In search of lost eternity in ROME (Proust may forgive me)


I step out onto Via dei Funari into a mild sunshine on a Sunday morning. When my feet touch the cobble stones, I feel the vibration of the eternal city.

Church bells send their message from all corners of the town, metallic, tolling sounds, which hover through the lanes. Chimes bounce through the narrow alleys, are thrown back, reflected by ancient walls, swallowed by wild vine, which covers shaded facades and climbs up to the roof gutters to expose itself to the auriferous sun.

A cat crosses the road, disturbing, only, for a moment, a few pigeons, which are fighting for a piece of white bread.

The white monument to Vittorio Emanuele raises its splendour over the traffic, which gushes like a whirlpool, creating a dizzying feeling, too burdensome for an early morning.

I move back, pass by Chiesa San Ambrogio and hear through the open door the tail end of the opening prayer:… Dio onnipotente abbia misericordia di noi, perdoni i nostri peccati e ci conduca alla vita eterna. Amen.

A hearse with two black horses is waiting outside, a life has found its circle. Smell of incense and death mixes with the scent of decay of thousands of years, a life, short, a second in the sempiternity of the universe.

I turn back and take my way to the old Ghetto Ebraico. In the alleyways of this allegorical quarter one can spread the arms and touch the houses with the hands. One feels behind every wall the strange life, the big novel of unfulfilled desires. Walls speak. A piece of broken wall tells us of failure, fresh mortar of a new beginning. Ivy, clematis and honeysuckle lend a garment to old ornamented gables and stucco structures, where I discover a lemniscate, a horizontal eight, symbolized by the image of a snake swallowing its own tail, the symbol of eternity or life everlasting, mathematical symbol of infinity. The stonemason, who created this artefact might be laid to rest, waiting for resurrection, but his eternal symbol poses puzzle to the passer-by and inspires in him the thoughts of his own transience.

I turn into Via del Portico, where I met Aviva Belmonte. Decades ago, we professed eternal love to one another. The memories of her oriental beauty accompany me while I walk on the pavement, which, once, touched her feet. She left me, to pass into the eternal material circle. Ethereal memories are left, memories, in which seconds become eternity.

Her favourite café starts its morning business. The shutter is rolled up, the door opened, chairs are set up outside. The many little kosher coffeehouses in every street give me a homely feeling. Between eight and nine in the morning, the entire quarter is smelling of roasted espresso beans and Amaretto.

I take a seat in front of the coffee house, order a double espresso and read a newspaper from yesterday and recall my drive up to the Piazzale Garibaldi ‘on the search for lost eternity’ because the question of transience struck my mind, when I let my eyes wander over the eternal city, a metropolis, which still exists after centuries of destruction, battles and ransacking.

A white butterfly settles on my table, this miracle of transformation and resurrection. I remember that butterflies are said to be the souls of the dead and the symbol of the divine feminine. Do departed loved ones speak to us through butterflies?

The messenger flutters away and dissolves in the canopy of the blue sky.

A cemetery, hidden behind slender cypresses, near the Tempio Maggiore di Roma (The Great Synagogue of Rome) indicates the finiteness and fragility of human life. Aramaic symbols are mixed with Hebraic architectural features on the walls. I feel lonely, abandoned, my thoughts wander to the times with Aviva. A beautiful body left to decay, the incomprehensible circle of nature.

Under a sheen of caressing Roman sunshine – the deceased dreams of an eternal life.

I read an epitaph on a gravestone: Our death is our wedding with eternity.

About the Author

Eduard Schmidt-Zorner was born in Thuringia/Germany. He studied Economics and languages and is fluent in German, English, French, Spanish and has Basic Russian. He worked as Export Sales Manager for 4 decades and is now a freelance artist, writer and translator. He is member of 5 writer groups in Ireland and lives in County Kerry, Ireland, since more than 25 years and is proud to be an Irish citizen. He has publications in 21 anthologies, literature journals and broadsheets in Ireland, UK, Canada, Italy, India and USA.