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Until We Found Each Other
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Once we couldn’t find each other. I wrote a story then about it: Stan and I at St. Peter’s in Rome and his wandering off in a tiff. I’d turned away, too, annoyed that he had the nerve to dismiss me so readily, Eventually, the annoyance turned to irritation then to true panic. Then the search began.
Arguing, fighting, is a privilege. The privilege assumes that the participants will stay around to get the message: you annoy me! I’m punishing you by ignoring you! Pay attention or else!
When no one is there to witness your indignant stance, what then? First, the anger multiplies into outrage: how dare you not see how I am dismissing you! Then it becomes, Wait a minute. . . where did you go? Then, Enough is enough – okay, let’s get this over with. One might even concede: You were right, I’m sorry, now let’s proceed with our day.
That afternoon Stan and I went beyond all those stages. I didn’t get to follow how he spent several hours, but I know that mine were spent in anguish. St. Peter’s Basilica is huge tourist mecca, attracting so many people and, back in those days, so many places to be. It – our argument itself—started on the rooftop of St. Peter’s where no one can go now. Now one can only look up, see those magnificent statues along its rim. But then that rooftop was the issue. I wanted one angle for the photograph I was taking; he was urging another. Urging. Then insisting. I insisted in return for my own idea, and he walked away. Walked away! Just turned his back and left me with my camera aimed now toward where he was melting into the crowd up there. The day was hot, sunny – it was Rome in July after all – and the tourists were milling about, crowds—hoards– of them. Of course I followed in the direction he had turned, somehow parting the waves of people, and not spotting his yellow shirt. He was wearing a yellow shirt; he had blond hair. That made him easy to find, so I thought.
But there were so many ways to exit beyond the crowd. The stairs up, the stairs down, several sets of them, the elevator. And to where? Another viewing platform, the basilica itself, all of its chapels and rooms (I felt sure he wouldn’t be “hiding”), then the enormous courtyard, the stairs in every direction to different streets. I tried them all – for hours. Truly hours. I thought I could figure out how to take the train back to our hotel. I had a some lira with me. I feared what I would find or not find, though, if I took the train. And why would I want to travel half an hour away from where he’d disappeared?
I vowed to myself that I’d beg forgiveness for being so obstinate, that I would assure him of how much I valued his opinion, that I should have taken his advice, and so on, between bouts of the opposite: How dare you? Don’t I have a right to take a picture the way I want to with my own camera? What did you hope to accomplish by just walking away—like a little boy who didn’t get the marbles he thought he’d won? How could you have been so childish?
Then I was back to despair, watching all the happy tourists, alone as I was, searching, searching.
Suddenly I spotted a spot of yellow in the huge crowd near the top of the stairs. Could it be? I started back up (how many times would this make?) keeping an eye on that spot—a yellow shirt, a head of blond, yes, yes, it was Stan! He ran toward me, as much as he could run through a crowd. And we embraced, as in a movie, clutching, almost crying, there on the steps of Saint Peters. He had looked everywhere, he said. Yes, yes, me too: everywhere.
Let’s not do that again! It was all so stupid.
I think he spent the time until we found each other the same way I did—just looking. That was our day at St. Peter’s. I discovered later that there was no photograph at all, no picture of the view from its rooftop that had precipitated that wasted day.

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