Though my vocabulary was limited, I understood the headlines on the front page. Public transportation was going on strike.
I clambered up two flights of stairs to the women’s hall and knocked on Paula’s door.
“Metro workers are going on strike, starting tomorrow,” I said when she appeared.
“You’re kidding me,” she said. The words leapt swiftly from her Argentinian tongue as she snatched the paper and scanned the page.
“What time is your train leaving?”
“At nine and a half.”
The station was seven kilometers from our youth hostel. Almost four and a half miles, I calculated in my head. But walking there wasn’t Paula’s biggest challenge. We’d been exploring the city on foot for two days. Lugging a suitcase almost two-thirds her height and size across the city was. It would take at least three hours for her petite, four-foot-ten frame to drag the bag that distance. Imagining that pitiful struggle prompted me to blurt.
“I’ll walk with you. Your suitcase is on rollers, right?”
Stunned at my offer, Paula stammered, “Yes, but you don’t have to – this isn’t your problem.”
“Well, I’m making it my problem. I’m almost a foot taller than you, so it’ll be easier for me to drag the suitcase. If we leave at 7:30, we should get to the station by nine.”
Paula opened her mouth to object.
“Paula, I was planning to explore that side of the city anyway. I’ll do it tomorrow. You need help. I have long legs, long arms, and I love a good walk, Let me do this for you.”
She relaxed and nodded.
“Yes, okay. Thank you. I don’t know how to repay you.”
“You let me tag along with you for the last couple days. It’s the least I can do.”
The next morning I rolled out of bed and dressed by the small locker sandwiched between two bunks. Paula waited downstairs in the lobby. Seeing her bags packed twisted my gut in a small knot. I was going to miss exploring Rome with my new friend. The next few days were going to be lonely.
“Ready?” I asked, masking my twinge of sadness with a bright smile. I grabbed the handle of her bag and rolled it to the door.
East of the Tevere, locals were strolling to school and work. The city was waking up, beginning its day as Paula ended her journey through Rome. Her short legs struggled to keep up with my long stride, but we couldn’t afford to slow our pace. Not until we were within half a mile of the Termini.
The rising sun brushed golden strands across antiquated moldings as it climbed down the concrete and stone buildings polished smooth and silver over a dozen centuries’ time. Rome breathed and thrived from it formidable history. All who walked her streets were rejuvenated by her ancient blood.
Even Paula and myself. Our momentary friendship was diverging as we embarked on separate paths, but in Rome, our recollections, our past, would always be reunited.
– Written by Miss A