In Rome, I am not too loud, too excitable, too emotional, too volatile, too much. For the first time in my life, I feel completely at ease. As if I fit. As if who I am is all right.
We arrive at 7 am and already the air is crisp, clear and hot. We’ve travelled 12 hours from New Zealand to Hong Kong where we spent the day wandering around, sweating in the heat and humidity. Back on the next flight at midnight for another 12 hours to Rome. We arrive filthy and smelly; grubby tourists. Our room is not ready for us until the afternoon so, filthy and smelly, we hit the streets. Here we are, so grotty, and here is Rome, so beautiful. Nothing ugly allowed. No billboards, no excessive signage, no ugly high rise buildings, no McDonalds. Welcome relief to the senses.
I love Rome from the second we step off the plane. It felt like a great pulsating heart; warm, inviting and full of light. I don’t mean the people; they ignored us turista. I mean the energy of the city.
Visiting the Sistine Chapel was the highpoint. Walking through the Vatican Museums, overwhelmed by the art. At first able to walk in any direction, then slowly becoming aware that we were being funnelled one way in a thick crowd. And it was so hot. The passageways get narrower and there’s no turning back, we can only move forward, herded with the crowd. We didn’t have a map so we didn’t know where we were heading, but eventually pushed through a single door and realized we were in the Sistine Chapel. Looking up, the ceiling so far away and the paintings so much smaller than imagined. Squeezed in with hundreds of people, so hot. No windows, guards everywhere. The way out at the far end – another single door, but you have to go through a wire gate to get to it, in single file. All those people talking and the guards ‘shushing’. Awful and squashed. Trapped in this cavernous room. I hate it and feel so disappointed.
Then a voice in my head reminds me that it’s a ‘chapel’, and next I see at one end a cross and candles for an altar. Focusing on this I’m drawn inside myself and find calm beneath the intensity and noise of the crowd. Then I start to feel energy, huge energy, as if I have tapped into some sort of energy centre. As if this room with its famous ceiling is not about the art at all. As if the chapel was built at this place because of the energy that emanates from here. As if the painting on the ceiling was created from this energy.
I stand, beneath this famous ceiling with my eyes shut, and I am filled with energy. Filled to the top, filled to bursting. I can’t speak and I hold onto J’s arm as he leads me with the crowd out the doors. I am in a state of absolute bliss, like I have never experienced before.
It lasts for hours.