I spent the summer after my sophomore year of college in Rome, living with my friend Kassie's family and working at the American Embassy.
(And here I will mention that Kassie was the instigator of Spring Break in Tunisia, a trip for which we were ill equipped and yet convinced Leigh to join.)
My sophomore year of college had been significantly better than my freshman year, which is not to say it was good for me. It was more in the way that I imagine being waterboarded is more fun than being beaten with a lead pipe.
This is not to say that there weren't people that I really liked. But leaving was a relief.
And then I fell in love with Rome. I felt good for the first time in two years. I wanted to stay forever and never, ever go back "home".
But as I was enrolled and had the obligation of a shared apartment lined up for fall semester, I did go home, determined to return to Rome spring semester. My dad said absolutely not. I spoke French and should go to France. Or, since I'd just taken a year of Japanese, perhaps I should go to Japan. I spoke basically no Italian and it made no sense.
I can now admit he had a point. But I wasn't trying to make sense. I was just trying to be happy again.
And we didn't yet know Leigh. We wouldn't meet her for another eight months. But that's getting ahead of the story.
Kassie's dad had gotten us summer jobs at Immigration and Naturalization Services. We put together refugee files.
We were temporary employees with menial tasks, seated together in a large room with about eight Italian woman who were permanent employees.
I didn't speak any Italian in the beginning, and so initially I thought that they were all mad at each other. Later, when I could understand a bit, I realized they were just discussing things like the purchase of new lipstick or what they had done over the weekend.
Kassie and I had grown up in embassies, and we were used to thinking more than was currently required of us, and so we didn't take our jobs of matching pieces of paper and stapling photos and compiling files all that seriously.
Which is not to say we did a bad job. We were both high-quality filers, staplers, and document compilers. It was more that we giggled a lot and didn't behave with appropriate decorum. Eventually it was decided that we were best seated apart.
Anyway, one day Fireman Bob, the man in charge of fire safety for the embassy, came in to inspect our office.
(I'm sure Fireman Bob had a real name. In my recollection he was generally called Fireman Bob, but the truth is, maybe that's just how we referred to him.)
He walked in and said, "Who is in charge here?"
And Kassie stood up and said, "I am! I'm in charge!"
We all looked at her, eyebrows lifted. Except Fireman Bob, who strode towards her to explain his mission.
At which point she had to say, "Ah, I'm just kidding. I'm...really not in charge."
And in the world of random, the following year we were at a stand looking at postcards, and Kassie picked up one of the Spanish steps. There was a single person descending. It was Fireman Bob.