We’re not off to a great start, Perugia and I. It’s been a bit of a slog just getting here; two long days of planes, trams, buses, trains. Having arrived close to midnight and finding no taxis around, I consider just trudging up the dark hill to my hotel (it doesn’t look that far on my map), but outside the mostly deserted train station the impervious Umbrian night shows her indifference to my arrival by going cold on me; small rain begins to fall. So I walk a block to a mostly-deserted café and ask them to call me a cab. Just as well. What looked like a short jaunt on the map turns out to be a very long drive up a ridiculously steep hill with perilous drop-offs on both sides of numerous switchbacks. I would have perished walking.
The taxi driver, unable to proceed past the piazza, drops me off blocks from my hotel, pointing in the darkness up a slick cobblestone street leading to the heart of this medieval town in the middle of Italy. I am soaked and exhausted by the time I climb three flights of stairs (the elevator is out of order) and put the key in the door, revealing something resembling a monk’s cell: a ridiculously tiny room and a bed smaller than the one I slept in as a child. The blanket is thin and my feet hang off the end.
All night long, the rain beats against an ancient window that does not seal; the cold hilltop wind whistles obscenely at me through the cracks. Beyond tired but still unable to sleep, I lie in bed thinking of a poem from the Middle Ages I memorized years ago to impress a girlfriend in college:
Western wind, when wilt thou blow/The small rain down can rain?/Christ, that my love were in my arms/And I in my bed again!
In the morning I send Hardy a text message: Arrivd Perugia lst nite. Bst pay off bet.
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