S. – II

S.
You know about her from this article.
She might appear lost. The holes in her one-week worn blouse suggesting negligence; remissness; having given up. She orders another red wine. Wjintje, as the Flemish dialect goes. We obey; the glass appears next to the two already standing in front of her.
I have piety for her. The superiority that accompanies every person’s eyes when meeting her figure, her state, has reached me as well.
But I try to shake it off when finding a place next to her. Not literally, since even if she is a very big, swollen woman, she gives me the idea that she can be knocked down from my simple breath; a sentence sounding like an order; a critique.
And I sit by her side, as she loves the sight of the pedestrians walking in front of her.
It has been a couple of beautiful months in Belgium: sunny, warm. We have been talking about how pleasant the weather is. Such small talk, chatting about the weather.
But then suddenly, she will affirm it; she does not show, but she is aware of it. That she needs help.
I nod. I just do that, after years I’ve known her and understanding that what she says is true, but also a promise she will never keep.
And then, she would say:
«Summer is nice» and she often accompanies this sentence with a small wave of her puffed hand «But then the winter comes back».
And I nod again, this time to myself.

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21/06

I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

great

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

S. – I

I worked for a very long time in an Irish pub. I still go there frequently: my boyfriend is the successful manager. Yes, I could sense your thoughts at the second line, you might have thought I like my Guinness too much. That is the nature of Irish pubs, besides being the best place for a crispy fish&chips when not in English-speaking countries: that is, of alcohol being served at 10 in the morning.

There is, in fact, a middle-aged woman whom I met when working there. She is the most regular customer: that means, she is an alcoholic. Red wine, to be precise. Her total consumption would usually be 12 glasses per day, equal to 3 bottles (Belgian doses are quite generous): despite that, she would never order a full bottle. She would sip her glasses throughout the day. Most of the time staring at nothing. Occasionally in the morning, when still fresh, she would glance at a local free copy of the daily paper. But I wouldn’t be sure she is aware who the current president of her country is.

I do not blame her. I have my obsessions. My addictions. Different, maybe, to the ones of S. By the way, her real name is known to us. I remember at the beginning when I started working at the pub, we used to call her the Red Wine Lady, even if she had been around the place way longer than us, even if she had a name, a surname, a whole life before we started earning our money out of people like her. So that is why we started calling by her real name eventually. But I would not reveal it here: that is respect, I guess.

Anyways, there is something I would never understand about S, among many. I know that her parents do not live in her city: she has to travel and reach them in the countryside, usually driven by her sister or some other relative which I hope takes care of her. And on that occasions, she has to change the street where she walks everyday to take her cigarettes and reach her provider of alcohol – either the pub, some cafes, the supermarket, it’s a free country; she changes the landscapes that she scrutinizes when deciding what to eat for lunch – I know her well, she loves walnuts, chicken, and mayonnaise; she sleeps, showers, dresses in a different place. She is someone else, even for just a little while, just a couple of days.
But that is not enough. That would not distract her, convince about the possibility of embracing her other self, quitting her bad habits.
And eventually, when she comes back, she would enter the pub, slowly approaching the bar, but ordering from us quickly, since she’s been missing for too many hours, her red wine.

On the fear of dynousaurs and toilet flush

WARNING: This post contains strong visual images.

I used to be scared of toilet flushes on airplanes.
I bet you can mirror yourself into this as they flush EXTREMELY strong and loud. I once read about this woman who remained seated while flushing and her intestine had been partially sucked out (I warned you at the beginning of this post…). There was an happy ending though as the ambulance came promptly and the doctors eventually managed to insert it back. Despite I have been left utterly concerned and horrified by this story, I could also not be amazed by the progress of chirurgy and medicine we witness today – just picture me sighing slightly, tight up in a velvet corset dress inside my carriage, shattering across the dark fumes of a colonial London.
Well, together with their toilets, I used to be scared of airplanes in general. Not for the sake of it, but of flying of course. I should not say it too loud, but both of these fears are gone by now. I actually had to reassure a fully grown adult lady recently (on her 40s to make a polite guess) trying to make her overcome her fear of flying. It is about frequency, I told her. The evidence I brought is my experience, as the more I flew, especially alone, the less I was scared – it might have been surving on some really big turbulences over the Atlantic: however, it did not seem that she was fully convinced. Fair enough, you have to experience it on your skin to believe it.

Some time later, I happened to be in a haunted house – don’t be silly, one of those where you are asked to pay 20 euros at the entrance by a wannabe actor referring to you in a doubtful British accent. Together with me and my boyfriend, they entered these parents with their three daughters, the youngest being 3 and the oldest 8 spproximately. The two oldest siblings could do anything but screaming and crying, absolutely horrified by the whole live performances and installations inside the house, piercing their parents’ skins and ripping their clothes in grisps of desperation. The little daughter instead seemed absolutely fine, a soft expression of confusion transpassing from her eyes, as if she had just woke up. I have to admit that I had been quite impressed by some elements of the tour myself, let’s make the example of the one meter and a half magma/dinosaur figure popping out and screaming from a curtain in a pitch dark corridor, or the chamber in where remarkably realistic mutilied female bodies covered in blood were hung; tbh, I had been completely terrified by the whole experience, to put it bluntly. On the other side, (or my other half, ah) my boyfriend proved me once again to be the bravest human being to be living on this planet, as he lead the group in the utter dark while I kept myself attached to his back for the whole time, my eyes shut closed, and the family just behind me, moving tight together.

As me and my boyfriend were kindly refusing the pictures showing him wrapped by very familiar female arms, I found myself asking how could have things NOT have changed from when I was a kid myself. I have been used to go to amusement parks since young, and I kind of know that I am much more at peril when on a airplane 11000 meters from ground level rather than on a plastic 30 meters square building inhabited by actors. But what makes some fears disappear over time rather than others then? How could I grow out from my fear of flying and not from fake haunted houses? I know there are countless, heavily debated scientific dissertations on these matters that I definitely do not dare to put myself into – I am also writing from my phone on a train, imagine me chatting with a friend rather than embracing psychological questions. Moreover, while observing those photographs at the haunted house shop, I found my own answer: I never had to go alone in a haunted house – and wait, why on earth would anybody do that? – as I do with planes, but most importantly, I do have in this moment of my life someone willing to face any of the darkest corridors, dinosaur or badly paid actor for me, with me, and to be honest, this gives me all the excuses to just surrender in his lovely, beloved, protective arms.

Far is Italy – connecting to Virginia Woolf

On January 25th of one hundred thirty six years ago Virginia Woolf was born. So many years; even if she would have not left in that river, we would still celebrate her memory today.

I truly appreciated Woolf’s works only in my college years, when a professor made us read Mrs Dalloway for a contemporary literature class. During lectures, he would sit on a spinny chair in front of his desk, his sleeves rolled up. He had an ankles conditions or so, and he found comfortable to keep his knees tight and his feet apart on opposite wheels, strolling around while lecturing. He would read a passage out loud from the tiny book squeezed in his rough-looking hands; we would listen with bewildered faces. Truly, he was a big, US man and his deep voice was slightly troubled by some occasional smoking. But he could make the prose of Woolf gently and perfectly unravel from his lips.

In that time I was still living in Rome, my hometown: however, by attending a US university, by having to commute to the other side of town each day to go to classes, by having such a different lifestyle from the one I had until high school, I felt a bit of a stranger in my own city.

Then, I really moved to a foreign country. I possibly forgot about that professor, about that book for a while – I left it in the boot of my car in Rome. I was surrounded now by people whose language I did not understand fully, whose customs and social norms were so different from what I was used to. I was maybe too busy trying to familiarize myself with the astonishing quantities of dip sauces on the fridge shelves of supermarkets. But one day, one of those days when I wandered invisibly through the alleys of this cold city, unable to catch the sight of those around me – they might be noticing me, anyway? I found myself thinking

“Far is Italy”

I actually spelled it clearly in my mind. It did not look like something I made up: it was clearly a quotation. But where did that come from? Spinny chairs, ankle conditions, Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. I went back home and looked online for the passage of the book, it was not easy, as Lucrezia is not one of the main characters. Finally, when I found it, it was as marvelously written as I remembered it; but this time it felt so much closer.

I hope everyone of you had the occasion to read the book. It is about one lady, Clarissa, who prepares dinner for a party she is hosting at night. The day serves to provide flashbacks of the most crucial events of her recent life, and to give insight into the other characters, more or less close, to Clarissa. I consider this novel to be the biggest inspiration for the book I’ve written, which you will see out there soon

Lucrezia, or Rezia, is an Italian lady who had moved to England because of her husband Septimus, who eventually turned insane. In this passage, the two are strolling around Regent’s Park.

Rezia is truly unhappy. She dislikes and does not understand the people and country she lives in at that moment, she misses Italy, the sun and her family. She suffers in silence; inside she screams, she bursts in desperation, but outside, she looks as any other lady walking with her husband in the park. Despite her discretion, she wonders how nobody could notice her suffering.

True, there is a large dose of self commiseration in this passage; you could picture her noticing with a smirk the wedding ring sliding down her slim finger, then looking up, trying to see if anybody is noticing the same detail. But at the same time, you should understand the society back in the day – how easily she could just stand up and move back to Italy for her own happiness?

But how much easier is it to blame circumstances rather than your own behaviour? This is what I think now. This is the question I am posing myself in trying to internalize the process of adaptation, rather than enduring it.

Following the passage, which, commiserative or not, it is just shockingly beautiful.

“Septimus!” said Rezia. He started violently. People must notice.
“I am going to walk to the fountain and back,” she said.
For she could stand it no longer. Dr. Holmes might say there was nothing the matter. Far rather would she that he were dead! She could not sit beside him when he stared so and did not see her and made everything terrible; sky and tree, children playing, dragging carts, blowing whistles, falling down; all were terrible. And he would not kill himself; and she could tell no one. “Septimus has been working too hard”— that was all she could say to her own mother. To love makes one solitary, she thought. She could tell nobody, not even Septimus now, and looking back, she saw him sitting in his shabby overcoat alone, on the seat, hunched up, staring. And it was cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself, but Septimus had fought; he was brave; he was not Septimus now. She put on her lace collar. She put on her new hat and he never noticed; and he was happy without her. Nothing could make her happy without him! Nothing! He was selfish. So men are. For he was not ill. Dr. Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him. She spread her hand before her. Look! Her wedding ring slipped — she had grown so thin. It was she who suffered — but she had nobody to tell.
Far was Italy and the white houses and the room where her sisters sat making hats, and the streets crowded every evening with people walking, laughing out loud, not half alive like people here, huddled up in Bath chairs, looking at a few ugly flowers stuck in pots!
“For you should see the Milan gardens,” she said aloud. But to whom?
There was nobody. Her words faded. So a rocket fades. Its sparks, having grazed their way into the night, surrender to it, dark descends, pours over the outlines of houses and towers; bleak hillsides soften and fall in. But though they are gone, the night is full of them; robbed of colour, blank of windows, they exist more ponderously, give out what the frank daylight fails to transmit — the trouble and suspense of things conglomerated there in the darkness; huddled together in the darkness; reft of the relief which dawn brings when, washing the walls white and grey, spotting each window-pane, lifting the mist from the fields, showing the red-brown cows peacefully grazing, all is once more decked out to the eye; exists again. I am alone; I am alone! she cried, by the fountain in Regent’s Park (staring at the Indian and his cross), as perhaps at midnight, when all boundaries are lost, the country reverts to its ancient shape, as the Romans saw it, lying cloudy, when they landed, and the hills had no names and rivers wound they knew not where — such was her darkness; when suddenly, as if a shelf were shot forth and she stood on it, she said how she was his wife, married years ago in Milan, his wife, and would never, never tell that he was mad! Turning, the shelf fell; down, down she dropped. For he was gone, she thought — gone, as he threatened, to kill himself — to throw himself under a cart! But no; there he was; still sitting alone on the seat, in his shabby overcoat, his legs crossed, staring, talking aloud.

Lots of love,

Hungerness

Fridge conversations

I took advantage of many writing techniques to express myself with: thanks to another blogger, I experimented years ago with the “word of the day” routine that you can still see now in the english section. The newsletter of an online dictionary gave me a daily erudite definition for “something that is lacking flavor, zest, animation, or spirit”. Or, as they put it, “vapid”.

Later on, a friend suggested -rather, shared his writing experience with me- to limit my thoughts on the notebook to one page. I thanked him and lasted half hour, as I really cannot contain my thoughts to just one page on all but the rarest of occasions.

Still, I persevere: whenever it comes to writing, I gladly challenge myself. I guess that since I’ve never been a professional writer it is exciting to undertake tasks as seriously as if I was paid for it.

Then, I discovered fridge magnets. Like four years ago, I was at my friends’ shared flat in Rome. It was late at night and we already had too much vodka: an ordinary college thursday night. It was the first time for me at their place. The dim cold neon bulbs above the steel shelves illuminated a watermelon that had been filled up with vodka. It was not summer yet. But the Bangla shop owner at the end of the streets did not care, and neither did we.

On the fridge, some words were stuck on it. Magnetised. Somehow unprompted; there were roses and red in a verse. It was a poem with no rhyme: but utterly beautiful.

I asked – Who wrote this? My friends shrugged their shoulders. “The previous renter” was the reply. They said it in Italian, so I knew it was a lady. I imagined her as a woman in her thirties, not as beautiful anymore as she had blossomed years before; before monetary restrictions and that bastard with whom she spent 5 years too many of her life and caused her a smoking addiction that made her cough every night before going to bed. Despite this, she was still beautiful. She knew where to find beauty: in red roses. It was not pathetic. It was quintessential.

Two years later, I was in a different house – mine – for the first time ever the bills quoted my first name, in front of a fridge my savings had bought, in a country I still try to settle in. Strolling in the streets of the city, in the process of discovery – my waitress position only kept me busy in the evenings, and sometimes in the mornings as recovery from the hangover. There was this shop selling world maps to scratch and solar powered statuettes of the Queen saluting or bulldogs nodding.

I peeked inside. There is no such thing like solecitous shop assistants in Belgium, and that woman’s eyes stuck on my moves revealed her fear of me stealing something. So when I found myself in front of that red box, despite it costing 20 euros and my still not having received my first month’s salary, I could not help but buy it. I was happy: I justified my presence to the woman and I could fill the surface of my new fridge that I believed looked so empty.

My first creation was something involving the only rude terms I could find in those magnets. What I would usually do then is spread the words – all, some – randomly on my kitchen table and pick those that in that moment sounded good together. These creations would not usually come up in any great grammar or sintax, or they would refer to stuff my boyfriend is not really pleased about. But every time I reassure him. Its not me who’s writing. Its a girl that never existed, created in the imagination of those drinking watermelon soaked in vodka.

Below is my latest creation. I recently have gone for dialogues. I feel that they can tell the double – how a person feels and how she or he looks like.

Sometimes I still pause and find it excitingly absurd – to place art so close to where I store chicken thighs.

The very first entry

First of all, I had to decide whether to write in Italian or English. I’ve been living outside Italy for 2 and a half years now, and I miss the boot-shaped country terribly: I keep on suggesting politely to my boyfriend it’s time for him to learn Italian, and every time I see an authentic Italian shop/restaurant I am more thrilled than a kid realising theres leftover cookie dough after his mum left the kitchen. Despite this, I keep on living in a foreign country (Belgium) and my visits to Italy are more or less sporadic. Most of my life is based on other languages, mainly English or Spanish since I’m not friend with any Italian person here, and considering the amount of my fellow countrypeople around the world, the fault is almost entirely mine. I am so not used to speak Italian daily that my sister makes fun of me every time we talk on the phone as I use mixed up vocabulary and erroneous grammar; and every time I land in Fiumicino it takes me a good couple of hours to get rid of a odd histrionic voice tone.

So yes, writing a blog entirely in English seemed the most sensible choice. Buut, winds of change refrained me to do so.
In fact, I recently wrote a book: well, I finished it last summer after years that I started it, hated it, loved it, picked it up again and again. It made me suffer and it made me tremble: imagine my excitement when an Italian publishing house showed its interest in publishing it. And then, another one. Of course, they are the small subsections of major publishing houses, the ones focusing on new talents. But, witnessing the Italian (worldwide?) cultural scenario, it’s for sure rewarding that someone had seen potential in me. Italian, yes: as the book of course it’s written in my mother-tongue. That’s why I initially taught to address only Italian speakers in this blog: I want to promote myself and my book mostly. However, as I’m an extremely doubting, pondering person, I could not cut out the perspective of blogging in English – I love this language so much and writing in it it’s the best way to honour it.

So my Eureka was, why not having them both? An Italian and English blog respectively. Recognizing it will be more time and focus demanding, but I think the Buzzfeed newsfeed can survive without me for some more time in a day. NB, the entries won’t be the translation of each other: but maybe this will be a nice excuse for you to learn one of the most beautiful, romantic, musical languages of this world 🙂

Well, It’s my first entry only but I already think I’ve been talking plenty about myself. I  put myself aside to share then a very beautiful poem from Cummings I came across the other day.

The title is :

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

and yes, no capital letters and no space after the comma (what a mess!), and I agree there is more important stuff to focus on than such little details but, at the same time, they makes you focus on them – you see what I mean? And there is something about the little hands that creates really painful correlations with actual politics, but I try to think to my sister’s beautiful, elegant, little hands as I go through the poem (I have really big hands instead which cause me so many typos on my phone…).

This poem Its one of the sweetest dedication I have ever read. It perfectly conveys the fragility to open someone’s heart to the other, slowly and carefully as flowers open in spring, unfolding through the gentle touch of small, delicate hands only. But enough for me, the rest is to Cummings –

 

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and

my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility:whose texture

compels me with the colour of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

See you next entry,

Hungerness