Hilly and I are in Rome. Her landlord has evicted her from her Manhattan apartment. We’re at the Bulldog Inn where our waitress, Frieda, is Swedish.
HILLY: If I don’t get my apartment back, I’ll go to Valentino and spend every last cent, except for 40 bucks that I can spend on two bottles of cheap wine and a pack of smokes. I’ll put on this beautiful outfit and drink the wine and smoke the cigarettes and then I’ll take the poison in a civilized place like a museum.
GEORGE: Tomorrow we’re going to the cemetery where Keats is buried. You won’t believe it! Oscar Wilde called it the holiest place in Rome.
HILLY: What else did Dr. Selman say? Besides to double my Prozac to 80 milligrams. I don’t think even the craziest person in the world has been prescribed that much Prozac.
We chat with Frieda. Hilly tells her she looks like Claudia Schiffer.
GEORGE: We need to stop talking to her. She’ll think we want to bring her back to our hotel.
HILLY: What will you buy me from Valentino? I promise to get full-on naked with her, for a Valentino trench coat.
GEORGE: You wouldn’t do it for nothing?
The bar closes at 2 a.m. Three Italian dudes agree to drive us to a nightclub. Hilly hesitates. I persist. We pile in. Eurotrash everywhere. We have some drinks. Things get fuzzy. Back at the hotel, I realize I’ve lost my wallet. I barely make it to our room. I get down on the bathroom floor and get sick. Next I’m on the phone to Chase.
Around 6 a.m., I wake Hilly up with some wandering-hand action.
HILLY: Just a few more minutes. Sleepy.
I keep trying. At 7 a.m., we finally hit it. At 1 p.m., she’s studying room service.
HILLY: I don’t think I can do this in good conscience—order a 30-euro club sandwich.
GEORGE: Little different when you’re paying for it, isn’t it?
HILLY: I suggest you get your ass out of bed!
GEORGE: Don’t raise your voice!
HILLY: You’re raising your voice!
GEORGE: I need a panini. Please. Do you know what kind of bread I want? The white, fluffy kind. I don’t want the chewy kind. Hungry.
She gets lost trying to find a decent panini. She comes back with some food anyway.
HILLY: That’s another thing that sucks about this country—you can’t just go to one store to get everything. It’s so lame.
GEORGE: Oh, this is horrible. It’s this huge, chewy thing with this popover bread.
HILLY: I thought you liked prosciutto.
GEORGE: I can’t swallow it.
We step outside. I lead us on a fast, tense and silent walk.
GEORGE: Walk faster, at my pace!
We arrive at the cemetery. We check out the graves of Keats, Shelley, Corso.
HILLY: This is the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen. I want to be buried here.
They start playing harp music. Closing time.
HILLY: This is what we’re going to do: Go to the Coliseum then find a fancy place and get some cheese and a drink.
In the cab I crack open a beer and it explodes on my lap. The driver is annoyed.
GEORGE: No, it’s just on me, don’t worry.
Hilly pays him and apologizes for the beer.
We walk through a Hamas demonstration: Yay! Creepy left-wing vermin.
HILLY: This is scary.
GEORGE: We’re going to get killed.
The Coliseum’s closed.
GEORGE: I need to go home. I’m down in the dumps again.
HILLY: I think we were bad people in our past lives. It could be a sick twist of fate—that we were both in Rome and we were the people at the Coliseum ordering people to death.
GEORGE: And what’s going on now?
HILLY: We’ve pretty much both been punished.
Back at the Eden, I wonder if Hilly subconsciously allowed herself to get evicted so she’d have to move in with me. She says, “Maybe.” I take a long bubble bath and fall asleep.
HILLY: Wake up. That’s dangerous!
GEORGE: Check it out: I shaved between my eyebrows.
She’s wearing a lilac Luisa Beccaria dress with pink Bulgari earrings. We have dinner on the roof.
GEORGE: Do you think by losing my wallet, subconsciously I wanted to be in the same boat as you?
HILLY: That thought occurred to me. Earlier today I was thinking: I’m the one who needs to be mothered now, how can he complain about his hangover? Then I thought: This is Georgie, you love Georgie. He’s going through a huge crisis.
GEORGE: What happened to you wasn’t your fault.
HILLY: But in the same way that you allowed yourself to get that drunk last night, I allowed myself to not stay on top of things. I think I expect to be catered to in certain ways. I expect people to accept whatever I say. Like if I pay rent late, it’s because I had to get highlights. I truly feel that’s a good excuse….But right now I feel like a huge cloud has been lifted. I’m just happy to be with Scoopie. He had a good bubble bath, didn’t he? I get to drink whatever I want tonight. Because I had all my things taken from me.
Back in the room, Hilly takes out her photo of me as a toddler.
HILLY: You’re a precious Scoopie and nothing you do that’s bad will ever matter, because you know deep down you’re a precious little Scoopie wearing li’l knickers and knee socks.
We watch Batman Begins. I fall asleep on the floor.
We wake up early and walk down the Spanish Steps. There are handbags everywhere, but this isn’t why Hilly stalls. Back in New York, I’d promised to tell her how much she means to me on the Spanish Steps.
GEORGE: We’re still here for another three days.
It’s 11:30 a.m., and there are thousands of people at the Vatican City. Hilly asks a guard why. He gives us a funny look.
GUARD: The Pope’s speaking.
HILLY: No way. Are you serious?
The guard gives us an “Um, we’re in the Vatican?” look. We listen to the Pope for a minute, then walk inside.
There’s a service going on. We take a seat. A bearded statue is staring at me, looking very cross. This is real, I decide. The next phase of my life has begun. Give in to what you’re experiencing. You are being set free from a life of sin.
We drop a few euros in the collection box and find a café. Another lousy bowl of pasta. We take a cab to the Coliseum, where we’re told about gladiators, prostitutes, virgins, live burials. Hilly finds a café. The olives are bland, the cheese is sweaty, the tuna is dry and the water smells like B.O.
GEORGE: This is the sixth restaurant with outdoor tables that has sucked. I pick where we eat from now on.
Back at the hotel, I take a bath and fall asleep. I get out and catch her on all fours ransacking the mini bar.
GEORGE: No! Stop that. I want you to save your appetite. I’m going to find a restaurant with a perfect bowl of pasta. I’m in charge of everything for the next six hours.
I discover she’s been stuffing my clothes into a “dirty clothes bag,” which leaves me with nothing to wear. I dump the clothes into the middle of the room.
We find a restaurant by the Pantheon. We talk about St. Peter’s.
HILLY: It was larger than life. It’s easy to understand how the church had so much power — because even today you can still walk in and get this slap in the face of how magnificent it is.
She gets up to have a smoke and make a call. When she returns, she’s annoyed.
HILLY: What is everyone’s problem with me wearing bare legs? You fucking prudes! Don’t you know Anna Wintour hasn’t worn a pair of stockings since the 1980’s?
Diners on either side of us take notice.
GEORGE: I love stockings.
HILLY: I’m not a whore. Look at your little sister on the street—she is the whore with the blue frosted eye shadow and her skintight jeans, chain-smoking while walking at age 13.
GEORGE: They’re only looking because you look so chic, like a movie star.
GEORGE: So why were you the teacher’s pet?
HILLY: Because I was cute. I wore a different outfit each day—my outfits were adult-like, but miniature. My hair was always perfect. I started taking French and violin when I was 4. I had matching hair ribbons for every outfit, and some of them had my name painted on them. I didn’t brush my own hair until I was 13 because my mom wouldn’t let me.
GEORGE: You were like JonBenet?
HILLY: Yes, but a chic version. There was this obnoxious redhead, David Duncan. He was mean to me. My mom would send me to school—this day, it was this yellow crocheted beret with a pompom on it and matching skirt. It was actually really cute; I would wear it today and I would look great. But I felt like a big geek. David Duncan started making fun of me. So I said, “You probably couldn’t even afford one of these. Hahahaha!” Who got the last laugh? David Duncan—he’s probably living in a penthouse.
After dinner ….
HILLY: We’re supposed to go to the Spanish Steps. You said you’d tell me—
GEORGE: We still have 48 hours.
We go to bed.
I walk to the Vatican. Got the day to myself. Feeling good. I’m determined to see the Sistine Chapel. I get in the line. For half an hour I stare at a teenage girl’s green corduroy butt and furry boots with hearts. The line barely moves. My lower back is brittle. I make it to the Sistine Chapel. My back is too destroyed to look up. How the hell did he paint the ceiling? And why? What a pain in the neck. Can’t take it anymore. Twelve euros down the drain. Back at the Eden, I take an extra-long bubble bath. I turn on Fox News.
Hilly and I go to the Villa Borghese. We watch the sun set over Rome. Spectacular. We ride on a carousel then walk to the Spanish Steps. By the Trevi fountain, Gypsies are all over her.
HILLY: Stay away! Stay away! We’re not in India or wherever.
We make it to a wine bar.
GEORGE: I can’t believe I have to go back to New York. I feel like I’ve been a better person here.
HILLY: Yes, you get up early.
GEORGE: Just walking around here makes me happy.
HILLY: I have a theory. This whole trip is symbolic—about our journey into adulthood. You’ve been carrying around your high-school and college ID pretending you’re still a kid—and you lose your wallet. And I lost my bachelorette pad.
We go to a restaurant my father suggested, and there I have it: the perfect bowl of pasta, best I’ve ever tasted. After dinner we’re at the Spanish Steps.
GEORGE: My tummy hurts real bad. We’re right by where Keats died. I feel like I have tuberculosis.
HILLY: Thanks, Scoopie. I love you.
GEORGE: You can move in with me. You can move in with me.
She holds out her left hand.
GEORGE: What? What?
GEORGE: You wanted me to give you a ring? You thought maybe I had one?
HILLY: At least an imaginary one.
GEORGE: Remember I gave you one … the, uh … promise ring? We went through a lot on this trip; we had a great time. And we’re gonna come back here.
HILLY: You’re a good Scoopie. And you helped me out.
GEORGE: And we need to work on some things. And—
HILLY: And I’ll pay some rent at some point. I’ll cook for you! Clean up after you!
GEORGE: O.K., O.K.
HILLY: You were going to tell me what you really think of me on the Spanish Steps.
GEORGE: I just did. Well, you’re …. I’m real proud of you. And we’ve had a great time. And I wouldn’t have wanted to be here with anyone else.
HILLY: Oh, Scoopie!
GEORGE: Am I doing O.K. so far? And I love you!
HILLY: Yayyyyy! Ha-ha-ha-ha! Sucker.
George and Hilly published 02/6/06
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George and Hilly published 10/10/05
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George ’n’ Hilly, Back in Couples, Turn on the Doc published 09/26/05
But Should We Get Married? Part III published 08/29/05
But Should We Get Married? published 08/15/05
Should I Get Married? My Hilly Joining Me In Couples Session published 08/08/05