I am just back from a holiday with my family. My parents from India, my sister and brother-in-law from the US - all of us together for two wonderful weeks. Rome was our chosen finale for our itinerary, a grand ending to our cherished vacation together, not to mention a chance for Karthik and me to see the city in full spring/summer bloom after our trip in the winter that left us longing for more and more.
So, remember the gentleman from the bar cafe I wrote about back then? Since booking our tickets to Rome, I wondered if I could stop over again. I wanted to show him the post. Like I mentioned the last time, he may otherwise never know that I wrote about him. And I wanted to know his name finally!
It was a packed trip, but yesterday when my family was away at the Colosseum, Karthik and I decided to make a quick trip to the bar. Walking up the street that looked no more familiar than the last time, K suddenly stopped and said, this is it. I walked in but I didn't find the gentleman anywhere. There was another elderly man working behind the counter and one at the cash register. I didn't know where to begin, for the lack of my language skills- so I turned to the aid of the image of the kind gentleman on my blog I had kept loaded on my phone in anticipation of this meeting. Like a lost tourist, with my phone held straight out, I walked up to the gentleman at the cash register. His wry expression already seemed a tad intimidating but a split second later, his lips broke into an amused smile as he saw my phone screen and out came a lot of animated words in Italian. Of course, I didn't follow anything and so I carefully watched his hand gestures, fresh off of reading up Bruno Munari's amusing Supplement to the Italian Dictionary. My fear was finding out that it meant "quit the job" or something to the effect that I've missed him forever. Seeing no success, he put his hands together, horizontal under his bent head on one side. What did that mean? Asleep? Sick? Or did that mean something else altogether in Italian?
And then before I knew it, he caught hold of my wrist and turned to the gentleman behind the bar saying something excitedly. I felt like a little kid, and he, a jolly old grandpa amused by my technological shenanigans. He then nudged my hand gently forward, signalling me to show my phone to the man. All with that amused smile all along.
I moved forward and showed it to the man behind the counter, and he burst into a similar expression of mirth. He said in broken English- Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Come tomorrow! I looked back at K and quickly figured - no tomorrow, today is it. Through all this time, the bar was bustling, customers pouring in and out. I felt a bit guilty pulling him away from his work. I asked him for a cappuccino to buy some time.
In between customers, I asked him for his colleague's name. Elio. I was happy to finally know it! It was like completing an impossible assignment that spanned years.
I tried to explain to him that I'd written about his colleague on my blog and that I wanted to show him that. I don't know if he understood, or if he understood something completely different. I asked for a piece of paper to write the URL down. He gave me one promptly and as I started to write, he looked at the bar's address in the title and with an approving nod quickly added "123" at the end indicating that it was the area code. Yeah, I was doubtful about the clarity of my communication all along but when he tore the paper off the pad to hand it back to me, it was confirmed it was mixed up, haha. Then I gestured, no, this is for your friend, not me. That seemed to work.
That was good coffee, yum. I asked him for the bill, only to be met with some more animated hand waving! The man put his hands up in the air in a manner of "No, no, you're not going to pay!". Karthik and I were amused and a little stumped, we didn't expect a treat! We laughed and haggled back and forth but he wouldn't have it. And then again like a grandpa shooing away naughty kids, in one final exclamation he said, "Sorry no change, go!" with a wide smile. I was touched! It wasn't about free coffee - but this simple gesture made my day. I am not convinced the man understood what I came for, or that he even understood why I had Elio's picture on my phone. We clearly didn't speak the same language, not even in sign language, but it seems he understood something. It was lovely. The old-world goodness and a little something that I have been out of touch with, whether it was the cashier that held my hand instinctively or this man who shared his warmth within minutes of talking.
As we were ready to skip out, I asked for his name. Luciano, he said. I wasn't going to forget that this time! And then, walking back to our hotel, the same dilemma dawned on me again- I'd forgotten to figure out how to let Luciano know I've written about him too. This time I'm really not sure I'll be going back to Rome anytime soon. So here we go again. If you're in Rome, stop by and say hi for me!
VIA TORINO 123 ROMA
P. IVA 09921831005