There Are Wild Boars in Rome
And it's wonderful
The craziest thing I learned during my recent trip to Rome? There are wild boars roaming the streets of the eternal city.
“It’s true,” Marie’s friend showed us from her phone screen a video of the boar walking the streets. We were inside the bar near the Piramide, the five of us—me, B, his friend Marie, and three of Marie’s friends—talking about how the world is filled with idiots, who are mostly Marie’s ex-colleagues and her newly-hired fitness trainer.
“He kept saying: okay Marie, before we begin, I have to fix your mind,” Marie said, exasperated. “And I said, what do you need to fix my mind for? I don’t pay you 20 euros to fix my mind, I want you to fix my body!”
She threw her hands up in the air in disbelief, laughing as I stared at my mocktail. I was still a bit buzzed since we had vodka at 100% Bio, the restaurant B and I had dinner at earlier, the second alcoholic drink I’ve had since arriving.
I don’t drink, except for certain occasions. I don’t have clear rules when I drink, but a feeling would come over, a permission to indulge (or not care so much about my heart health—no amount of alcohol is safe for the heart apparently!) The first day I arrived, the same day I went to the Pantheon, I swung by a vegan-friendly restaurant for lunch, just a few blocks away: ordering bruschetta and a plate of spaghetti marinara. It reminded me of the food in Albania, and I hungrily forked the pasta into my mouth, careful not to stain my shirt (note to self: don’t wear white when eating anything with tomato sauce.)
At the end of my meal, the waiter asked: would you like some limoncello? Is it vegan, I asked, stupidly, and the waiter said, of course, it’s just alcohol with lemon juice. He brought me the shot after I paid the bill, and I drank it in one go, feeling the warmth root in my throat to my stomach.
I walked with a spring in my step on the way back to the hotel that afternoon. I was in a new city, the sun was shining, the world felt a little bit friendlier. Obviously it was the alcohol that made me feel like wanting to hug the next passing stranger. I can’t be that bad tourist!, I told myself, thinking of all the annoying tourists I’ve encountered during my travels, like that Chinese man who drove a convertible yellow Ferrari one night near the Champs-Elysees in Paris with his speakers blaring Chinese pop music.
I think to be a true traveler requires humility. The only way to appreciate another culture is to allow yours to take a momentary backseat, and to stop believing that you are the center of the world. I guess it’s easier to do that as a Filipino, since Filipinos are not the most ethnocentric of peoples.
I guess the only problem with me is that I, in fact, have a tendency to appreciate so many things. And even when I don’t appreciate it, I tend to reserve some space that I might be wrong. I think of someone’s life and imagine how absolutely tacky it is, but also wonder if they might be having the time of their life. If so, then is it really that bad? Who makes the rules, anyway?
I mean, this experience, for example: you could say that to live, breathe, and indulge in Rome is the height of sophistication, with their thousands of years of art, history, and culture that present themselves in even the most mundane things, like a building here or a church there, the cup of coffee you order from a family-owned restaurant with decades of history in an up-and-coming neighborhood, the energy of a city, that ineffable pride that seems to say, we've been here longer, a diamond cut and polished by the passing of time. But what does it matter to someone who doesn't care, who enjoys their kitsch and excessive sentimentality, revels in their garishness and lowbrow inclinations? At the end of it all, what does it matter to someone who happily does not subscribe to what we accept as good taste?
Maybe the true secret of happiness is believing in the hype of your own existence wholeheartedly, despite all evidence. That was what I was thinking exactly when I bit into the plain croissant I bought from Caffé Trastevere as I walked towards Museo de Roma, where I chanced upon a Gustav Klimt exhibit.
The best vegan croissant, bar none, the pinnacle of human existence, because I was there, because it was what I was doing at that very moment, and nobody could have convinced me otherwise. The trajectory of multiple lifetimes crisscrossed into this one single point of history when I will walk the streets of a new city with bread in my hand, this seemingly insignificant occurence was in truth the purest moment of meaning. Had I died then, who could say I didn’t live my life to the fullest?