Four years ago, Jason and I were touring the world. Because we could. Sometime in April, we were in Italy. I wanted to go back to Pompeii, so we did. It was one of those almost perfect days. We were staying at the B&B of a hilarious and charming Italian woman who spoke some English. Between her English and my Italian, we had some really funny conversations.
We got up early to catch the train. For anyone who has taken Italian trains, you understand why we got up early. The stop (or maybe it was a transfer?) we needed had some epic graffiti art that I admired as we waited. Eventually, we got to Pompeii.
It was Mediterranean spring and the weather was perfect; bright sunny and cloudless skies and about 70. Warm enough that we were sweating in the sun, but not so hot that we were melting. (In fairness, it might have been warmer, we were coming back from the South Pacific.) The interiors of the buildings were cool and just slightly damp, so it was like instant air conditioning when we walked into the baths or houses or other buildings. They wouldn’t let anyone in the brothel, despite the clearly labeled sign. (Brothels were labeled with carved penises on the walls of the buildings around them. The direction of the penis pointed towards the brothel, so you can literally follow the dicks to a brothel. Also, the Latin word for brothel is derived from the word for wolf, because of the howling. There is your fun history for the day.)
Most of the place smelled dusty, like sun-warmed stones and feet dragged on cobbles. Though we saw the major landmarks, we kept wandering out of the well-worn areas. At one point, we ended up outside the city walls, looking back into the city from the top of a hill. There was grass and poppies and wildflowers and I needed to pee. I found a bathroom and Jason found a fountain that had been re-plumbed and worked, even though it was the original stone face of the fountain. We ate the lunch we’d packed in the grass under a tree with a view of the grid of roads in Pompeii and the mountains in the distance. We didn’t see anyone else on that side of the wall. It was just the two of us, being us together.
We spent some time in the arena. The floor of the arena was covered in thick grass, though there weren’t as many wild flowers. There were a few other people, but the arena was large enough that my memory of them is as brightly colored blurs, not as real people. When we left there, we took some kind of wrong turn. Or right turn. I think we hit a dead end. We discovered that there is a vineyard in Pompeii which is in production. I’m sure that wine is exorbitantly expensive.
Somehow, we found our way around to the “front” or at least the part that visitors were being ushered into. There, the walls had signs explaining different buildings and there were many more tourists. One of them had bright red shoes, like mine.
Jason kept stopping when we were at the major landmarks, places like the Faun Statue. He would wander a bit and find just the right spot, then he would mess around on his phone. It was a little annoying, but also just Jason being himself so I’d ignored it all day. I finally asked him what he was doing when we were standing by a courtyard that had a mosaic or something in it. Or rather, I finally asked and actually listened to the answer.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Jason teaching me to play Ingress. We only had one phone, so it was mostly me watching him and being curious. He couldn’t form any fields, because other people were also playing. But he ended up with keys from all over Pompeii. He ended up dropping a lot of them because they were filling his inventory too full, but I know he kept a couple of major ones.
(For those who don’t follow augmented reality games, Ingress is a game on your phone. Major landmarks like plaques, churches, and public art are “portals” which you can interact with. You try to tie different portals together to create fields. There is a super complex puzzle element and some minimal amount of plot. Look it up, it is a great way of seeing little bits of art you might otherwise miss.)
When the shadows were getting long enough to cover the streets from wall to wall, we started walking back to the train. We stopped the take some last photos in the amphitheater. There is one of Jason-as-Brighella that I took from “backstage” looking into the rows of seats. It isn’t one of my favorites from the trip, but it is an image that remains in my head.
By the time the train dropped us back in Napoli, Jason was hangry. Rather than go back to the B&B and try to figure out food, we stopped at the nearest place with cannoli on the menu. (The cannoli was for me.) The food was mediocre (for Italy) and the service was worse and it really didn’t matter. We weren’t looking for a culinary experience, we were looking for body fuel and time together. The poor service just gave us more time to talk about all the things we’d seen and all the plans we had when we got home.
I’m afraid these memories are going to scatter like beads off a string. I won’t be able to find them, to say a kind of rosary by running each memory over in my mind. I’m afraid that without Jason, no one will remember all the days, all the conversations, all the moments we had together. I’m afraid I’ll forget him. I’m afraid I’ll forget us.