Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday in the Suburbs

The suburbs of Rome are nothing like American suburbs. The streets are narrow, potholed, and wind through high retaining walls or projects-looking concrete apartment buildings. It is a thrill ride every time we get in the car. Sometimes she takes a shortcut around a traffic jam that zigs and zags like a car chase. When one sees behind the scenes there is, however, that universal, unfinished feeling that suburbs everywhere have beyond the mowed-lawn stereotype. Patches of grass, ugly pipes, forgotten piles of rubble that don't belong to anything anymore.

A shopping mall with a funky fa├žade
The shopping malls are something to behold, but on Sunday Alexa took me to her favorite local market, where we tasted olives from a farm stand, and ate Painini with Tonna (tuna) and Pomodoro (tomatoes). She did all the talking, and laughing, and joking with the vendors, who all seemed to know her well. It was exciting coming to the headwaters of my favorite souvenir supply; whenever Alexa visits the states she brings all her girlfriends a little something from this place. I stocked up on my favorite luxury: Italian socks. Also, a lovely tablecloth, some cool shirts and a new backpack for my impending overnight adventure.

Funny story: I saw a box of underwear with a picture of a car on it, and since buying underwear with cars on it is something a mom like me has done in the past for a kid like mine, I went to pick one out. The largest size was 14, which is still too small for a high school senior... but Alexa thought maybe we should look and make sure. Good thing we did!

Back home, I had a flurry of packing and repacking my things into smaller containers as I prepared for my upcoming mini-adventure: an overnight to Naples and a trip to Pompeii. I would spend the night in their Rome studio and catch an early train.

She took me to the Metro and parked far from the entrance. As we walked, I noticed how quiet it was. A little eerie. But it felt so safe.

"Alexa, you parked so far away. Do you worry about crime?"

"There are pickpockets here, and thieves, but you don't hear news like you do back home," she said. "No one has guns here." We crossed a pedestrian bridge, and I could feel it in the cool night air: the absence of a certain kind of American fear.

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