I passed a tiny, appealing bar several times while staying in Rome. It was situated rather sweetly on Via dei Cappellari; the street our flat was located on.
My bar (I’ll call it mine, because I felt an unwavering pull to it through my entire trip) was shielded by an enormous glass door. Many times my mother and I would pass, and I would peer through the glass and proclaim that I would be visiting that bar. Although this bar intimidated me, I wanted to be the happy few who discovered it.
I preferred to blatantly stare the many times we walked hurriedly by. Sometimes I would meet the gaze of the owner. I would smile shyly, and he would always return my timid version of “Ciao!” At times he would be engaged in conversation with the occasional customer, but frequently I would spot him alone. He was always in black (his pepper colored, lazily styled hair loud in contrast), leaning on his bar, staring straight ahead, maybe lost in thought.
(I would learn later there was only room for thoughts; soft music, no televisions, no books – only a mirror covering the length of the bar, accompanied by a string of beer and wine bottles organized on a wooden shelf.)
Day four and I remained too shy. IPA! Craft Beer! was written in neat neon pink and lime green print over my enormous glass door to engage the American Tourist.
Still, I walked by. Cue my timid smile, “Ciao!” and his gentle smile back. I wondered if I looked Italian, maybe not Roman, but perhaps Italian enough.
A sudden downpour hit Rome as we walked back from the cinema (our umbrellas lost to the wind). We were cozy in our flat, drinking vino, eating formaggio, listening to music and drying off. I decided I would walk into the bar with all the courage a good Chianti might give a person.
I skipped across the cobblestone and boldly opened my intimidating glass door. I said, “Buona sera!” and ordered (somewhat) confidently in Italian. The owner spoke back too quickly. Perhaps I had tricked him after all, but I couldn’t maintain the façade.
He was good humored as he poured my beer, asking where in the United States I was from. I remember he was very insistent that I have food with my beer, and as I took my seat he brought me crisp ciabatta bread, wrapped in brown paper.
My IPA was cold and welcoming as I faced the long mirror I described above. I took out my moleskine I had neglected to use my entire trip, and began to write. There was an irrepressible smile across my face. I felt a strange kind of joy for a moment in solitude with a stranger in this incredible city. His small bar was unhurried, unpretentious, and undiscovered, and for a few moments it felt like it truly was mine.
It continued to rain lightly outside, and although it was dark, the lights from the apartments and shops flickered along the water on the cobblestones. I ordered another beer for fear of my moment ending.
Soon my mother joined me, and we laughed over our wonderful day and our wonderful discovery.
It had to end but, it’s written down. If only in simple terms: I’m so happy I did this.
My bar: MY-ALE
My IPA: Pig Floyd