Dalia Impiglia, Year 12 at St George's British International School, takes a vivid walk to the Colosseum.
The metro is sticky, alive; it is damp and I do not know why since the air outside is cool but the handle feels like it is sweating into my palm. The boombox voice fills the damp air in the carriage and announces ‘Siamo in arrivo a Cavour. Uscita lato sinistra’. The metro has a woman’s voice. I have arrived at my stop, Thank you, I reply to her in my head as the doors slide open heavily. I then walk. Step. Off. Step. The train leaves back into the tunnel, leaves me behind to continue to drop off all the idle passengers left.
The cobblestones surprise me each time. My broken sneaker is barely any protection from the ground and the wind slaps my face in quick wisps of freshness. I breathe it in. The lights are yellow gold, glistening everywhere; seemingly like stars but in the day time.
This place is made of a new-age mysticality with artisanal craftsmen in stylish jeans and musicians wandering with their big or small instruments strewn across their backs, in oversized clothes from vintage stores found in abundance here with 70s, 80s and 90s relics.
I like to imagine how many people have worn the dresses and trousers found on the hangers in the dark scented shops. How many people ripped off this shirt in lust, who had a dinner in this dress or who dirtied these trousers in a public restroom at a carnival? Where did the rips come from, where did the seams go? Each thread contains a story; a story upon a story, and they are intertwined as is whoever wears it next - not a piece of clothing but a messenger of time.
The buildings shift between a palette of pearl and pastries, windows framed by marble curves – like a woman’s if she were a statue; like my mother’s when she was young. Some windows hold their arms open to the sun yet some still stay closed, since it rained before. The ground sparkles with its remains, the vanishing raindrops dissolve like a magic trick ahead of me, under my step. There are still some puddles which seem crystal blue as the sky is reflected in them. Ripples form and I realise at the corner a golden cat is bent over, taking a sip. His muscles are tense, he is scared of me. His tongue is pink, like a petal, and flickers quickly into the puddle and out. His fur shines amber and camouflages with the walls of the Church behind. The cat scampers, nails scratching the ground and it disappears. The Church is without company now.
I pass by here so often and yet I still do not know the name of it; it is simply the Church to me. It has short marble steps leading up to the entrance: a plain wooden door, plain but grand in size. The wood is dark and worn, a deep colour like that of the night. The walls are stained from the rain and peach coloured – but dark peach coloured; once soft and now rough. The marble, too, was once soft and now a dark white and spotted from pigeon toes and finger traces, framing the arches and the doorway. I have never been inside. I am curious but in part I do not want to ruin the surprise. It will remain a decisive mystery for as long as I can retain it so.
I walk ahead, past the Church, empty handed. I have even forgotten my purse. That is okay, sometimes it is refreshing to let your fingers loose, without having them worry about holding on to anything but the air.
I have my green cameo jacket on – it was my father’s. It feels heavy on me and it is clearly too big for my frame, but it sits like a hug. I imagine where this jacket has been before me, like all other clothes around. What the shop where my father first saw it looked like. Perhaps he did not even buy it himself, perhaps it was a gift and I wonder what the person who picked it out for him was like. Perhaps it was his brother.
Clouds are sprinkled lace all over, randomly set in positions, scattered with the finesse of a master painter. This world sometimes seems too beautiful to be real. This is one of those days and I am standing here, in the middle of the beautiful world. I turn west and in the distance I see the Colosseum. What a sweet gift.
I often try to imagine how many people must travel from Japan or Egypt or America and France just to see this. Then here I am, passing a monument, an epitome of empirical greatness, allure and power so mindlessly by, every day. Men and tigers fighting, blood and guts to spill in front of hungry eyes, shrill screams chanting for the tiger to feast or cheering for the man, possibly from an even further land. When I was younger my father told me that if I was very, very, very quiet I could hear the chants that were soaked into the stone walls. I always tried my hardest to hear a glimpse of a cry or a shatter of a cheer but I never managed. I am aware now that he only wanted me to be quiet, but perhaps he, as a boy, was curious to hear something too.
Who knows how many centuries people have walked on these stones, climbed these steps wearing garments – probably not from the vintage clothes shops, but from other older traditions; time upon time marked on stones, in wool and cotton and steps and paces. I see the memories of 30 years ago on the prints of jeans and jackets; and in the stone of the walls which hold up the buildings before me and in the marble, I see the memories of 300 years ago, 3,000 years ago. People have come and gone, stood still and stopped, sat and rose all around me for centuries on end – and now it is my turn.
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