It was because of the notebook. It was the notebook in his blazer pocket, really. That’s the reason I followed him.
I have a thing for notebooks. My thing is Words & Paper, that’s what I do, that’s who I am. I write. I am never without paper and pencil. I know it’s old-school and not so practical, usually by the time I fish my notebook from my bag I’ve forgotten what I meant to jot down. There’s an app for that you’ll say. I know. But you never know when you might need a notebook, and going analog will soon be trendy I’m sure. I’m ahead of the curve.
When he stopped to ask me for directions my eye went straight to his pocket. Pen and paper in a pocket – old style! I was smitten. The spiral notebook was well-worn, the cover creased and wrinkled like his skin, the pages yellowed and loosely hanging off the metal rings. It was about the size of a B5 notebook (if you know you know) but it certainly wasn’t a fancy and expensive notebook, the kind that certifies paper weight and provenance and signals to others what kind of writer you want them to think you are. It was just a notebook, the kind your nonno used to page through looking for an address or where he kept a record of how fast you swam laps when you were little or where he sketched out his vegetable garden each Spring. It was the kind of notebook you buy in a dusty old tabaccheria down the street. The kind of notebook they’ve been selling since before you were born. A cheap notebook. A notebook that you turn to over and over again. A trusty notebook that you keep just in case. A buttery soft notebook that sticks with you till the end. Like a talisman in your pocket.
The main entrance to the Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is still closed due to ongoing repairs but if you are going to Mass you know the back entrance opens at 6 pm everyday. The trick is finding that back entrance. You take two lefts in a row and you’re there. Unless you miss it. He’d circled all the way around the church and ended up back at the Pantheon. We laughed about that together. Same thing happened to me once. Rome is not a grid so two lefts here are hard to gauge. Streets curve and the angles are often not 90 degrees.
He thanked me profusely for the directions and slowly walked in the recommended direction. I quietly followed behind to make sure he got there. He did. He stepped thru the door just as the church bells were ringing.
Notebook people are my people. We stick together.