When in Rome
By KJ ALDER
We had a day off in Rome. For the past four weeks we went through what felt like an endless parade of tours and sightseeing expeditions through the European Capitals program. Every day we walked ten miles or more before the day was done and we were free to explore the cities alone.
When we heard of our break nearly every girl in the group uttered the words “beach time!” A short train-ride and bus ride out of the city would allow us to have a full day of sun and well-deserved relaxation time.
Twelve strong, we made it to the beach in the early afternoon, already starving for food. As we stood in the bus, waiting for some sign of a beach entrance to indicate when we should stop, we collectively gasped at the bright blue water that loomed behind the road guards. Finally we approached a sandy-looking driveway and took our leave from the bus, walking as fast as we could to the place that would act as a vacation for our vacation.
Before indulging in a suntan coma, we stopped at a small bungalow-style hose that appeared to house food. Initially the waiter and his fellow companions at the other table didn’t seem too pleased to see us.
When he did come over we tried to order various items on the menu but the waiter refused. From our limited understanding, we gathered that we were too large of a group and had to all order the same thing.
Taken aback by his request, we agreed on a simple dish of pasta in marinara sauce with diet cokes all around. A few of us also decided to order a bottle of wine to get us into the vacation mood.
Despite his initial shortness with us, the waiter and the men who had been sitting with him before now brought out not only the pasta that we had ordered but also three other dishes which included various types of seafood and salad. We smiled nervously as the dishes kept coming.
“Are they going to charge us all for this?” We whispered between one another.
But to our pleasant surprise, when the meal was finished we asked for the bill and the waiter simply looked us over and put up eight fingers. Eight Euros each for a meal worthy of over 150 Euros left us all with our mouths hanging open. We gushed over the waiter and his friends, giving them kisses and hugs before we made our way to some beach chairs.
After thoroughly baking for a while, a fellow tanner, Mandi, and I had to go to the rest room. Unsure where exactly this beach held toilette stalls, we went back to the restaurant and asked about the restrooms there. None of the familiar faces from before were there except for one younger, darker man who had watched us with interest as we ate our indulgent meal.
He smiled at us as we tried to explain our situation, his one golden tooth glistening in the sun. He was shirtless and had a thick mat of hair that extended from his swim trunks all the way up to his shoulders. Where his fur ended, a frenzy of tattoos jutted out across his arms and back. He nodded at us before moving into the restaurant and yelling at a man in the restaurant about our situation in Italian.
He came back out, stating in broken English that the owner doesn’t allow beach-goers to use his restaurant. Before we could explain that we had just eaten there, he interjected that there was in fact a bathroom a bit a ways from the restaurant, across the parking lot, behind the shrubbery that hid the parking lot from the beach.
“I, erm, I go with you, yes?” He smiled and nodded at us as he walked backwards towards our destination. “It is not safe for the young women to go alone. Men could jump out at you and attack. Very dangerous.”
Mandi and I exchanged disconcerting looks. Was this guy for real? Despite our best efforts to tell him that we really didn’t need an escort to the bathroom on a beach in broad daylight, he followed us anyway, repeating that he was helping us.
We made it to the bathrooms without getting jumped by any evil men. As we entered the ladies room and used the facilities, the guy continued to talk to us loudly, stating that we were beautiful girls and asking if we were okay in there.
Mandi and I came out of the restroom awkwardly laughing.
On the way back, the guy was walking with us even closer than before.
“You ladies are very beautiful you know?” He continued. “Where do you stay? Stay around here? I have a place, much, much cheaper! What do you pay for where you are?”
We both shrugged at him, exhausted by his constant banter.
“Well, you listen to me. No more than twenty Euros. And you are both so beautiful. Would you want to model for me? In my house I have a nice, erm, bed. And we can, we can take the photos.” He smiled as he made a pantomime of taking a photograph.
I had had enough.
“Look, we don’t need a place and we don’t remember where we are staying and we can’t go out with you tonight because we have to go to bed early. So sorry but we have to go.” I grabbed Mandi’s hand, ready to book it back to the sanctuary of our friends. He grabbed her other hand.
“Okay, but you listen,” He smiled. “You are beautiful girls.” He kissed my hand, holding it with his free hand. I quickly stole it back. “If you want to see me, I am always here!”
He then grabbed Mandi’s hand and kissed it before placing it to his chest. It was at this moment that I realized that his nipples were pierced when one of them shimmered beneath his matting of hair. I swear to this day he shuddered a little bit when he placed her finger on his chest.
We stole away immediately after that, laughing as we went. We saw him two more times that day, once on the train and once on the bus. He looked at us awkwardly but we ignored him and waited in the train until he got out first and left.
I still to this day wonder if those lines he pulled on us had ever worked on any other unsuspecting female tourists.