A Religious Experience
The last eight hours have been rather...unusual. In fact, I'm unsure as to how I should preface this story. I think it's best to just jump right in.
I met a friend around 9:00 last night for a beer. We shared London Ales and lovely conversation for a few hours, followed by a walk around Brera, a part of Milan frequented less by tourists and more by locals. We stopped in this great ice cream shop where you could get a Magnum bar hand dipped and covered with your choice of toppings (which included dried raspberries, rose petals, and miniature meringue puffs, among other whimsical choices). I opted for white chocolate coating, coconut, brownie pieces, and the meringue. As an avid fan of Magnum ice cream, I was in heaven.
The evening concluded at the reasonable hour of midnight, and I was back to the apartment by 12:25 or so. The walk home had been chilly, and I couldn't wait to get my pajamas on and snuggle into bed. With this lovely thought in mind, I unlocked the double doors to the apartment as quietly as I possibly could so as not to wake the others. The door creaked open, but where I could usually just walk on in, there was now another door closed in front of me. This second door usually remained open, but tonight it was not only closed, but locked. Locked - with a key that I knew did not reside on my keychain.
I tried in vain to force open the door, thinking that perhaps it wasn't locked but simply jammed shut. No luck. It was now 12:35ish. I knew everyone was asleep, but clearly I had to have someone let me in.
"So sorry to wake you, but that second door is locked and I don't have a key. Could you open it?" I wrote, thinking a text was more polite than a blaring ringtone going off at 12:30pm. Ten minutes later...no response. I would have to call. A bitchy robot woman answered. "Siamo spiacenti, sembra aver esaurito minuti. Si prega di acquistare più minuti." My Italian was sharp enough to get the gist of that statement; my cheapo phone had run out of minutes.
Suddenly, I was struck with the kind of brilliant idea that can only come during a moment of desperation, fueled by the buzz I had from cheap London Ale and 1,000 grams of sugar from the ice cream bar. I'll pick the lock! I thought. I dug around in my purse, found a hairpin, and proceeded to attempt to pick the old Victorian lock for the next twenty minutes.
Needles to say, I was unsuccessful. Between 1:00am and 1:59am, I alternated between failed phone calls to the bitchy Vodaphone lady and failed breaking and entering attempts with a flimsy hairpin. At 2:00am, I admitted defeat. I had no choice but to wait it out in the chilly stone foyer of the apartment building. So I waited. And waited. And waited.
Time went surprisingly fast. I came up with creative ways to sit and/or lay so as not to completely numb any one part of my body. I chatted with friends on Facebook - it was early evening back home, after all. I thought about upcoming trips I wanted to take. I wished my sister a happy birthday two days late. I was really getting some things checked off my to-do list! Eventually, I dozed off.
I woke up around 3:00am and tried to pick the lock again out of sleep deprived insanity. I was in the midst of this when I heard something behind me. "Scusi, ma cosa stai facendo?" (Excuse me, but what are you doing?) I whirled around and saw the middle aged man who collects garbage from the apartment to be taken outside.
"Oh! Ah, I'm... mi dispiace, ma non parlo Italiano bene." (I'm sorry, but I don't speak Italian well.) And he didn't speak English. After lots of attempts at explaining my situation, he finally understood that I was locked out. So naturally, I was invited back to stay the night at his home. That IS the typical solution to this sort of situation, isn't it?
"Grazie, ma non lo farai. Avere un bella notte." (Thank you, but I won't be doing that. Have a nice night.) Some of the grammar was undoubtedly incorrect, but a forceful, rude tone and a death glare is a universal language. Maybe he was just being nice, and maybe I was a little mean. All I knew was that was 3am and I was NOT going to accompany the garbage man home.
Following this, I remained vigilant. I sat upright on the steps and counted to 500. I tried to pick the lock AGAIN. I Googled the Emmy results on my phone (Bryan Cranston didn't win for Breaking Bad? Really?) I walked around the tiny foyer smashing mosquitoes and spiders lest they band together and eat me alive. I did pushups (seven of them, to be precise). I picked out names for my future children, decided what they will look like, and created a fictional man in my head so as to acquire said children. Around 5:15am, a Backstreet Boys song randomly popped into my head, and I spent the rest of that hour wondering why I never wanna hear you say "I want it that way."
At 6:00am, my iPhone died. So did a little part of myself.
At 7:15am, an elderly woman in the apartment next door stepped outside and noticed me sitting on the steps, rocking back and forth humming bad 90's tunes to myself. She promptly stepped back inside with a look of what can only be described as terror. It was time for me to go.
I knew everyone would wake up around 8 or so, but I didn't really want to be languishing at the door when they did. The sun was out, there was life on the streets again, and I almost forgot I had spent the last 6 hours in an upright position when I stepped outside. But it was chilly, I was tired, and I needed somewhere to just sit for another hour or so. I came across the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and my prayers were answered.
The church was warm, contained padded chairs, and was full of enough frescoed walls and ceilings to keep me entertained for hours. I sat there for a few minutes, truly enjoying the art and the warmth, when I realized that I had company. No, it wasn't the garbage man. It was at least twenty other people who had all filed in quietly while I was busy regarding the Deposition of Christ by Caravaggio. I scarcely had time to register this before I - rather, we - were summoned to our feet.
"In nomine Patris, et Filli, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen." I don't think I need to translate that one for you. I had wandered right into a Monday morning Latin mass. Well, when in
For the next hour, I stood, sat, and kneeled with the rest of the churchgoers. I mumbled along with them in my makeshift Latin and received the body and blood of Christ from the 243 year old priest with as much sincerity as I could muster. I stayed from beginning to end despite the distasteful glances I felt from both the old women in the congregation and the countless Jesus sculptures that cropped up around the church as if they were weeds in a garden. I did this all while clad in my outfit from the night before with mascara smudging down my face like the tears on the Virgin Mary. To top it off, the alarm on my crappy Vodaphone cell began to blare just as the final "Amen" echoed through the nave. As I left the church and began to walk home to my bed, a toilet, and food, I couldn't help but wonder if this impromptu mass marked the end of the night from hell or the beginning of a blessed day.
I think it was the former.