A good pain

My entire body aches joyfully. Muscles worn. Joints shooting birthday spikes, little reminders of a very full, long, wonderful day of beach volleyball at La Lampara, Passocscuro with new friends Giulia, Federica, Germano, Angelo, Cecila, Carolina, and a few other people whose names I don’t recall. 

From Ostiense, I took the F5 train to Maccarese-Fregene train stop, getting off and not really knowing how I would get to Passocscuro. I asked the first bus driver I saw. He pointed at his bus and said, “Qui. In 15 minuti.” Actually, he said a lot more but that was about all I understood, or needed to understand. So after buying my first bus ticket and not-my-first macchiato, I boarded his bus and prayed.

The route was anything but obvious. Roundabouts, the freeway, then on to backroads that seemed to be nowhere the beach in my mind. An invisible ocean tour. When maybe after 30 minutes I had run out of prayers, we stopped and he indicated we were at Passoscuro. Still no ocean. But I walked in the direction that everyone else was walking, and after maybe 5 minutes it because clear that I was, indeed, at the shore. From the distance, I could see volleyballs rising into the blue sky. The sign of life.

At the end of the road, I found La Lampara, the beach “resort” that included a restaurant and six really nice sand courts. When I arrived around noon, two courts were occupied, one with four men – only one of them skilled – and another with two coed teams. I stood around for a few minutes watching, then asked one of the women who was by the co-ed court if I could play. Big smile. Of course, she said. So I jumped into one of the bathroom booths, changed, and shortly thereafter found myself teamed up with Elizabeth.

We won our first game. I had a different partner, Cecila, for the second game. We won that one as well, against one of the strong men, Angelo, and not sure which woman. The third game I lost to Angelo. 

There were quite a few more games after that – more games than I can recall. I played continuous until around 3:00 pm when we took a lunch break. Actually, all of my new Italian friends took a lunch break. I had mistakenly eaten a very bad panino against the advice of one of the Italians. When lunch came, eight hungry Italians and I sat down at an outdoor table at the restaurant where they ordered unbelievable seafood pasta plates – mussels, clams, and mixed seafood – while I watched, full. It was painful. I drank a lot of fizzy water and tasted their wine and listened to them speak Italian and realized how little of the language I know – I understood a word, a phrase here and there, but no way I could follow their conversation. 

Lunch ended, we returned to the courts. I have no idea how they could still play – big plates of pasta, wine, cafe amaro for many of them – but they did, and so did I, probably another two hours. In the end I was playing with a young girl Nicole against what I think were her boyfriend and father. We beat them pretty easily, but I was exhausted, no legs, done.

Throughout the day I had been trying to find a ride to the Fregene train station, and as luck would have it Giulia was driving to Ostiense – perfect. During the 40 minute drive, she and I conversed in her bad English and my even worse Italian, but we largely understood one another. She was lovely – happy, chatty, and generous to get me within crawling distance of my apartment. I found Charlie content on the couch, he having spent the day at his school in public service (gardening) and then with friends in the afternoon.

A quick shower later, and Marcello came by with home-made nduja sausage. We shared a little red wine, then went to Marenega Restaurant in Campo de’ Fiori. What a scene of people and life! We went to the back bar where the Palestinian owner Majd and his friends were watching a soccer match. Majd greeted me in startlingly perfect “California” English. Turns out for four years he had lived on Santa Rita Avenue in Palo Alto, not far from Steve Jobs.

After a meal of scampi risotto and carciofi alla Romana (for me) and bresaola and arugula (for Marcelloe) and red wine (for both of us), we “retired” to the much busier front seating where we had Amaro Averne and watched as the piazza because increasingly louder and more crowded. When we left around 11:30 pm, Marcello said that in another half hour to an hour Camp de’ Fiori would explore with activity, Italians from the suburbs would descend and it would be total chaos. It seemed perfectly chaotic enough to me.

Home, a bit sore, a bit tipsy, and very, very tired by midnight, I descended immediately into the deepest, loveliest sleep I had had in some time. What a day, what a night.