I don’t remember the exact year I first visited Rome, so instead I’ll call it The Year of The Big Hair.
I was in my mid-twenties, with The Most Awesome Spiral Perm Ever! Seriously, it took my stylist FOUR, count ’em, F O U R (!) FOUR hours to get all those pesky rollers in my hair. Looking back, with my short stature, I must have looked like I was ready to topple over, what with all the hair coiling on itself like a Medusa ‘do gone bad.
It was August in Rome. It was hot in Rome. It was humid in Rome.
But I digress.
Rome, like my hair, loomed larger than life. Words can describe it, photos can show proof of it, but you have to see it writ large across your retinas to fully grasp how grand it is. I am, of course, talking about the city.
I was on a twenty-four hour layover (my days as a flight attendant) so it was off to the races! The Colosseum! The Trevi Fountain! The Forum! The Pantheon! Run run run, with my hair streaming behind me like a magical super hero cape. (This was, of course, before Edna Mode’s sage advice of NO CAPES!)
I might have had gelato more than once. I might have had gelato more than thrice. Did I mention it was hot? At some point, the itinerary morphed into a gelato tour punctuated with a few Roman ruins.
Things that stuck in my mind, and maybe in my hair as well:
1.) The grandeur of the Colosseum. So massive, so haunted with history. Lives spent there like cheap pennies to be tossed at a beggar. The roar of chariots, wild animals, the chanting crowds, the cries of gladiators; all are subdue echos now in the stone corridors.
2.) The Forum. Where the original Toga Party was held. Where history was shaped and legends made. Where emperors and senators once walked, cats now recline in indolence and lassitude.
3.) The Trevi Fountain. I did not expect it to be so fancy. I mean, I didn’t think it was going to be like a water fountain in the halls of my elementary school, but I didn’t think it would be so….curlicue and grandiose….like my hair. Whoa.
After a day of capering through the streets and gawping at the antipasti buffet at dinner, I fell asleep that night to marble columns decorated with stray kitty cats dancing in my head.
The next day, up up up went the hair, restrained and sprayed into submission. Back in uniform, back to the plane, back to the States.
Roman traffic would have to be distracted by something other than The Biggest Hair Ever. The ghosts of the Eternal City returned to silently haunting their ruins. The uneven cobblestones prepared for another day of tripping up unsuspecting tourists.
But as if caught by a tangled fishing net, Roman memories entwined in my mind and hair. Shellacked into place. Pinned and twisted into strands of my coif.
I no longer have the Big Hair, but the memories? They’re eternal.