It was midnight at the Teatro dell’Opera. Mother and I had endured a production of Tristan und Isolde so lengthy and grueling that even the most diehard Wagnerians were praying for the doomed couple to expire. When the hour-long death scene finally terminated, we staggered out of the auditorium in a lugubrious stupor.
“Tristan,” moaned Mother, mimicking the heroine’s last gasps. “Tristan.”
“Isolde,” I wailed. “Isolde!”
Our fellow spectators—lavishly outfitted Romans all—exited in a similarly stricken state. I’d never known a crowd of Italians to be so silent and introspective.
“Why don’t they just die already,” said Mother.
“Who? These poor Romans? They’re as innocent as we.”
“Not them. Tristan and Isolde. Why do Germans have to drag everything out?”
“I thought you’d like it. You’re half German, after all.”
“Not that kind of German. It reminded me of something Hitler would put on to impress Mussolini.”
Tristan und Isolde ran so late that we emerged into a deserted Piazza della Repubblica. As we walked past the Fountain of Naiads, its curvaceous marble nymphs began to exude their riverine allure, and I found myself gawking at them when I should’ve been sprinting for our bus. I snapped out of my reverie just in time to see the hurtling juggernaut rumble around the fountain. We tried to flag it down, but asking a Roman bus driver to pull over after he’s left his stop is like trying to impede a Walmart shopper on Black Friday. He looked me in the eye and floored it, pummeling past us with a burst of speed that blew the hat off my head.