Thursday, May 29, 2008

I walked out of the Pantheon and sat down on the side steps, opened my guidebook, and started to read about what I had just been looking at. It's one of my habits while traveling, reviewing what I've just seen, because it gives all of the trivia context. A man walked past and paused, and then asked what time it was. When I told him, he sat down next to me.

His skin was grey and loose, his suit well-tailored, his hair limp and colorless. Instinctively, I scooted a few inches away from him. He started chatting at me, and I reluctantly chatted back, answering his questions about my trip to Rome and the things I had seen so far. I was starting to think that he was harmless, and then he asked, "How many men have you slept with?" It caught me off guard enough that I nearly answered, catching myself at the last moment and closing my mouth. "How many men have you let between your legs?" He thought that I had not understood him the first time, so I frowned and told him that I didn't think that was a very appropriate question.

He nodded, and started talking about how in Rome men have stopped going to prostitutes, how instead they give their money to a student or a housewife for the same services, because that way they both know where their money is going and always have access to the same woman. I still don't see how that's not another form of prostitution, but I waited to hear where he was going with it. "Most women here, they get 35 Euro, for example, for a blowjob. You, I would give 100 Euro." I scooted a little farther away. "You are traveling on a budget, yes? 100 Euro would be very helpful. You could do a little extra shopping, impress your friends with the things you bring back from Rome."

I declined his offer and started wondering if he'd follow if I tried to run away. He lobbed a few more intimate questions at me, all of which I refused to answer, until I gathered up my things and looked exaggeratedly at my watch, stammering that I needed to meet some people for dinner. "Are you sure, no to 100 Euro? Well, I will give you 10 Euro for this conversation. It me later." Thoroughly grossed out I leaned over to pick up the book that had fallen out of my lap, and just then he stuffed a 10 Euro note down the back of my pants.

I leaped to my feet and said quickly that I really needed to go, that I was meeting a bunch of guys from my hostel, big ones. Australian. The look in his eye told me exactly what he was thinking about that, but I didn't much care, and he leaned forward and whispered, "Your skin is so warm!"

At that, I took off, turning down streets at random until I was sure he wasn't following, slumping against a wall, breathing deeply. Later, I would fish the 10 Euros out of my jeans and use them to get my fortune told on the Piazza Navona by an old lady wearing a fur coat, who would tell me that I will marry once and have two children.

No comments: