“John,” I addressed, this time to my roommate, another advisor and moreover my master. “John. When were we suppose to wake up to go the Vatican?”
In lethargic resistance, similar to mine, with his head engulfed in a pillow, characteristic of Jalsevac’s sleeping posture, he answered in a muffled filter, “Uh … 5:40.”
“Oh, no,” I noted, in peril seasoned with a pinch of despair. “It’s 7:15. We’re late. They’ve left without us.”
I can’t remember if I started to freak out or report this with an unnatural drone of indifference, though the subject dealt with serious matter for our experience as tourists, students, and Roman Catholics. The plan was to attend Mass at the Vatican, and then to tour its secret archives and gardens, a privilege somehow acquired for us by the graces of Mr. and Mrs. Akers, our generous teachers and deans. This gift, so exceptional and once-in-a-lifetime, now stood in danger of death.
John, knowing exactly what to do, said, “We better call them.” But then remembered: “Oh, they’re probably in Mass right now. Here’s the plan: we wake up, wait 20 minutes, and then call them on their cell phones.”
Passion still had its grip on the sceptre, and to my lips, these words came with such a fearful harmony of nature, it scares me now to think on, “Well, we could go back to sleep in the meantime.”
This made so much sense for some reason.
“We should probably get up and get ready to leave,” spoke logic, using John as His instrument, but alas, even the Jalsevacian, the demigod of motion and energy, a second later, fell victim to this beautiful slumbering seductress, even after issuing this protest so sound, so sane, but then so asleep.
Then I had a dream. I dreamt that I was with the rest of the group, gathered in tourist formation around a tomb in St. Peter’s. Mr. Akers was talking about it with great animation, while I took a good look around to see where they were. I turned to one of my classmates, Emma Fritcher, and asked her to tell me exactly where they were going to be and how to get there. Strangely, I knew full well that I was dreaming but pursued this experiment nevertheless. I wondered maybe, just maybe, through talking to Emma, though in a dream, somehow, in some way, I could actually get some fragment of a true answer, whether it happened by preternatural contact to her real self or by talking to her phantasm whom I really knew to be myself, by which by some dumb but lucky logic I might find out the true and helpful response.
But I knew the futility of this course of action even in my irrational unconsciousness and turned my attention to John who also stood in the group. “John,” I said, “This is just a dream. None of these people are real. This method is not going to work.” But even when I spoke these words to him, I knew in the back of my mind, that John wasn’t real either, and that made me sad. These mental clones gave me pleasant company, and I enjoyed talking to them, but I confessed finally to all of them that none of them existed.
Eventually, I abandoned the catacombs of sleep.
Forty-five minutes later, reason, as violent, and vengeful as it was in the French Revolution, took up arms and overthrew the long oppression of the appetites and roused us from our beds – John first, and I second. We phoned the Akers, who, as we had planned, were right in the middle of Mass, threw on some purposeful accouterments, and charged out the hotel, stopping only for breakfast and coffee. This preparation heroically took only forty-five minutes.
In haste, did we reach our destination by underground railway, arriving without cell-phone or clue what to do next at St. Peter’s Piazza. We had to regroup with our class already stationed somewhere in the Basilica, but as this is the largest church in the entire known universe, we needed further contact with them before our assault commenced.
We consulted pay phones to contact the lost souls of our group. We bribed the machine with coins and told it the numeric names of the desired individuals. But as this was the first time John and I had employed such foreign diviners of telecommunication, misunderstandings arose, and continuous failures to conjure up the desired cell phones dampened our efforts as well as our own spirits. The telephonic mediums had high prices and did not refund us in their failures, and pocket change was running low. Suddenly, providence put to death these pagan pan-handling practices, and a man accidentally walked off without his phone card. Seeing it thus abandoned, we adopted it as our own, figured out the problem, and made contact with the spirit of Mr. Akers without fear of bankruptcy. To our dismay, the group had already passed through the Secret Archives of the Vatican and were now walking the gardens. Though he told us where he and the rest now resided, he could not tell us how we could enter there ourselves, as it required special escort which was no longer available to us. We thanked him, hung up, and went forth.
Passing through metal detectors, armed guards, and occasional Swiss guards, we approached a non-threatening kind of worker and asked him in clear diction, “How do you get in to the Vatican gardens?” The man, a peon of the Basilica, looked at us as if we were clinically insane. “Vatican gardens forbidden,” said he in accents and gestures Italian, “You cannot go. Impossible.” With an Italian gesture of our own, fashioned to function like a Jedi mind trick as well, we told him the plain truth that we had a group already in there, which we were suppose to join. As he had as much authority in the Vatican as a Doric Column, he told us to walk to the other side of the Basilica and plead our case to the Swiss Guard.
As the strangely clad guard was without his trusty spear at the moment, we approached him confidently, and explained our desire to enter upon the Vatican gardens. He looked at us as if we were clinically insane. But with little effort in explaining further our plight, he let us pass with surprising ease. It was too easy. We knew somewhere deep down that the weasely French guy from the airport would pop up suddenly and have us guillotined. So far, however, it looked good.
Jalsevac and I crept inconspicuously behind the Basilica, passing by guards and officials with an air of confident but low-key strides. Then, a guard with a gun stopped us, and asked us what the heck we were doing. We said that we intended access to the papal gardens, which sparked a look, this time, that suspected severe clinical insanity, finished with a quick and nervous laugh of disbelief. It was the highlight of his day no doubt. He told us to go no further as he called security. And so we did.
After a few minutes of self-controlled anxiety, he put the telephone down and surprisingly asked us, “Is the head man of your group named ‘Akers?’” We decided to tell the truth and say yes. This satisfied him. He hung up, shrugged, smiled, and motioned us toward the vast expanse of greenery that lay before us. No problem, we thought.
We literally searched the entire country, one end to another.
The Vatican, however, is luckily the smallest country in the world, although much bigger than I thought. I thought it only consisted of the Piazza and the Basilica and maybe some apartment buildings. Nope, that’s only about a fifth of it. We walked through the gardens of the Vatican, lost in this paradisal labyrinth where no soul accompanied us, alone in the papal trees and fountains where numerous Popes had passed in silent meditation. We had infiltrated the Vatican and no one was there. How did this happen? These people are suppose to protect the Pope but we just walked right in. We suspected Vatican snipers watching our every move.
Somehow, we found our group, and strutted manfully down the sidewalk in triumphal glory. We spoke how the Swiss Guards were after us, and how we made Swiss Cheese out of some of them in order to get in. But we were there. A bit late, yes, for sinful passion got the better of us at first, but we repented, we had fought, and we had arrived in the gardens of the Church.