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Amber Paulen

Happy Friday

A scene from life in Rome:

I get on the 810 bus, heading towards Piazza Venezia. It’s a beautiful day. Spring, hidden below the last two weeks of snow, reveals herself: Persephone is definitely on the rise. The breeze is almost balmy and the sun is warm. At the butchers, earlier, the father and son pair push open the door and as they do two women walk by. It’s good now, they say, the women are coming out from below their layers. Better just to look, the man getting veal steaks says.

While the bus idles next to the Colosseum, I ask the woman with a long hair on her chin if it stops in Largo Argentina. All the tourists have gathered in the piazza before the arena with their coats off. This is Italy, I imagine them saying to themselves. The bus stops in Largo Argentina, the woman says.

As the bus rounds the grassy center of Piazza Venezia, it makes a sharp left back towards the Vittoriano instead of continuing straight on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The woman and other passengers raise their voices, Where are you going? Keep heading around and get back on the Corso.

Via del Corso? the bus driver asks.

No! Corso Vittorio! This bus stops in Largo Argentina, in front of the theatre.

A gentle old man goes up to the front of the bus and tells the driver where to make his turns.

In Largo Argentina the cats are sunning themselves. I stop in for a cafe lungo before going to the library. The owner wears a white suit jacket with a white vest and a black bow tie. His wife puts sandwiches on the grill and cracks jokes. The owner calls everyone Doctor. The wife says that today is black Friday.

Why? the ragazzi, two street cleaners, ask.

Because it’s the weekend.

Across the narrow road is the library. I quickly go in through the large door and up the sloping staircase to the loggia where Hadrian era busts guard. I push the bell asking to come in. Didn’t you know, the woman says, on Fridays we’re closed.


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