When I was in college I went to the Head of the Charles Regatta.
“I love your platinum blonde hair! It’s so easy to see you in a crowd!” my friend commented.
That Sunday we went to church and on the way out we spoke with a priest who was going to be going to study in Rome.
“I’m doing January term in Rome,” I said, just to say something, as I picked at the loose threads on my ratty denim jacket.
“Maybe we’ll see each other, I’ll recognize that jacket!” He laughed.
Months passed and I went to Italy. I stayed longer than the rest of the group and one day went to Saint Peter’s. I was walking, neck at a 60 degree angle, trying to absorb everything when I heard a voice, “Hey blondie!”
I kept walking, tucking my arms in the sleeves of my old denim jacket in defensive but dismissive posture.
“Blondie! Hey, blondie, over here!”
Five feet tall, alone, woman – I kept walking.
“Boston blonde – over here in the confessional!”
Now THAT sounded wrong, maybe that’s why I looked, and when I looked I recognized the priest from Boston.
“Hey! You’re here!”
“And so are you!”
I knelt at the confessional and we chatted until I noticed an older man loitering nearby so the Boston priest and I said our good-byes.
My knees creaked as I got up and the waiting dapper man, knife-creases in his trousers walked toward me with his hand out-stretched. I squinted a bit at his hand, there was a tremor, his frailty covered by his elegance.
“Here.” He said, handing me a few thousand lire bills*. He waved them insistently as he looked at my ripped, patched, and sewn and re-sewn jacket. “You will be needing this.”
“No, no….” I shook my hands as much to ward of the bill as to ward off my embarrassment.
*Sounds impressive, but it was about $1.75.