DAY 38: Third Day in Rome
Back on my feet. Felt good. Prepared to spend the day roaming… Rome. Upon exiting the apartment, however, I questioned if my endurance was sufficient enough to last the day. It. Was. Hot. Miserably hot. Think the heat was getting to some of the locals and tourists too. When I boarded the train toward Rome Metropolitan there was a man asking people on the train for change. Hard to tell if he was intoxicated but I believe that was the case. He asked an old Italian woman in a blue dress for money and when she refused, he starting having a fit.
“And this is what you do?!” He would repeat these words in english throughout his rant in italian. The woman only fueled the fire by arguing back and eventually she and her companion left to find another seat. But he started following her. I could feel my grip tighten on the railing and my ass lift from the seat but a young gentleman, physically bigger than the ranting man and I combined, stepped in his path and raised his arms. He calmly suggested the man give it a rest but the man kept ranting. Another old Italian woman sitting nearby smacked the seat next to her and told the man to sit repeatedly. He listened to her and the ranting subsided as she chatted with him. Calming him. It was beautifully diffused. Admirable.
Later down the line, I was zoned out thinking on what I’d witnessed. I hadn’t noticed that an old Italian woman with a cane had boarded the train and was forced to stand without any seats available. The blonde woman in the seat beside me gave up her seat; It should’ve been me. Good reminder to myself: be present, and pay attention; Do better.
I’d marked the map of what I wanted to see in Rome the night before. Began following roads towards the Colosseum but I became distracted by the sight of the Roman Forum. It so happens I couldn’t enter the ruins without a ticket purchased at the Colosseum anyway. Statues of Caesar were scattered throughout the area, stained and broken. The museum nearby resembled a perfectly well-kept version of a building you would’ve seen during the Roman Empire. Clean, white and enormous greek-style pillars. Majestic.
No street acts in Rome. Only beggars. One in particular remained on my mind after seeing her. An old woman praying by a cup with pictures of Christ and the Virgin Mary on the sides. She was there all day in the blazing sun. There was a great photographic moment here and I let it pass. That dug at me long after I departed her. I should’ve given her money and taken her picture but I didn’t. There's still an anxiety I wrestle with as a photographer. I had some mishaps in downtown Los Angeles and I think I’ve been slowly figuring out how to re-approach situations like that. Still gauging people and the appropriate moment to capture them in a photo. I've tried to work on this flaw daily but today, I failed. Have to push harder.
I made it to the Colosseum. It was as enormous as I’d imagined it would be but the line to enter was considerable. I contemplated skipping the Colosseum altogether before realizing that it was a good chunk of the reason I wanted to visit Rome. I stuck it out. Too crowded but transporting nonetheless and worth the wait. Played Hans Zimmer’s “Gladiator” soundtrack while I strolled the ancient stone halls, which helped me forget the magnitude of tourists running around. I’d always pictured the arena to be a wide open space for battle but instead it was populated by a collection of walls. Resembled a maze. If this was truly how the arena was built for fights then it was all the more terrifying. Cramped, narrow corridors would prevent gladiators from knowing who they were about to fight. They wouldn’t know whether they were about to battle a midget or a hulking mass until they were standing within inches of that person.
Never was able to figure out how I could walk the pits but I managed to walk both the ground and second floor twice. The music was assisting me in forgetting the tourists I was squeezing past. Reminded me of the countless brutal deaths that probably unfolded here to thunderous applause.
I headed back to the Roman Forum with the Collesseum admission ticket. Broken pillars. Shattered statues. Entrances to structures that didn’t exist anymore. The remaining ruins of a once-thriving empire. There were ambulances charging through here left and right. People were suffering from heat exhaustion. One woman in a black dress was lying on her back surrounded by people. A stranger was knelt beside her holding her hand. The stranger kept repeating in english:
She was whisked away to the hospital shortly after. I witnessed a lot of compassionate behavior like that throughout Rome today. Qualities I strive for.
“I’m here…” That was reassuring to witness.