Buona Festa di San Valentino (HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!)

I met my husband in Rome, Italy. And, yes - it was as romantic as it sounds. It was late in the summer; I was traveling across France and Italy researching monasteries for my undergraduate thesis and found myself staying at a hostel near the Coliseum. My first night there, I went out with my roommates. I wanted to show them some of my favorite bars from when I had studied abroad in Rome some years before.

In Campo dei Fiori, we started at a bar “where we used to play beer pong” and quickly left for another bar “that used to have a Power Hour every Thursday night.” We then began to make our way towards Piazza Navona, towards a bar that we affectionately called ‘Mickey’s.’ Along this literal walk down memory lane, some young expat was handing out promotional flyers for a “discoteca” around the corner - “Ladies Night: free drink upon entry” - My new friends’ eyes lit up and they eagerly started in the direction indicated. I convinced them, however, that Mickey’s would be “way more fun.”

It wasn’t. We left Mickey’s nearly as soon as we got there - in the years that had past since I was there last, the place had seemed to have lost its spark, or perhaps maybe I had.. Feeling the sorrow and the solitude that comes from growing out of something that was once a source of life and joy, I was about to head back to the hostel for an early night and some deep soul-searching, when the girls grabbed my arms and dragged me to the “discoteca” for that free drink.

We drank, we danced, we flirted with a few boys but as the night wore on, the number of boys seemed to multiply and with the disproportion of young ladies present, so did their determination.

I managed to escape the hoards of boys and headed outside for a some air. The girls met me outside. I wanted to leave. They wanted to stay. “One more song,” they pleaded, “then we’ll all leave together.”

Back on the dance floor, I reluctantly swayed my hips to the rhythm of the too-loud music. Perhaps because I had been expecting them, or perhaps because they had simply always been there, I wasn’t surprised when I felt the weight of two hands on my hips. I was aware of the hands but I didn’t have time to feel annoyed as I became suddenly aware that as I had been dancing the shirt I had borrowed from one of the girls had been slowly riding further and further up. I shivered as the door opened, letting in the cool midsummer air in with yet another band of boys. But nevermind the breeze that made me shiver, and nevermind the boys. These hands had my attention now.

Slowly and without feeling their absence, they left my side and gently adjusted my misfit shirt, pulling it back down to cover my exposed skin, leaving me feeling warmer than perhaps I should. And so I looked up and I kissed him. And in that exact moment, I fell in love with the man who had loved me long before he knew me.