I met Kelly on the train platform at Rome's Fiumicino Airport.
"English?" she said loudly, smiling as she approached me. "You speak English? Why doesn't -- no one in this damn country speaks English!"
She wanted to know if she should validate her train ticket in one of those yellow meter punchers at the edge of the platform before we took off for the Stazione Termini. I told her it was probably a good idea. She powerwalked to the ticket validator, punched, powerwalked back. And stood right next to me. In my territorial waters, which I define as any space within a two meter radius during semi-crowded conditions, one meter during crowded.
"God," she said. "No one speaks fucking English here! What's wrong with these people?!" She laughed.
When I looked Kelly's way, she was smiling broadly. "These people -- fucking Italians or whatever -- should get a language! How could they not know English?"
I tried to warn her off by firing "I'm-ignoring-you" rays at her, but she evaded my weaponry by releasing "I'm ignoring the fact that you're ignoring me" flack.
I boarded the train and took a seat in one of those rows where two seats face two seats. She sat right across from me.
"You don't mind? It's okay?" she said, smiling and laughing. "God! You know?"
Kelly had come to Rome from Nice, where she was studying French. But she didn't learn a word of French while there -- "Nice sucks ass," she said. Someone, a guy, was supposed to meet her at the Fiumicino airport. He didn't show.
I told Kelly why I'd come to Rome -- to get away from people, to become anonymous where there were only statues and monuments.
"I know what you mean," she said, smiling. "I hate people. They suck, you know?"
Kelly followed me out of the train station. I went into a small shop to buy a map. She started ordering me around and humiliating me. "Make up your mind about the map! Just choose one, don't be so indecisive!" she said. I chose a hefty fold-out map for five Euros. "Tsch, that's too big! Take this one. It's half the price." I bought it.
She followed me out.
"I'm supposed to stay at a hostel. I don't remember the street. Chicken Marsala?" She laughed.
We looked at my map. There was a Marsala street that ran parallel to the Termini station. "That's it! Chicken Marsala, see? Do I know how to choose maps or what?"
I wound up helping to check her into her hostel. She followed me to my hotel, and into my room. On the way, she burped loudly and asked me if she had any "snot rockets" sticking out of her nose.
"Wait, are you going to rape me?" she asked.
"I'm too tired," I said. She liked that answer.
"Your room is much better. You have air conditioning. Fuck it, I'm moving to your hotel starting tomorrow." She asked if she could use my phone to call Marcello. He wasn't in. She cursed. She called again and left a message on his voice mail.
I took her out for dinner near the Pantheon. I learned that she'd had a torrid 2-month love affair with this Marcello earlier in the year, while she was doing a semester abroad in London. "He's totally rich," she said. "Not that I care. But his family has like 3 apartments in Rome. He's always off to meetings. Always having meetings at places. He's 31? Yeah, 31 years old."
"You like older men?" I asked.
"I guess it looks that way," she laughed.
Her father, a U.S. Marshal, had left her and her mother when she was four. Kelly didn't see him for two years after the divorce. Older men everywhere have those cold, absent fathers to thank for all the teenage snapper they score.
Foreign men must be fascinated by American women -- that laugh, that smile, that overconfidence. Kelly was a rarity among American women: she was thin. Her face was narrow, like a Good 'N Plenty candy gel. She was actually cute. It was painful listening to her talk about her alleged aristocrat.
Finally, I had to tell her: "Kelly, how do you know he has so much money?"
"He told me."