I felt drained.
I felt lifeless and heavy.
The heat of my coming night in Rome felt like a daunting task on my to-do list. I couldn’t wait to run a line through it – a thick, black line symbolizing completion and riddance. I felt full, no desire to experience. There’s something to be said about the weight carried when your soul is filled full, but not fulfilled. The girls in my apartment were dolled up, already intoxicated and yelling abrupt, drunken woos in a Morse code I couldn’t crack. A futile attempt to fight back against the bubbling irritation in my system left me with a glass or two of bottom-shelf red wine in my hand. I didn’t travel to Rome to endlessly dwell in my room, after all. With lip-gloss applied, negative attitudes momentarily displaced and messy bun secured, I unknowingly began a life-changing evening.
We clambered down the echoing stairwell from our top floor apartment. How a gaggle of inebriated ladies successfully navigated four flights of stairs sans any trouble is beyond me. As we stumbled onto the patio, the heat of our approaching night hit me. I didn’t want to be here; I wanted to be in my bed reading one of the six books I had half-finished. I felt fatigued by the overwhelming events inevitable in my future. As the girls searched through their purses for IDs and credit cards, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and let dusk settle softly on my skin. It cloaked me in a layer of humidity and a rejuvenating sense of content. Let it be, I respired. And so I did.
We wound up at a location elegantly titled Sloppy Sam’s – the grossly Americanized bar a straight shot from the doors of my apartment complex. Sloppy Sam’s knows just how Americans like their booze: cheap and easy. (Quite frankly, that applies to more than just booze.) With 2001 J. Lo screaming in the background, I worked my way up to the bar and requested a vodka lemon to the annoyed bartender. She, too, seemed mentally unprepared to face the night, so I tipped her an extra euro with a forced smile. She realized we were both on the same level and gave me a nod of understanding.
I stepped outside the busy bar to smoke. My mind wandered as I watched the condensation from my drink arbitrarily weave its way down my hands to form a small puddle on the cobblestone below. I took a deep drag off European nicotine and blew out slowly. As I followed my exhale floating over the heads of strangers, I fed my internal warfare with persistent, pessimistic questioning. “Why the hell am I here right now?”
With a mere single drink in my system, I hear – in unison, mind you -“Oh my God! Shots!” An eye roll, deep sigh of regret and one euro led me to a literature-themed bar promoting Harry Potter shots. The feeling of being shoulder-to-shoulder in a sweaty bar with early 2000s hits blaring to antiquated streets that did nothing to deserve this is enough to make anyone nauseated. With a Hermione shot, a double Ron Weasley on the rocks and a melon-flavored sex on the beach in my system, I was ready to be home.
We started wandering to Piazza Trilussa, and all the drunken boys we met up with needed to refuel on greasy pizza. The ladies stayed in the piazza while our masculine crew rambunctiously ordered from a street corner pizzeria, being loud and obviously American. I vaguely remember overhearing a heated discussion about the Jonas Brothers’ discography, if that gives any hint at their level of intoxication. I took a step back at this point to analyze and absorb the situation I’d landed in. I saw my friend Daniel talking to a man inside the pizzeria. This stranger was clothed in flowing hippie pants, a faded black shirt depicting the chakras and a grey-and-white striped scarf. He had an alluring aura about him, so I maneuvered my way across the crowd to gracefully interject myself in the conversation. We locked eyes immediately upon my entrance to the bustling pizzeria.
In that moment, I discovered true, honest, pure human connection. It isn’t sexual, nor is it romantic. It’s just this vibe two souls feel when they become aware of each other’s existence. It centers on acute awareness. It’s the feeling of intense magnetism between two humans that’s unwarranted by any other feeling. When you notice something of that magnitude, any relatively enlightened being knows to follow. It can’t be easily ignored. The space between us felt calm and untouched by the commotion around our joined existence. I allowed the connection to flow naturally. A small smile and quick conversation ignited the most significant paradigm shift I’ve yet to encounter.
I discovered he traveled to Europe to find inspiration as an artist, as many do. Considering it was his first and only night in Rome, I quickly took on the role of tour guide. Leaving my friends behind, I showed him and his friend around the streets that housed my favorite storefronts (mostly mom and pop bookshops and a boutique hidden behind crawling ivy), bought them a shot or two, and plopped ourselves on the steps of the Fontana di Ponte Sisto.
The hours melted away as I sat with this man I didn’t know on a night I didn’t want to go out. We laughed as locals poorly sang Green Day with a homeless man poorly playing guitar. We watched a makeshift soccer game in the piazza below, dodging balls that haphazardly bounced up the fountain steps. We cautiously accepted bracelets from a Kenyan street vendor who approached us claiming he felt “a vibe surrounding you all and you must not forget.” We discussed astrology as a science, the ideas of Terence McKenna and Caroline W. Casey and topics too personal to be admitted on a public forum. When the night began to transition into morning, we swapped lighters, gave our good wishes, and so it was.
I learned many lessons that night. I learned of the staggering power honest connection yields. I learned trading a poor attitude for one of openness allows for the possibility to unravel an inch or two of humanity’s fabric. I learned vodka lemonades are charmingly sweet the night of and dangerously painful the morning after. I learned I’d been desperately holding onto a dying romance for selfish, immature reasons. I learned my soul wasn’t being fulfilled by the friendships I’d dedicated so much energy and life force to.
Perhaps the most important lesson, however, is that of awareness. I learned what makes my soul sing. I live for those creative discussions about life’s objectives and subjectives with humans radiating on my frequency. Looking back over the years of my life, it’s these moments I’ve had that make me feel alive and connected to the human condition. It’s intoxicating to learn about someone who was an absolute stranger before the night began; to learn about experiences entirely foreign to me; to converse about universal abstracts – astrology, religion, symbolism, questions. It’s these discussions that fulfill my soul and light my internal fire.
This is how I learn. This is how I grow. This is it for me. It’s this human connection that flows smoothly between souls struggling, stumbling and smiling down similar paths. The human connection is an amazing, powerful thing. He called himself Magicowski, and, for that, I am thankful. It makes the night more abstract, less concrete. It feels like a blurred fairytale, hazy from booze and unfamiliar excitement. We spent five hours together, and I will never see him again. I often flip through my journal to find the note he wrote me to ensure it wasn’t just a dream. What a special, unprecedented relationship we had. So fleeting, so honest, so real.
I now keep myself open to these connections every time I step foot out my door. I keep my heart on my sleeve and my soul ready to connect. I refuse to ignore this feeling on a heightened frequency. I will meet many Magicowskis, and I will allow the simple truths we exchange to fulfill my being and bridge the gap between myself and the umbrella of human interconnection.
I feel fulfilled yet weightless.
Author: Chandler Owen
Author Bio: I’m a student of public relations and literature most often found swooning over Bowie era ’72.
Link to social media or website: http://chandlerreneeowen.com | Instagram @earthtochandler | Twitter @earthtochandler