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Janiculum Hill


Panting and puffing Luke peered into the darkness enshrouding the eternal city far below him. A myriad twinkling lights showed buildings and moving cars. At this height all was silent.


The young man had reached the top of Janiculum a high eminence, one can be proud of achieving, particularly at night. Sadly he didn't enjoy the pleasure of feeling elated with an achievement, because the usual apprehension that he had done a bad thing assailed him.


From the day of his birth guilt feelings had beset him. He'd made his mother suffer terribly, according to stories he'd overheard in the family. Apparently as a baby he'd also angered her by biting her nipples during breastfeeding.


On top of these hangups, Luke came into the world a sickly child. The parents never told him what he was suffering from. Perhaps they didn't know. But they followed the doctor's advice not to allow him to overstrain himself in any way, physically or mentally.


Everything made his mother nervous, returning home late for dinner, not calling whenever he was away, even for a short time. She always had to be informed concerning his whereabouts every minute of the day..


On the one hand he'd become a timid person, hesitant to take action of any kind for fear of angering his mother. On the other hand he had bursts of inspiration when he carried out acts of daring. On those occasions his mother would accuse him of doing things deliberately to frighten her.


He wanted to succeed at school but hesitated to answer questions or write sentences or speak, for fear of making a mistake. He was continually annoyed with himself for his failures, turning his anger on other kids, for no apparent reason. His erratic behaviour made children wary of playing with him or including him in their games. He was regularly left out when teams for soccer or cricket were chosen. Naturally this only made things worse; he became a poor sportsman and a weak student.

Now he'd gone off on his own to this solitary place, in a city unknown to him.

But he had read up about the wonders of Rome and didn't intend missing any.


His mother remained alone in their hotel room in Via Tritone, near Bernini's nightmarish statue of Triton, the ruler of the dark depths of the sea.


Frowning, he thought to himself that he shouldn't have forsaken her. She had found this wonderful, holiday package, one week in Rome, January 2020.


Straining his eyes to discern their hotel he peered into the darkness, but the blue, incandescent light shining from the dome of St.Peter's basilica, blinded him.


Imagining her crying bitterly, her face buried in the cushions, he pulled out his cell to call her but the battery was dead.


With her, everything was imagination. Not hearing from him she would create horrific scenes of her son in her mind - a pain in his chest, fainting and smashing into little pieces, like one of those statues where the marble had crumbled from old age.


As he turned to go back, he thought, "I'm not leaving without a picture of this once in a lifetime view of the enchanted city by night."


Turning round to catch the last bus into town, his sight fell on another scene, worth photographing, the immense white illuminated arches of the colorful fountain erected by Pope Paul VI, in the 16th century, on the highest point of Janiculum..


Rome is forever putting forward new photo opportunities, diverting the budding photographer from where he thinks he's going to the place where he discovers he really wants to go, a typical trick of this fascinating city..


The moment he finished taking the picture, the bus moved off, down the hill. The only alternative was to walk through the dark, unfamiliar alleyways to reach the highway where he'd find other transportation to take him back to his hotel.


Surely he'd come across the main road, he thought, as he started walking downhill.


Janiculum is named for the two faced deity, Janus, the god of entrances and exits. Perhaps he would lend a guiding hand, he laughed.


He imagined hearing Suzie screeching, "where is that child? Why doesn't he consider his poor mother, who is sick with worry."


He thought of his mother weeping and being angry alternately. He had visions of her calling the department of lost and found, which she often did when she thought him lost, as if he was a valuable possession and not a human being who thought for himself.


Squad cars with screaming sirens would find him. She'd acted hysterically once again, he thought.


Roman law enforcement officers were acquainted with a mother's love or rather a mother's habit of tying a son, no matter how old, to her apron strings. If she called they would come to the rescue eagerly and when they found him, would return him to captivity (known as mother love) with soothing words and forcefull pushes, saying "Don't worry, we'll soon have you back in mama's loving arms."


The thing he didn't want but realized must eventually be. He was her captive.




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