Continue The Voice, Issue 16 (June 26, 2022)
I remember one Sunday when I stayed at home while everyone else was at your funeral. It was a Milanese Sunday like many others. The indecisive sky, the half-empty streets, a day of restless thoughts stretched to Monday. Everyone was at your funeral. Only I was missing. It was supposed to be a farewell day, to say goodbye. I had already said goodbye. For months now, you have been tired of living. You even smell tired with your sugary and rotten scent. I have already said goodbye to you several times. "Goodbye, Marcello", False start. "Uh, are you still here?" False start again. Then one day, you were gone for real. I knew it would have happened, and I was only waiting. There was no need to say anything. You just wanted to be let go. Even now, I can't find anything strange in there. If I think about it, I expected it.
You put on my bras and tried on my clothes when my housemates were out. And for me, it was normal. I screamed at you to take them off because I didn't want them to take your shape. But you insisted on walking on my heels, the tallest ones. I gave in. Then you asked me to button my shirt down to the last button and put on the brown jacket. So, you said, I was Anny Hall, and we could wear our soles through the streets. Milan versus Manhattan. I always satisfied you. Every Italian woman has it in her blood to fulfil the male's whims and fantasies. She needs the male's approval to exist. It assures her she is his favourite slave and gives him the vice of always wanting her around. In this way, she is safe. And Delilah can spare herself the furtive cut of Samson's hair because he will offer her his scalp spontaneously. But we were friends. And those were the dress rehearsals of two young ibex measuring their horns.
After graduation, you dreamed of becoming a linguist, me a researcher. But you wanted me to make up stories, like the ones I wrote and read to you. I've never been able to picture you with your job or your love life. You were born to live others' lives. It terrified you to watch yourself take shape, so you constantly moved to escape the danger. You didn't even sit to study. You memorised pages after pages while walking, on public transport or under the arcades if it rained. Maybe just your ass hurt. Despite your maximum average being with honours, you remained a misfit. And you cover it with imagination and jokes, like a dog after pooped.
I remember the nights walking along via Porpora, and you who approached the prostitutes and called them "Mom!" then apologising for being wrong. You found out where our professors lived, and you took me to their house to ring their bells and then run away – the part you liked best. Or when we went out pubs without paying. We had become experts. Then once they ran after us, I paid for you too, full of shame. You messed up, and I made up for it. Yet you always wanted the best for me. Once again, always for your benefit.
You complained that you came from a family like many others, in your opinion trivial. You wanted obsessively to be surrounded by cultured and literate people. You drowned in books, cinema and theatre, but it was never enough for you. And the faint trail that remained after each binge wasn't sufficient to keep you alive. You expected your friends to shine to give you some light as the moon asks the sun. You were a dynamo that we all kept running while pedalling. No wonder you were excited when I met Giovanni because he taught Italian Literature at our University and lived in a lovely apartment in the centre, a few steps from San Babila. Instead, I fell in love with his thick glasses and the way he disappeared behind a book's trench in the library. He told me that he worked for publishing, and I believed it. I did not know that the very morning I finally found the courage to talk to him, he had tested almost all my friends with the last initial between M and Z.
Months had passed. I started a relationship, and you were a bit much. There was no more space for you, or it was me that I cut myself off. We were both abandoned, with each other and with ourselves. You sank into an increasingly poor reality, and I was practising to be a wife.
I don't remember you in the days I got pregnant. My smell had become sweet and milky. My belly and my breast grow a little in two months. I had quit smoking. I was happy for this child, even though it was not the right moment. I was only 23 and still studying. After the abortion, I had my gaze fixed, and I had stopped eating, and you were talking to me about the winter season of the Strehler Theater. I didn't know where to put all that pain. I had decided to absorb it by asking all my cells to take some. I had opted for the mechanics of bulletproof glass that distribute the impact over the entire surface to prevent the glass from breaking. Thinking back today, we had not chosen to separate ourselves. We were standing in line, and it was our turn.
You then understand the rites that you judge as barbarians of certain tribes that involve amputating a part of the body to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. For me, it was a definitive farewell to one part of me to join another unknown and hostile half. The farmers know how difficult the grafts are, and most of the time, the plant dies. But human beings differ from other species for omnipotence and obstinacy. You were rooted in your gem state.
So, in Paris, you jumped into the Seine. In Milan, under the yellow metro. And, I swear, I have heard of complaints that day about the delays. I knew it was your fault. If I laughed, I don't remember now. Then you hung yourself from a tree in the North Park, like Pinocchio. I hope that on the other side, the Dolce Vita has stretched out its arms to you, with Anita Ekberg calling you from the Trevi Fountain with her white and exposed chest, "Come here, Marcello. Hurry up!".
About me, my graft sprig managed to survive in finding a piece of land where to grow. It is a tissue of soil surrounded by pretty houses and kind neighbours. I rise slowly, gradually. Cyclically I produce fruits that cause astonishment. They are red and sweet. I host a few animals. Ants walk in a line on my branches as a collar of pearls. A blackbird, some robin and a family of sparrows found a shield between my leaves and relief in the hot summer days. But I can't do anything to protect them from cats.
Lately, I should grow big enough because kids have started to play around me. They climb my high and hang to my branches to swing. I can handle their weight. Then two teenagers hid behind my trunk, and they secretly kissed. Last Sunday, the neighbours had a party. They surrounded me with lights and set the table with wine and delicacies. They laughed and joked late into the night. I hadn't noticed, but I was also sitting at their table celebrating.