while standing in line. When her turn came, she finished quickly and I suggested she wait a moment until I checked to see if there were any messages for me. Fortunately, I suppose, Sylvia had not arrived nor were there any messages from her.
Robin and I decided to share a taxi and perhaps look for a small hotel in the general vicinity of the American Express office since we both had planned to check there daily for messages. Fortunately for us, the American Express office was in the middle of the most popular tourist area in Rome and had much of what we wanted to see. We got a list of hotels in the area that had a brief description including the number of stars. In Europe, the number of stars a hotel had was a fairly accurate way of knowing what to expect. Since they were all within walking distance, we set out to find our accommodations leaving our luggage in a locker at the American Express office.
We found a quaint place about three blocks away at one corner of a small plaza that we both agreed we liked. We were shocked when told that since we had separate passports and were not married, they were not permitted to let us stay in the same room. This was ridiculous but realizing how much influence the Vatican had, what could we do? We booked one room with a double bed and one with a single two doors from each other. We decided to go have lunch and then pick up our luggage. Just across the plaza was a Trattoria that advertized "pizza." I hadn't had pizza in Italy and we both thought this would be fun. We entered the restaurant and saw that who looked like the waiters and kitchen staff were sitting at a large round table toward the rear eating lunch themselves.
The owner or host got up and came to greet us. He apologized and explained in very broken English that lunch was over and they were closed. I was really hungry and I suppose Robin and I both looked it. I explained as best I could that we just arrived in Rome and didn't have time to eat before now. He conferred with the chef who must have felt sorry for us and told us to sit down and have some wine and he would prepare something for us. We asked could we have pizza and that it was our favorite food in America. They all looked at each other and laughed. He said "pizza" is only an appetizer, not a main course. We all laughed and said we didn't care, we wanted genuine Italian pizza. We all laughed together and the chef went back to the kitchen to make us a pizza.
In less than ten minutes, the waiter brought us each what we would call in the States an individual, thin crust pizza. It was absolutely delicious, with a thin, flaky crust, exquisite sauce and delicate cheese. Robin and I woofed these down in a matter of minutes washing them down with the rich, robust table wine. The pizza was so good, it tasted like "some more." The waiter saw how we ravished the food and asked what we wanted for our main course. We said two more pizzas. He laughed and told everyone "they want more pizza." Everyone laughed as he went back to the kitchen with our order. Needless to say, the food was wonderful and we had a great time. It felt like we were eating in someone's home rather than a restaurant. We finally finished eating and left to go and explore more of Rome.
Robin and I got on really well, both knowing that it was only for the present with both of us expecting someone else within a day or so. Rome was everything we expected and more. We did all the tourist things in the area. Later that evening when dinner time rolled around, we tried to consider going elsewhere but we both agreed we had to have more of the incredible pizza. When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted like family. Our waiter went around explaining to everyone about our love for pizza and nothing else. We felt like guests and a part of a loving family. The wine flowed like water while we spent the next couple of hours chatting as much as the language barrier allowed and consuming three pizzas each. Luckily, we only had to cross the plaza to get to the hotel. We tumbled into bed, made passionate love and fell asleep in each others arms.
When we got up the next morning, we went out to breakfast and almost dreaded going to American Express, knowing that a message for either of us would bring our wonderful affair to an end.