I told Irene that I would be in Pisa at 5pm. It was already 1pm by the time I had straightened out the ticket, checked my bag in a locker, and called people back home to let them know I'd be coming home late. I figured one-hour shuttle to Rome, and 2 hours to Pisa, give or take some time for changing/ waiting for trains, and it'd be around 5pm. Probably earlier. I'd be able to stay in Pisa until about 5:30am or 6am, and still make my plane. This would give us time to hang out, and I could even grab a few hours of sleep, right? Not exactly. That is what you would think, if you looked on this map of Italy (right), provided by the EuroRail people. Pisa is the same distance from Rome as Florence (Firenze) is. I did well in math, and therefore was able to reason that if it was 2 hours from Florence to Rome, it was 2 hours from Rome to Pisa. Math class doesn't teach you that some routes have high-speed trains, others do not. Try 4 and a half hours. This, I learned once I was on the train. What was I going to do? This train didn't get in until 6:45, I had no way of calling, and furthermore, It meant I would have to leave Pisa before 4am to make my plane in Rome. What's worse, is that Pisa was not the last train stop, so I couldn't sleep, or I'd likely end up in Prague, or some random city hundreds of miles away. As 5pm passed, I could imagine Irene wondering where I was, and at 6pm, I could imagine her leaving to go out with friends or something, assuming I wasn't going to be able to make it.

I got to the station and she was there. I explained the mishap with the trains. She laughed.

We walked around Pisa for a good couple of hours, just talking as she pointed out places from time to time. I had finally met a local, and was happy to get a tour of a city from the inside. It was very ironic how the only city I wondered what it was like to grow up in, I was now finding out. We walked for a very long time, and finally decided to get something to eat. We went to a small restaurant that was half hidden in a back alley way. It was incredible. The food was good, and the atmosphere was too perfect to describe. This was a place that, as a tourist, you would never find.

We talked over wine for a long time, and I found out that she is a biology major in college, and is working towards becoming a genetic engineer. She someday wants to clone animals, but said that she would be willing to experiment on humans, specifically me. :-) She has lived in Pisa for 23 years, and is going to travel the world when she gets out. Her dream is to travel until she finds the right place, and then live there, regardless of where it is. Ironically enough, that was my dream about 3 years ago. Somehow, you get caught up in work, rent, car payments, credit cards, and life in general, and lose sight of that. Irene, along with the Alchemist, made me remember. She has a real zest for life and living that I don't see in many people. I knew this the minute she came to the club with Manda and I. She left the safety of her group, to try something else. Everything I learned about her, I liked.

We decided that as I had to leave before 4am, there really was no point in sleeping. After all, I'd probably miss my train, and miss my plane, and at this point, that'd be really, really bad.

At one point in the evening, we were discussing how much we had enjoyed new years, and compared new years of the past. Eventually, I asked her if she had big plans for the new years of 2000, and she said no. I explained to her that 21 friends and I had arranged to rent a house in Jamaica. It was 11 bedrooms, and 2 to a room, mostly couples. She asked who I was going with, and I explained how I was no longer together with the person I had planned on going with, thus the spot was open. I extended an offer for her to come with, which still stands. I have no idea what the next year will bring here in the states, nor does she know what it will bring there, but I will stay true to my word if she takes me up on it. She said she will let me know, and that's fine, it's a year away.

We walked to an internet café, so that I could show her pictures of the house in Jamaica, which we have on line. After a little surfing, we decided to sign her up for an e-mail address. We have written every day since.

I hopped a 3:30 train to Rome, and again couldn't sleep as it wasn't the last stop. However, it was a major stop, so I knew that most of the people would be getting off, and would likely make enough commotion to wake me. I slept for about an hour, maybe two. The first sleep I had gotten in over 3 days.