we had been sitting on the un-moving train for a while. it was now 40 minutes late.
we avoided eye contact with the singing beggars – shoving their overturned tambourine in our faces. i was trying to figure out why they were belting out la bamba on a train in italy.
an hour behind schedule the engine rumbled and we began to crawl our way towards pompeii. christian caught up in his journal. i read the travel guide and continually readjusted in my seat. despite the heavy rain clouds lingering from yesterday’s downpour i was sitting directly in the line of the blaring sun.
we sat facing two women. i had watched as the already full train made way for them. both had been separated from their traveling companions.
the elderly woman with a cane directly across from me began chatting. she was traveling with her daughter. her daughter who is too busy working to get married and have children.
had we been to italy before? where had we visited already? were we headed to pompeii? were we american? what did we think of the presidential election?
i asked her about the olympics. andy murray’s gold medal. the queen’s jubilee. prince harry’s racy night in vegas.
she wanted to get back to politics. specifically that tony blair should be in the hauge and fox news is rubbish. we compared contentious advertising habits during elections.
nearing our destination my british friend mentioned the weather and that we most certainly would be getting wet. i commented about our three warm days in rome. motioning to the jeans i was wearing i said, “these are the only pants i brought! i didn’t wear any pants in rome all three days!”
she seemed a little flustered and said, “well i don’t need to know about that! too much information!” (i wouldn’t realize until weeks later that pants mean underwear. i had basically confessed to only bringing one pair of underwear on my italian trip and to going commando for part of it.)
we said our goodbyes and stepped into the past.
since i was little i have often thought about pompeii with its buried people. i’d imagine them making dinner, or playing a game or doing laundry. a seemingly ordinary day turned tragic wherein an entire city was erased.
there was an overpowering feeling of emptiness as we walked down stone streets still showing the groove marks from wagon wheels. it was strange to look at intricate mosaic entry ways, still vibrant despite the years. much of pompeii lives in museums now. what is left is a large, vacant shell. a skeleton we explored as it started to rain. a place that seems to be known for a seedy reputation – but seriously, what city, if buried today, would be void of decay? every city houses its own version of pompeii.