“Do I really have to?” My boyfriend whined
playfully, tossing our empty gelato cups – the third of the day – into a corner
trash can. It had taken us two years of saving to afford this vacation to Rome,
and he’d spent the first three days reading on the hotel balcony while I
explored old world cathedrals.
that’s what he told me. It was far more likely my sweet idiot Damien had been
catching up on soccer, leading me to believe the commentary in any language was
skipped the fucking Vatican, not to mention Basilica Parrocchiale and all the
ones in Trastevere. You’re coming with me to the Pantheon or you can
refamiliarize yourself with your hands for the next month,” I threatened,
putting on my best attempt at an Italian accent – hands included.
Now in line,
I led him through the crowded streets towards the behemoth of a relic, standing
proud after so many years. I knew Damien’s history with his family and why he
became so anti-religion in his college days, but this was about the art. I
wasn’t so religious myself, but the Romans truly were brilliant when it came to
architecture, among so many other things.
His hand left
mine for a moment, temporarily distracted by a street merchant, as I crossed
the threshold and beheld the monumental space. I felt myself breathless,
awe-inspired by such a masterpiece. I hardly noticed the dozens of other
tourists taking pictures, my own eyes absorbing as much detail as they could
I heard, shaking myself from the trance. I could tell by the volume it wasn’t
the first time Damien called out for me. I turned to see him standing about a
foot from the entrance, pale and still. I rolled my eyes and walked over
hurriedly, intending to yank him inside and berate him later for wasting time.
changed drastically when I noticed the tears pouring down his face. “I…
I can’t do it, Ems,” my darling whimpered, practically vibrating with a
fear I’d never seen before.
honey, it’s just a building. You don’t have to worry about the religious stuff
or anything. It’ll be okay!” I rubbed his arm tenderly, hoping to
alleviate any concerns he might have welling up from childhood. I pulled
lightly to find him rock-solid in place, frozen.
I asked, my mind racing to every conversation about his past we ever had,
searching for words of comfort.
I… I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m trying, I really am. But I…” He
finally looked up to me, his eyes turning red from crying.
“I can’t enter.”