Mom, you're going to hate reading this, but at least you know it has a happy ending.
When we last left off, our heroines had just polished off the most amazing truffled pasta and an incredible little dessert bearing the same name, and were about to fall victim to a human trafficking scam...
...at least those are the sane thoughts that finally worked their way into my mind as I closed the door of random-bar-man's car.
I don't know what possessed us to not take our own taxi - though the fact that we had absolutely no idea where we were going might have carried more weight then than it does in hindsight - but for some reason we agreed to drive with random-bar-man and hot-Italian-guy to a club in Trastevere along the Tiber River.
I verbalized my observation that this is exactly the kind of thing one reads in the papers after naive tourists are abducted in a foreign country that makes everyone back home wonder, "What the hell were they thinking??" To which Jen replied, "Well...the young guy seems nice and normal enough. He wouldn't go if he didn't think it was safe, right?"
What the hell were we thinking?
The movie Taken didn't come out until a couple of years later, but I seriously think watching it should be a pre-requisite for all female passport applications. Of the many miracles we were granted that night, living to tell the story was certainly one of them. I thank God on a fairly regular basis for this, and for all else that subsequently ensued.
Anyway, as we sat quietly in the back of random-bar-man's scary-mobile, I was distracted from the potential disaster at hand by the fact that I hadn't used the servizi since we left the restaurant hours ago. I had no idea where or how far the club was, but to make matters worse, in a spontaneous burst of national pride, our host decided to take us Gianicolo Hill to show us the most breathtaking views of Rome.
I might have been more enthusiastic if I wasn't so terrified that we were unwittingly being brought to a sacrificial altar in the woods.
As my companions marveled at the panoramic vistas, I set about on more pragmatic matters. Like searching frantically for a port-o-potty. Finding neither a port-o-potty nor a sacrificial altar, I decided to be grateful for the lesser of the two evils. Uncomfortable as it was, at least we no longer appeared to be in imminent danger of mysteriously disappearing into the autumn night.
Eventually we made our way back down the hill to the club. It was quite a cool scene actually. And whoever random-bar-man was, he was obviously well-connected and we were escorted past a long queue of drunken Romans directly to a VIP area in the center of the club, poolside.
Relieved that it looked like we would indeed survive our lapse of sense and sanity, I made a beeline for the nearest bathroom which, naturally, was tucked behind yet another impossibly long queue. Mr. Big (now upgraded from random-bar-man) came to my rescue and escorted me to the VIP facility which, I was traumatized to discover, was nothing more than an elevated private squat toilet, complete with a shiny stainless steel floor that sloped at a worrisome angle and a malfunctioning door lock.
Did I mention I was wearing 4-inch YSL stilettos?
Anyway, after surviving that ordeal - which was only mildly less disturbing than the thought of being kidnapped, ritually sacrificed or sold as sex slaves - I retired to our swanky VIP area where my Butter Cookie had a Negroni waiting for me. Amen to that!
Unfortunately, Mr. Big was also waiting for me. So whilst Jen and hot-Italian-guy chatted each other up all night, I listened to Mr. Big wistfully tell me how much I reminded him of his late wife - though the only thing I could fathom us having in common was that we were both at least 25 years his junior. I'm quite certain I earned "Wingman of the Year" that night. But luckily, the Negroni's were flowing freely.
Sometime around 3am we were finally deposited back at our hotel, only to find it locked with a huge iron gate. Of course. After all, "this was a respectable hotel and what kind of guests would possibly need to gain entry at this hour?" chided the judgmental look on the face of the Mother-Superior who reluctantly let us in.
"Lucky ones," I thought to myself. "Really bloody lucky ones."
I counted miracles in lieu of sheep that night, every last one I could think of.
All but the one I hadn't even realized had happened yet...