November 30, 2023 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:20:30+01:00March 10th, 2006|Area 51|

heaper flights are cheaper still. Last month London ran €13 plus tax. Before that Brussels cost a plate of pasta, Scandinavia a song.

It’s the era of airlines called X, called Y; no-frills freighters trucking flesh like packages.

But why leave Rome just as the sun has begun its spring routine?

My friend has no answer. Instead, she boxes up her heels. The packing takes hours: black pumps, white purse, beige boots, the exacting bulemia of a month of Rome purchases.

Men misread the vagaries of ego. They ask silly questions. For example, why fly cheap when the purse runs 10 flights?

One frugality offsets many vanities. And vanity is a full-time job in late winter, when outerwear gets competitive.

Seeing “Jarhead,” the Sam Medes war movie (no “Full Metal Jacket,” but still…) I think to ask her about Iraq.

If not about Iraq about war in general.

Maybe Hamas.

Instead, other indiscretions come in spades: There’s a sister in trouble, a boy without a father and an apartment to rent. World affairs isn’t on her agenda.

There’s a northern wedding a July, maybe a tango in May (Latin motif), and, oh yes, the Caribbean trip. You never know what else might come up.

Outside Rome, she dances salse in an industrial warehouse. This she’ll discuss. Sometimes she goes. Mostly not. Depends on her mood. She feels like a teenager, she says.

Too much leisure, I say tentatively, leaves you hollowed out. Lip service to idleness compels a life of trifles, and when they fail, bouts of tears.

But she’s not listening. Why should she?

Distraction is enterprise. In my neighborhood the upscale citizenry survives on luxury. Teenaged girls with mobile phones and pumps; women in their 60s, their modernized faces hydraulically stretched.

Last week, Francesca, the florist’s wife stopped me to confide. I’ve known her for 25 years. Her 12-year-old daughter left her mobile phone at home. In its memory were porno shots.

A tearful confrontation followed. Her friends sent it, her daughter said.

She grounded her for two weeks. No dates. Nothing.

What, Francesca asks me, should I do about the phones, the Web, the new?

What to answer? That coming of age is now technological? That wireless hormones are fine?

I say nothing.

At the movies, my friend’s cell phone glows in the dark. She checks messages after the show. Normal protocol.

She doesn’t stick around for the post-movie crawl. She has no interest in the old school dirty work: locations, countries, who covered the smaller parts.

It was my father who insisted that I stay seated through it all. Out of respect, he said. I still do, or try.

I stay as if determined to see something through from start to finish.

She stands outside, near the coming attractions: Ewen McGregor, Nicholas Cage. She’s fished the shoe-box from the bag and opened it.

The heels could hollow out a heart. I got these today, she says.

I’ve learned to be impressed. And we leave.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.