Sounds like the perfect set up for a romance novel, right?
In a way, I suppose it was a romance...except that I was the American tourist traveling in Rome with my family and the Italian woman was an actual maid in our hotel and the only words we ever exchanged were, "Coffee?" and "Si, grazie".
The morning after we arrived in Rome, we all slept late. Luisa got up and went for the complimentary continental breakfast and, when she returned, encouraged me to do the same. The kids were still asleep but breakfast was going to end in 15 minutes.
Luisa: You should go get breakfast. They have great bread and coffee.
Me: But I have bed head and I am not wearing a bra and I don't know how breakfast works here.
Luisa: It works like continental breakfast usually does. You go in, you sit down, someone brings you coffee and you eat.
Me: I'm scared. Come with me.
Luisa: We can't leave the kids alone and you should eat. You'll be fine.
What good does it do to have a girlfriend who is a cunning linguist if she won't help you get coffee and bread in a foreign country?
I sighed loudly, made myself as presentable as possible and stumbled to the dining area. There were pastries lined up on a long antique cabinet and small tables covered in linen table cloths and set with set with cups and silverware and there was a giant espresso machine nestled behind a bar. I focused my attention onthe espresso machine and that's when I saw her - the Italian woman, the heroine of my coffee romance novel.
I sat down and she went to work. Soon, she arrived at my table with two small stainless steel pitchers - one held coffee and the other steamed milk. I thanked her again and she went back behind the bar.
I poured the coffee slowly into my cup. It was deep brown and smelled like freshly roasted and ground coffee beans. I poured in a bit of milk, stirred it lightly and then took my first sip. It was strong but smooth and, if I weren't such a self-conscious person, I might have allowed myself to moan just a tiny bit.
I was sitting in Rome drinking a perfect cup of coffee.
I drank every last drop of that little pitcher of coffee and went back every morning for the next three days. It was always the same woman, always the same coffee.
On the last day, I finished my last cup and wished that I spoke Italian. I wanted to tell that woman that she hadn't just given me coffee, she'd given me memories. Instead, I smiled and said, "Grazie". She smiled back and that was the end.
There are those moments in life when food and drink and people and place come together in a combination that you know you won't forget.
Those quiet mornings in Rome and those cups of coffee will stay with me for a very long time.