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A Roman Tale


Roma Termini Station, September 22, 2013

It’s grandiosity. It’s wealth, power, arts, indulgence, and arrogance all in one place. Yet it’s darkness, blood, death, and extreme animosity floating around like phantoms of the opera. Rome and its time shadow continues to overwhelm this traveller as the glorious past and the crowded presence intertwine under the inviting September sun.

Like a bad cut-away frame, she transports me back to the ruthless reality of life. Sitting quietly at one corner of a snack bar at Roma Termini station, she patiently waits for the world to pass her by. It is the first time in the past two weeks in Italy that I really feel confronted. I couldn’t help but sitting down right beside and soon afterwards her story begins.

After spending three years working at a nursing home in London, her student visa ran out and Rome sounded like a life-saving option to secure another job. Though she was warned it would be quite different to work as a domestic helper, it made perfect sense to take the chance. Three years have gone by. Rome obviously did not do her any any justice. And here she is sitting at Roma Termini station today, like any other Sunday, watching the world go by before catching the last train home.

“Rome is expensive” she says. “After paying rent and the neccessities, I end upsaving nothing.”

Rome, the city of grandiosity and power, could not take in another lost soul. Confronted by discrimination, shied away by by a foreign lifestyle and culture, she’s found herself inferior & vulnerable. Yet she has no where else to go. It takes time for paperwork to be processed and going back to the Phillipines does not paint a good picture.

“Maybe one day I can go home to work and live…”, concludes the girl with the most saddened smile, overcasting a frozen shadow into the unknown future. She bids adieu & disappears into a sea of passers-by, all hurrying to get somewhere….

The world would never learn her name, nor her Roman story. And Rome would continue to make jaws dropped with its glorious past. On the train back to Florence today, I could almost picture her silhouette, sitting all alone somewhere in Rome, eating her Italian version of adobo, looking pointlessly into the Roman night….

“You are a brave young lady. I admire you for what you’ve done.” That’s the only gift I could give to the lonely stranger. Hope it would put a smile on her face every time she happens to recall the Roma Termini encounter….    

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