A Letter from Katie Botkin in Rome:
Pescara is almost due east of Rome, on the Adriatic. I go by bus, and wait at the station for Alex, another person I’ve been corresponding with on Couchsurfing, a pilot for the Italian Navy — or Coastguard, depending on how you define his job. I’m not entirely sure what he looks like, because his profile photos are relatively small, but he recognizes me. He gives me a big hug like we’ve been friends for forever, puts my suitcase in his car, and shows me Pescara’s beaches, which are lined with umbrellas and Italian men in speedos playing volleyball, and we go in to have a little drink at his friend’s bar.
“What are you having?” Alex asks me. I ask what he’s drinking. He tells me.
“I don’t know what that is,” I say “but I’ll have one of those.”
“I like this girl,” Alex tells his friend. The drink turns out to be a semi-bitter cocktail made with ginsing, which we consume quickly, standing at the otherwise-deserted bar. Then Alex asks me if I want to go to a set of islands in the Adriatic tomorrow. I say yes.
“We’ll have to get up early,” he tells me. I say no problem. We go to a dinner with his friend Fatma, a girl from Toulouse, who is coming with us, and get to bed shortly after 1 a.m. “See you in five minutes,” Alex says as he heads to his room. It doesn’t feel quite as short as that, but it’s still too early when Alex’s two alarms go off repeatedly at 6 a.m., loud enough for me to hear them and to decide to get up.