I once spent Easter weekend in Rome and Vatican City with my friend Lynn. The alter of my memory is gilded gold, a four poster bed of towering candlesticks. The crowds outside the Vatican pulsed with a kind of fury I didn’t understand and if I close my eyes, I remember the sleeve of a nun’s cotton dress at my cheek, the tweed of a man’s suit at my wrists, we were that close together, all of us, dancing a swell of emotion.
I saw tears and mercied fists shaking up at pressing skies, such was the hunger around me to experience what I had merely come to see. I remember Rome alive, even on Easter, with silverware clanking at outdoor tables, fountain splashing plazas, and scooters bumbling across cobblestone.
I don’t know the time of day we left or which train window I slept against. I don’t remember the station or the hostel or stepping out into the air. What I do remember of Nice, France, when we arrived on this particular Monday after Easter, in 2001, an April that may be like this one, despite the years, is startling quiet.
Something makes me think the streets were pebbled white. Somehow, even if the pictures show salty blue, my memory sees sheets, yes sheets, white, folded, clean. I remember our whispers, our wonder, why is nothing open? the lights beyond the glass in their vaguely brown dim, the streets of the old city, faded and empty.
I don’t know how long we wandered alone, who we asked or when, only their surprise that we did not know, It’s Easter Monday. It’s sacred.
Each year, I tell Tyler this same story, how I had spent Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays, at the Vatican, one of the holiest of cites, and everything bustled and towered and sang. And then we travelled to France the day after, walked hallowed streets, everything solemn and still.
So, I always think of Nice on the day after Easter and try to honor the day as it felt to me. The surprise of that beautiful, quiet, reflective Monday. A city asleep next to the sea.