After a day of wandering around Riomaggiore, eating pizza and gelato and spending time on the beach, reading, napping, and swimming, I headed home for a quick respite. It was there that I realized how red I was before developing a bit of a sunburn chill. I crawled under the covers of my bed to read my book, for the fifth hour today, and it was in this position that my new hostel roommates would find me.
The door flung open and revealed a tall, dark man with black and grey hair. It took me a while to recognize him, and when I saw an American couple behind him, luggage in tow and evidently exhausted from the hike up, I remembered: he’s the man who gave me the key to this room.
The couple looked in and saw me on the twin bed. Their faces drooped in disappointment, and I felt, as always, like the youngest sister who ruins everything. Like a puppy, ecstatic that its owners are home, wagging its tale and sitting proudly among shredded remnants of something while the owners look on in disappointment and disbelief.
“And thees ees your room!”
“With her?” the squatty, dark-haired American girl said, as if I couldn’t see or hear them.
“Yes! You don’t like her? Look at her – she cute!”
This time he looked at me and smiled. He was not this friendly when it was just the two of us – but maybe that’s a good thing. The girl just stood there, her disappointment and incredulousness turning to anger and frustration. She looked at me as if I just killed the puppy she and her boyfriend adopted together to test parenthood, then made a silent reply to our Italian host with a gigantic frown.
“You pay for a dorm. Thees ees a dorm,” he said, obviously thinking they were silly to reserve a hostel and expect privacy.
“Yeah, I know.”
“You want privacy, must pay for extra bed. 70 euro – 35 each.”
“Okay, can we do that?”
Despite not actually wanting to sleep in the same room with one couple, I took offense to this.
“No, we’re full.”
Our host breaks the awkward silence that ensued. “Is okay?”
“Okay, thees your dorm!”
The entire time this is happening, I’m sitting on my bed, opened book in my lap, trying my best to smile at them and seem…not weird. Suddenly I realize that the conversation taking place, though it is only taking place because I’m sitting in “their” room, is none of my business. I pretend to start reading again and wait for them to figure out what they’re going to do, listening, of course, all the while.
Our host identified the 2 keys on the ring and then left us to get to know each other. Being awkward and self-conscious of the fact that this American couple (what is it with me rooming with couples?) found me in bed reading at 5:30 in the afternoon in Cinque Terre, I instigated our first of what I believe will be many awkward conversations with “I swear I haven’t been in bed reading all day.” Later, I would confess that, in between pizza and gelato, I had been on the beach reading all day. Which is now why I was in bed. The chill. It’s normal, right? To be in bed? In the afternoon? In Cinque Terre? Alone?
I’m currently sitting here writing this story as this couple from Seattle is cuddling on the bed, discussing their next sweet and romantic adventure.
Let me just say that I have no problem traveling alone. I’m quite independent and I like the opportunity to not have to agree with a group of people about the next activity (though I do miss my friends in Prague). However, it seems that the rest of the world has a problem traveling alone. Which means that I encounter only families or couples, and frankly, it kind of sucks. And I am really sick of being the involuntary third wheel on all this coupledom.
I found myself navigating narrow stairs, twisting and turning, up, down, then up again. Suddenly I was on a beach, small and secluded, wrapped in the arms of a rocky cove. I sat on a rock and let the crisp sea air dry the sweat from my forehead.
Most corridors are vacant, shutters open slightly, sunlight hitting only certain areas; old, decaying doors in the shadows. It’s so empty, it’s hard to imagine that these doors have ever been opened. It seems like a world that’s not real. Like you’re walking through a museum, a re-creation of something that once was. These were their clothes lines! These were their shutters! And these were their potted flowers, lining their entries. Suddenly, I catch the eye of an older Italian woman who’s leaning out of her window, watching me.
Children play in the plazas, bouncing balls, throwing water balloons, riding bicycles in circles. I see a few of them later in the avenue – they’re getting ammo from the statue fountain.