After class on Thursday, Jake and I grabbed lemons off a tree at our school, the Angelicum, before heading back to Bernardi. Each day this past week was nicer than the last, and Thursday was no exception. So we decided to start the weekend by taking a different route than normal to our home base, choosing to take the walk at an unhurried Italian pace, enjoy our lemons, and take advantage of the warm evening air. We walked slowly, and actually ended up walking so slowly that we found we were no longer moving, and instead were sitting on a bench in a small park. A monument of a mounted figure occupied around half of the park’s ground space, but that wasn’t stopping 15 or so Italian kids from playing soccer on and around it.
They must have thought us strange, two Americans, well-dressed and watching them with puckered faces. Even if they noticed that we were eating plain sour lemons, we surely looked out of place on that little bench – until several other young people walked through the gate of the park. I am getting to the point where I can distinguish between Italians, Americans, Brits and sometimes Germans here, so I looked them over to determine their nationality, number, age, occupation, intentions. By the look of it, they were Americans, ten of them, college age, students, and looking to sit down for a bit in the middle of a long walk.
And then my eyes fell on one student specifically – a tall dark-haired fellow with an unmistakable chinstrap of a beard. It was a guy I worked with last summer in Fort Dodge, Iowa. But it couldn’t be. We were thousands of miles away from there, in a relatively unknown little park in a residential part of Rome. There was no way that we both happened to stop here, having left in the summer never expecting to see each other again, even in the Midwest.
It turns out I was right. It wasn’t Russell.
It was Russell’s twin brother, Austin. And so, although I would like to say I have a story about accidentally seeing someone I knew in Rome, I cannot. So there really wasn’t much point in telling the story at all, and in summary I met a stranger, which is neither uncommon nor exciting.
HA. Kidding, it was incredibly hilarious and unlikely.
Twin-Austin, two of his friends and I decided to play soccer (calcio) with the Italian kids and one of them, Pasquale I think they called him, decided it would be best to play piccoli vs. grandi, first to three points. The score got to Piccoli 3 – 2 Grandi, but of course we couldn’t leave things like that; they let us challenge them to another point, and we beat them 4- 2. Not that I’m extremely proud of it or anything. (But as long as I have a twin on my team I will gladly smoke those kids any day of the week.) They might have been 12 years old, but there were 15 of them and they were good.
After the game, Jake and I said goodbye to Pasquale and his pals, bid Austin good luck and glad tidings to his kin, and headed home, catching a nice view of the sunset over the Spanish steps on the way.
To (seriously) summarize, I will say that running into unlikely but familiar people in this world capital is less rare than one might think. A boss from a summer job here, a classmate from fourth grade there. Maybe it’s really true what they say, that “all roads lead to Rome.”