Woman’s body

Printable PDF version (in Italian)

The girl slowly entered the emergency room and approached a nurse cleaning up a gurney. She stared at him for a few seconds without expression, like a drug addict on the threshold of an overdose.

“Do you need anything?” the paramedic asked her distractedly.

No sound. The air was impregnated with disinfectant as if someone had wanted to sterilize even the thoughts that kept floating around without finding peace.

The girl was motionless, caught inside a mirror about to be shattered into a million pieces. She trembled slightly, but her lips remained tight, unable to accompany any words.

Faced with that wall of silence, the man begrudgingly stopped his work and decided to ask her more firmly if she was feeling well. She, exhausted as if carrying the load of a mule, after lowering her eyes, answered him with one word: “Rape.”

Upon hearing that terse statement, the nurse whitened like the suit he was wearing. She did not answer but pointed to a bench where there was a vacant seat and ran off down a corridor covered with greenish tiles.

Close-up of a woman's face hidden behind a veil

Once seated, relieved of that first task, the still unnamed young woman began to look around: next to her was an elderly lady leaning forward like a table lamp. He held a purse and an envelope full of reports in his hands. Occasionally, her head would sway up and down as if nodding to an imaginary dispenser of good and evil who, standing in front of her, would tell her fortune.

Further to the left, almost abutting the front door, stood two boys with faces contracted in pain. Their hair was spiked with gel, and they were wearing worn jeans and torn T-shirts on both sides. They cried like babies.

Besides the two wounded men, trivially unable to identify with the part, two young girls tried to comfort them by massaging their aching arms. Their large, almost childlike eyes and those awkward, distant gestures made them look as feeble and evanescent as old cartoon characters. Up ahead, however, with grim looks and a nervousness seeping from every movement, the parents of the two, with tired faces, cursed silently as they waited their turn.

Other people in the distant pews emitted soft moans of distress and turned to seek the comfort of relatives. Only she continued to remain silent without understanding the real reason.

The emergency room suddenly appeared to her as the final place of reckoning, far more pregnant and unappealable than the Last Judgment. The bums, the losers, all those who had not been able to endure the pain outside those walls, inevitably found themselves there, sitting like customers in a seedy brothel, waiting for grace to exchange, always in surplus, some of their courage for the return of a fragment of health.

As soon as she realized these sad considerations, she suddenly noticed that she was being watched by many of the patients, “In hell, it’s immoral to hold back one’s screams,” she thought as she lowered her gaze in shame, “Maybe I should scream, but I’m not capable of it. I don’t remember ever being able to.”

The indistinct murmur of voices drowned out all other thoughts into oblivion, and the regular shape of the tiles caught his attention like a piece of jewelry displayed in a fancy showcase.

After a few minutes, the nurse returned in the company of a young doctor and a police inspector, his shirt sticking out of the waistband of his pants.

“Come with us, young lady, please,” the latter told her, taking her gently under his arm. His breath was impregnated with garlic and cheap tobacco.

They entered a small clinic with a crib and a few other pieces of furniture. A battered curtain in front of the window gave a glimpse of the street; the girl stared at it and thought of her white body in the dimness of her room.

Outside, right next to a tree splitting the asphalt with its roots, a group of porters pulled a stretcher out of an ambulance. He was a middle-aged man holding his head with a bandaged hand, poorly concealing a grimace of pain muffled only by distance: once again, she alone was the one to conceal the strange object of his suffering.

“What is your name?” the doctor asked her.

“Marzia.”

“Marzia-and then what?”

“Fornari.”

“Well, Marzia, just now, you told the nurse something dire,” the woman continued, “You will understand that the inspector’s presence was necessary to ensure immediate action.”

“Sure.”

“So you confirm that you were sexually assaulted?”

“I’ve already said that,” he replied, wandering with his eyes in that very aseptic toilet.

“We would need to know some details,” the policeman intervened, “I realize that this may be distressing, but you will understand that it is essential to stop the culprit immediately.”

Silence. Only the rustling of scrubs and labored breathing could be heard.

“Can’t you make an effort?” the doctor asked her.

“There is no effort to be made … I have already said that.”

The inspector began to lose patience: “Miss, I understand how unpleasant it can be to remember certain events, but the effort is just necessary. Did you know your attacker?”

“Little.”

“Were you having an affair?”

“Maybe…Who knows…But now I’m not sure.”

The nurse tapped his temple with his index finger to let others know that the girl was out of her mind.

“All right,” cut the doctor short, “Before we continue with questions, I think it’s best to examine thoroughly.” Then, turning to the two men, he added, “Can you have the courtesy to leave us alone?”

“Sure, sure,” mumbled the inspector, taking the nurse by the arm, “Let’s go get coffee. We’ll wait for your response out here.”

Left alone in the outpatient clinic, the doctor asked Marzia to undress and lie in the crib.

“That tent is broken,” whispered the girl as she lay down.

The doctor looked at the window, “Yes, it’s broken… But no one will see you here. You can be sure of that.”

“But I saw outside just now,” retorted Marzia.

“All right. I’ll move the screen to hide the crib if you’re afraid of being noticed. Are you more comfortable that way?”

“Yes.”

The girl slipped off her briefs and spread her legs apart as if she were about to give birth. The doctor, donning a pair of fine gloves, began to grope her and observe her closely.

“Are you sure the screen buys everything?”

“Yes, take it easy,” replied the woman without looking up.

“I feel watched,” murmured Marzia, tightening her legs slightly.

“The only person watching you is me, a doctor. Relax, close your eyes, and don’t think about anything.”

He obeyed. He tightened his eyelids and took refuge in the darkness.

His grandmother also advised him whenever his family members quarreled. Thus, day by day, she had slowly come to understand that a world without eyes to square it and ears to hear it disappears as enchantingly as if it had never existed.

He even lost his dignity as an object since no individual would ever target him in his speeches: he was nothingness, that undefined emptiness whose front door is known without ever being able to cross it even to take a peek. Marzia had always been both attracted and frightened by it.

It was a closet where she stacked up all the old photos laden with suffering, but it was also the complement to the only world she knew. Relegating every remnant of her existence there meant finding herself alone, next to houses, roads, cars, and trees, but deprived of the gift of looking into the eyes of those who perhaps could have done the same for her.

Thus, between an aunt’s shrieking and her father’s improperly, Marzia, fearful of being trapped, would wake up, observe the shattering of her reality around her, and then return to her darkness like a beggar still hungry.

The doctor swabbed the inside of her vagina, “Do I hurt you?” he asked her.

“No, I don’t feel anything,” replied the girl, keeping her eyes closed.

“Good. We’re almost finished. But, if it doesn’t cause you too much discomfort and if you remember, can you tell me if the man who raped you used a condom?”

Marzia remained silent, and the gynecologist interpreted that attitude as an affirmative response.

The question had scattered panic in the young woman’s mind, “No…” she thought by reviving in her memory the bizarre scene of a school play, “Or maybe so…” but she said nothing.

The inspector knocked on the door as the doctor removed her gloves and invited her to get dressed.

“Just a moment!” exclaimed the doctor, hurrying to close all the test tubes. The confused muttering was heard outside as if the only real formality of the whole thing was the gynecological examination.

“Marzia, can I ask you something?” he suddenly said as he slipped out his gown.

The girl turned sharply, “What do you mean?” she objected, “I don’t understand…”

“Be calm,” the doctor reassured her, “I just need to understand.”

“Sure, sure,” whispered Marzia.

“Well,” began the woman as she sat down right in front of the girl’s pale face, “When you talked about rape, were you clear about what you meant?”

Marzia squinted her eyes, “I don’t… I don’t understand…”

“Yet the question is obvious and simple.”

The two women stared at each other in silence, and for a few seconds, the story stopped, allowing itself to be subjugated by the tongue to give itself to the pure gaze.

“Don’t let him in,” murmured Marzia, “Don’t let him in, doctor. That man looks so much like my father…”

The gynecologist smiled at her, stood up, walked out of the room, and closed the door behind her. After a few moments, he returned, “You can rest assured, Marzia. I told the inspector that I administered a mild sedative, but I cannot let you leave without his consent.”

“I guess.”

“That doesn’t matter,” the woman interrupted, “I would rather know what happened to you instead.”

Marzia wandered her eyes over the few pieces of furniture in the room until she saw herself reflected in a small cabinet with glass doors. He was afraid. Her body observed her from the depths of an alien consciousness.

“A rape,” he whispered, squeezing his legs together until his knees joined.

“A rape,” the doctor echoed her, “You’ve already said that, but before that moment what happened … really.” He uttered the last word like a breath, letting it wander free in the dry air of the surgery. Marzia noticed immediately and raised her pale face, widening her brown eyes.

“You don’t believe me, do you?

“Of course, I believe you. That’s why I would like to know from you how the events unfolded.”

“That man looks just like my father,” he continued as if he had not heard the woman’s words, “I have already said everything. I don’t want to say anymore! Please send him away!”

“Be calm! The inspector has already returned to his post. He’s a good man. I know him well. Maybe he’s a little cranky, but that’s his job. You can rest assured: he only desires your good.”

“He’s like my father,” repeated the girl, “Send him away.”

“Don’t you get along well with your father?” the gynecologist asked, pretending she didn’t want to heed that monotonous repetition.

Marzia’s father, quarreling with all his close relatives, had married a much younger woman 20 years earlier who, however, soon after giving birth to the child, began to show symptoms of a severe illness.

He died after less than a year, leaving the nearly elderly man and the still-unconscious little girl in a state of irreparable confusion. The husband felt cheated by the failure of that partnership far more than by betrayal because, in the latter case, he could have used all his influence to try to fight fate again, while being faced with his wife’s grayish corpse was a mockery he could not swallow.

In the hospital mortuary, he had observed her always remaining seated near the door so that between him and his young consort were two coffins of as many strangers. He had neither cried nor felt any pain: he was angry, and the fog enveloped his thoughts and made his feet tiny on the planet where he rested his feet.

Everything else was secondary, incidental, and even distasteful. The flowers, the candles, the friezes on the coffins, the people who gathered around the catafalques to mourn discreetly, every tiny detail of that place was just another attempt to distract from the fraud that this man had, now irreparably, suffered.

With little Marzia, however, the relationship had always been quiet, constricted within the monotonous binaries of everyday life, but at the same time, over-formalized and erected on a separation decidedly deeper than any generation gap.

“I’m not pining for my blood,” he repeated to the few friends who kept listening to him, “I have enough inside my veins- I don’t need any more!”

The child did not understand the true meaning of those sad words because they, beyond interpretation, were based on the nonsense of unacceptable loss. It is true that Marzia already possessed her mother’s features as a child, but her eyes were dramatically different: they looked more like Japanese ponds, clear-mottled but little more than a hand deep. What flame of insatiable desire could, therefore, lurk within them?

On the contrary, his mother, whom he had only really discovered through photographs, was an accomplished woman. This being had transcended her femininity to reach that sublime harem where the perfect and unattainable complements of statuesque masculinity reign.

His perennially enigmatic gaze, always a bit melancholy even in the most carefree moments, and, above all, his dark, intense eyes, capable of taking in all the explosive force that the mere image awakened in his lover, had been the causes that had certainly prompted Marzia’s father to break all ties with the past and begin his life anew.

The man had allowed himself to be dug inside with a giant silver spoon, and each time that woman’s magnetic force uprooted a fragment of himself, he enjoyed it as if at the climax of a very long intercourse. He only needed to caress, kiss, or observe her in silence to feel that emptiness fill up like a dam. When they finally made love, his heart would go crazy to the point of almost suspending the beat so as not to interrupt that magical and inalienable conjunction of desire and enjoyment.

“Do you think your father does not understand what happened to you?” the doctor continued to ask.

Marzia burst into hysterical laughter, “And how could she?”

From time to time, the man would tell her about his mother, but not as a parent does typically with a child; instead, he kept extolling her irreplaceability, the inexcusable error of her illness, and, above all, the profound emptiness that her fascination had created in him without then being able to complete that work as extraordinary as it was painful.

Marzia listened in silence. Sometimes, she understood; sometimes, she did not. Still, she was sure of one thing: her mother had been a wonderful woman, while she, insulting and unable even to understand her impediment, could never blame the man who tried to reshape reality in vain.

One day, when Marzia was 12 years old, after yet another flight of fancy by her father, with the naturalness of a young girl, she put on a silk sweater and necklace that belonged to the woman and entered the living room laughing and exclaiming loudly, “Here I am!”

The father initially looked at her in a distracted way, then turned red-faced, squinted his eyes, and pounced on his daughter, shouting, “You damned whore! How could you betray me like this? How? Tell me!”

Immediately afterward, he was paralyzed and let himself fall onto the couch. Marzia was trembling. She longed to cry, but her tears had dried up. He ran away, removed his shirt and necklace, and locked himself in his room.

When it was time for dinner, he slowly entered the kitchen and saw his father, wearing a chef’s apron, intent on cooking. Without making a sound, he took his seat and waited. After the courses were put on the table, the man, still transfixed, looked at her like the plate before him and asked, “Did you put all that stuff away?”

Marzia nodded without a word. After downing a glass of water, the parent, satisfied with the result, turned on the TV set and was inundated with the coarse jokes of a TV show.

“He is still your father,” exclaimed the doctor, “Are you so sure that his love for you does not allow him to understand your discomfort?”

The young woman turned her gaze back to the door of the outpatient clinic.

“It’s closed!whispered the woman,Take it easy. The inspector is not coming!”

“All right,” replied Marzia, “That man is just such and such.”

The gynecologist frowned, “But can you at least tell me why?”

“He looked at my breasts. And then my legs, my butt. I could feel his hands on my body.”

“It’s a bad impression,” said the woman, “But it didn’t seem to me that the inspector was looking at you that way.

“Not to her, of course.”

“But your father — yeah, I mean, does your father look at you like that?”

Marzia burst out laughing again, “Maybe…” she said suddenly, turning her smile into a cry. “Certainly not in the way you think… My father doesn’t look at me at all. My father looks at my body and even grimaces in disgust at the end.”

The doctor began to stop following his reasoning. He got up, opened the window, and took a breath of air. Then, transgressing all regulations, he pulled out the pack of cigarettes and started smoking.

“I must be frank,” she exclaimed more aggressively, “Of one thing I am more than certain, Marzia. That is, your father certainly did not rape you.”

He stopped short like a perfect automatic mechanism and glared at the young woman.

“You have misunderstood. I never said that…”

The doctor interrupted her abruptly, “I am convinced that your father did not rape you–and do you know why? Because no one has ever raped you!”

Marzia remained impassive. Without asking anything, he took a cigarette from the packet resting on the coffee table and began to smoke. Surrounding her was only white furniture, a crib, a battered tent, and little more.

“Yeah,” he replied, “My father always tells me I’m clumsy.”

“You don’t seem clumsy at all!” exclaimed the gynecologist, “But you certainly are a liar! You joked about something severe, and you can bet the inspector won’t be so condescending next time!”

“Are you telling me that you convinced him to return to his guard post because I am a liar?” asked Marzia, her eyes wide.

The doctor ran a hand over her forehead and sketched a sarcastic smile, “Would you perhaps have preferred to be charged with a simulated crime? Or, at best, to be taken for a nutcase to be locked up?”

“No,” replied the girl with an expressionless edge, “Definitely not.”

After finishing his cigarette, he put his sweater and coat back on, grabbed his purse, and, without making a sound, went out into the hallway. There was no one there. He returned to the emergency room entrance and saw the same masks different actors wore again. Many cried or showed obvious grimaces of pain. She did not, and she could not explain why.

She went out into the street in silence just as she had entered. No one was watching her anymore. He strolled through the trees that isolated the hospital from the rest of the city and suddenly found himself thinking back to that day. She looked on the ground, then in the bushes, but the wind hit her full in the face, causing her to raise her head like a soldier at attention. When she felt like crying, she realized that something far more substantial was dominating her, and she let herself fall on a bench, feeling that fatigue was taking hold of her like an insatiable lover.

He had been working for two years in a small textile factory in the area, the only one that had weathered the crisis by maintaining an almost entire workforce. She did not like that employment and found it boring, but she had not found anything more fulfilling, although, as she often used to repeat, she had not put much effort into a more fruitful pursuit.

Her father, for his part, had not done much to help her: he considered her inadequate for any task, and even the idea of that job had made him laugh like a drunk, repeating that she would be better off staying at home. But on the other hand, he had not felt like imposing his will on a young woman who was “blood of a traitorous blood,” and when she had dressed up to show up for her first day of work, he had kissed her on the forehead and wished her good luck.

Unlike usual, she had woken up very late that morning, and her father had already left without caring for her. After getting out of bed, she rushed to the bathroom, put on the few clothes at hand, and came running out.

The bus stop was not very far away, and it was possible to spot vehicles even in the distance, so she slowed her pace and realized, for the first time, that she had disconnected her alarm clock in her sleep, perhaps unconsciously hoping that the man would force her to wake up to call her to order.

Few people were in front of the bus pallet; most of those he met every morning had already left. She looked at her watch: perhaps, with luck, she would be able to arrive before the canonical start of activities.

He began pacing up and down, observing vehicles’ faded outlines entering the driveway. He counted dozens of cars, but no buses appeared on the horizon. Time passed, and his hopes grew thin: “I’ll be late … for the first time,” he thought, feeling a mixture of fear and shame.

Immediately afterward, he added, “But after all, there’s nothing wrong with that…” as if a contradiction was occurring between two parts of himself, “It can happen. I can always say I had an illness. What will they be able to do to me? At most, they will ask me to be more punctual — as always, after all.”

As he reflected, a bus took the road and reached the bus stop. Marzia carelessly read the number 281. She was supposed to take 776, which was going in the opposite direction. She stood motionless as if her father’s icy hand had rested on her shoulder; then, with an uncontrollable jerk, she jumped up and ran to the ticket machine.

He sat down in one of the many vacant seats and began to see the front door move faster and faster to his right and then disappear. She knew that that bus would take her to a place far away from where the company was located, but her every word seemed suspended: she could not justify to herself what she had done, and she felt aroused as if that instinctive gesture had aroused her hormones.

Rise. She observed herself reflected in the window and laughed at herself laughing. She did not care for the people watching her taking her for a fool;, catching sight of a few dumbfounded stares, she laughed even more faintly, and as she returned to staring at the glass mottled with a few drops, she noticed a tiny tear running down her cheek.

The bus stopped at the terminus in a suburban area of the city. All the passengers got off, and so did Marzia. The air was fresh, and even the noises seemed to have slumbered: only a few cars passed through the large square. Within moments, even the people traveling with her dispersed in all directions, leaving her alone in that concrete desert.

She took a few steps toward a large building that stood before her and had the impression that the place witnessed a strange form of raiding. The man had been there, had perhaps given birth to a social, civilized environment, but then, inexplicably, had decided to abandon every corner of it, letting the scattered buildings reluctantly become the bearers of his past.

“Where am I?” thought Marzia, “I don’t remember ever seeing this place.”

He noticed a bar sign in the distance and headed in that direction. He understood, yet could not make sense of, what he was doing, but each moment of that juncture seemed to have detached itself from the natural timeline to embark on its path. She was frightened, felt bored, and again in increasing panic. He did not wish to return but did not understand why he kept going.

“Where are they?” he repeated under his breath as he quickened his pace toward the bar.

Arriving in front of the entrance, to her unpleasant disappointment, she found that it was just a dingy little place with old ice cream posters hanging outside and a wooden counter full of cracks. However, there was no alternative: he went in anyway and sat at one of the two small tables that lined the wall.

Looking distracted and dreamy, an older man stared at her for a moment, perhaps incredulous to see a well-dressed young woman in his bar at that hour. Then, in a hoarse voice unaccustomed to dialogue, he asked her, “What do you want, Miss?”

“One coffee,” she replied, redeeming herself by realizing, once again, that she did not wish to drink coffee at all but that something in her had pushed her toward that impulsive response.

As the man brought her the cup, she noticed a good-looking young man sitting by the side of an old refrigerator, reading a crumpled newspaper. He observed it. He was tall, muscular, with pretty fine clothes, and an air clashed against every detail of the place.

“It will be the son,” he thought as he stirred the sugar, “Or perhaps a habitual braggart… Yet his features are so different from the master’s. No, it must certainly be someone who happened to be here, like me.

He continued to observe him persistently until the young man, feigning a natural gesture, turned his gaze toward the door and noticed Marzia sitting at the small table. The girl instinctively lowered her head but knew well that the place was too small to hide her discomfort. She regretted staring at him first and, to try to disguise her shame, pretended to immerse herself in her thoughts.

The young man, in contrast to her, breaking all hesitation and bringing her back to reality, did not limit himself to eye contact and, after studying her for a few moments, exclaimed, “I’ve never seen you around here. Or am I wrong?”

Marzia jerked and began to blush, “This is the first time. And, honestly, I don’t know how I got there.” Then he slightly resolved and lowered his eyes again to the empty cup.

In those few moments of distraction, the man left his corner and sat at the table beside hers. He stared at her, waiting for a sign, a word, and when she raised her face again, he could make out her regular features framed by an oval, perfectly balanced face. The blond hair tended to auburn, and the eyes flooded with a blue that harmonized with the green. That immaculate whiteness of the skin appeared to him like a counterpoint where two voices, one grave and the other acute, chased and played with each other, giving way to each other and taking it back with even more boldness. Marzia was undoubtedly beautiful, but just as was the case with her outward appearance, her soul, reflected in her indecisive movements, concealed two opposing forces: the first proud of the hardships she imposed, and the second, decidedly weaker, perpetually waiting to be set free, like a dog that spent its days tied to a post.

“Do you believe in fate?” the young man asked, sketching a smile.

Marzia hesitated, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it… However, I suppose not, although sometimes I’m not sure. So I should say I believe it! Oh God, what am I babbling about!”

The man burst out laughing, “Yeah. Maybe that’s what fate is all about. Everyone, sooner or later, comes up against it, but no one can say whether it exists or not.”

“Exactly,” Marzia echoed him.

He nodded as if that confirmation represented a significant milestone: “You know, I was flipping through a newspaper earlier, and for a few seconds, I had the impression that it was a summary of a great novel. A common thread appeared to me, uniting the most disparate news stories. I’m going to sound crazy, but I think it’s much easier to discover the plots of fate by looking at the past.”

“The past is already written,” observed Marzia.

“Yes, of course. But when we discover a line of connection in the past, don’t you think we should at least learn the basis of a rule that always applies? If we learn about certain elements today, shouldn’t we be certain that they will react by responding to laws similar to those that chemistry teaches? After all, the past confirms this for us.”

The man behind the counter observed both of them with a reluctant look. For him, past, present, and future were precisely the same: waking up at five in the morning, a half-empty club, little money, a distracted wife, and little more. What strange alchemy should have occurred in his life to subvert that rule? None. It was all too simple. No interconnections or hidden plots were needed: observe your wrinkles in the mirror and resign yourself.

Marzia, on the other hand, lulled by the young man’s voice and the strange truth that transpired from his ideas, seemed to become aroused and, after that brief exchange, realized that she was feeling warmer than usual. He took off his coat, but the feeling did not go away. She looked again at the man before her and suddenly realized she felt elated, as she had been on the bus an hour earlier.

But it was not about the pleasure of crossing paths with a good-looking person. Instead, it was a thrust from her lower abdomen up to her breasts and then beyond until it flooded her head and pirouetted on the nape of her neck. She thought such feelings were normal with one’s lover in intimate moments, but that young man had never seen her naked and had not even approached her. How, then, was that extraordinary sense of attraction possible? Also, is this really about attraction? Initially, she would have bet her entire salary on that statement, but after a few moments, she was no longer sure.

“Is he really pulling me to him, or am I rather hearing the joyful cries of a filling emptiness?” he thought as he passed his hand over his forehead several times.

“You still haven’t answered me,” his interlocutor abruptly intervened, breaking that deadly seductive spiral, “Oh, sorry, I meant you still haven’t told me what you’re doing around here.”

“I took the wrong bus,” she replied without thinking about what she was saying.

“Um, interesting. And where were you supposed to go? If I may say so, of course.”

Marzia smiled like a teenager, “To work. Across town,” and immediately burst out laughing as she had moments before. Her ghost was possessing her. He felt it well. Her arms, head, and chest: her whole body looked like a costume worn by a spacious invisible actor.

“But by now, they must be wondering why you are absent. Did you call to warn them?”

“No,” he exclaimed dryly, continuing to follow the Greek outline of that face with his eyes, “Maybe it’s meant to be as you said.”

The man furrowed his brow, “You shouldn’t joke about work these days. The newspaper speaks very clearly: this is now a country that can only train good emigrants!”

“But I’m not kidding at all!” she pressed, observing again the desolation of the large square where the bus had stopped. It was a mistake. They will understand. I will say tomorrow that I felt awful.”

For a few seconds, he was afraid again, “But of what?” he thought, “If I told my father that I lost my job, he would send down a glass of wine and shrug his shoulders and tell me that he was certain.”

No, the fear had another nature, far more hidden and insidious. In her company, she was not irreplaceable, but many gazes rested on her, and many colleagues talked to her with pleasure. Sometimes, they shared disagreements; other times, they shared their personal affairs, and during every chat, even the most trivial, Marzia felt invested with an extraordinary right. She smiled when there was rejoicing, grimaced upon learning of a wrong done to her, and, on many occasions, had collected the most intimate confidences of some of her colleagues who worked beside her. She did not much like listening to the parade of their sexual alterations, but that interest shown in her transformed her from a missed woman to a potential lover, counselor, and friend. This excited her enormously, almost like a child discovering the unknown for the first time or being addressed by someone older as an equal.

Therefore, that was the root cause of his fear. But then again, in the company of a young stranger in that seedy club, she felt good, even euphoric, and had little to envy about her days in the textile company. Indeed, if the comparison could not be evaded, the wave of heat that had permeated her moments earlier had been far more reckless than the most intriguing confessions. He smiled and felt at the edge of a dam about to overflow.

“I live right up here. Why don’t you come up to the house with me for a while?” ventured the young man, sure of a negative answer.

“Upstairs?” she replied, letting the smile find vent in that invitation, “Why not? Let me pay for the coffee. I don’t have anything to do today anyway.”

“Never mind. You’d better!” exclaimed the man, surprised at that naturalness. Then, turning to the bartender, he said, “Mattia, put it on my tab. We’ll settle everything in the morning.”

“Alright,” the old man grimly replied, “See you tomorrow…”

The doorway was right next to the entrance of the bar. The building was as dingy as the rest of the constructions, but the young man’s apartment looked pretty, even with attention to detail.

“We haven’t introduced ourselves yet,” she said as she turned toward the large living room window, “My name is Marzia. And you?”

“Paul,” he replied, dropping onto the couch.

The girl turned sharply, with a mocking smile painted on her face, “Do you know what fate is? I was thinking about it as we went up the stairs.”

Then, without waiting for an answer, he added, “I’ll show you. I am sure your novel will acquire a completely different meaning.”

In a series of gestures that seemed to be extracted from the stiffened movements of a statue, Marzia closed the curtain and began to undress. He threw his coat on a chair, took off his sweater, skirt, and shoes, and, in a few moments, was left with only his underwear. After that, she began to laugh as if she were drunk and pointed at Paul with a spirited look, “Do you see destiny?” she exclaimed, “Do you see it? Come on, tell me you see it! I’m sure of it-don’t lie!”

“I get it,” she added, pretending to be sad, “You need glasses,” without any delay, she dropped her bra and panties.

“Now, you can’t deny it. It’s so blatant!” she shouted, continuing to laugh and wiggle like a stripper, “Yet your eyes are glued on me. Have I bewitched you? Do you want to make love? Even here, on top of this carpet. Come on! Confess it!”

Paul ran a hand over his face but said nothing. In front of him was only a woman’s body ready to welcome his sex into her belly without any compunction, an anatomical prosthesis vibrating with mechanical passion. The girl at the bar, so elegant in her shyness, seemed to have dissolved like a snake changing its skin and leaving its lifeless vestiges among the blades of grass.

It seemed to him that he was seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus again, only unlike the painting, there was a woman in his living room who did not even attempt to cover her breasts and pubic triangle. That extraordinary goddess of love appeared so wispy and manifest that even the task of the nymph, who appears in the painting to be so diligent in giving a garment to the celestial fruit of a shell, was useless.

Marzia looked like the drunken Venus gone mad, a woman who had traded the last fragment of femininity to buy cheap liquor and plunge into a whirlpool of destruction. He felt disgusted, as if he had accidentally swallowed a rancid morsel.

“Are you a whore?” he suddenly asked her.

Marzia was petrified, and her face changed in appearance. He tried to speak, but even the last thread of voice seemed to have dissipated into the oblivion of that moment that had just passed. In front of him, like a spirit conjured up by an ancient ritual, appeared the massive figure of his father, sunk into the sofa and with his pants flap open. His bloodshot eyes followed the winding path of each vein that shone through under the pale skin, and his cleaver-heavy finger brushed against it, imitating the sinuous motion of a python. The pockmarked face was unrecognizable: he laughed and cried simultaneously but would not let her go. He owned it how one owns a table, a chair, an old discarded dress. She was his, but such red blood caused his hatred, and so, like a foul-smelling sack, he held her at a distance, humiliating her twice with the same act.

Woman in panic

“Sex object?” cried the old man, pointing at her with his index finger, “Oh no–can’t you see that I can’t even get an erection in front of you? Can’t you see that?” and lowered his finger to point to her pubis.

Marzia shuddered. She thought of the female colleagues telling her about their fantasies and tried to bring back the image of the young man she had met, “Paolo, Paolo,” she repeated, “Where the hell have you been hiding, Paolo?”

He failed several times as his body began to stiffen like that of a corpse.

With an immense effort, he opened his eyes wide and, faced with the young man’s mute expression, breathed a sigh of relief and said only, “I thought you understood that.”

Without any effort, she was reminded of her attempt to disguise herself in her deceased mother’s clothes, and she felt like crying. Then, subdued by shame, she ran into the next room with her underwear and skirt balled up.

For the second time that day, he did not realize why he had spoken so lightly those words, which were moreover false, and he was afraid. But she no longer felt that sense of bewilderment that had touched her in the bar. Now, the feeling was pure, icy terror: his whole body was dissolving to disappear into the shadows. With each passing second, it became more and more populated by something else, unknown but sadistically hegemonic. With trembling hands, she put her few clothes back on and returned distraught to the dimness of the living room.

“You don’t have to take it,” the man whispered as he saw her upset, “I don’t want you to leave. Let’s have a drink together. I would like that very much.”

Marzia did not respond. She had not even heard his words. With moist eyes, she searched for the silhouette of his father hidden behind the curtain or under the large table. She saw only the deep footprint of darkness.

“Is whiskey okay?” asked Paul, scrutinizing the uncertain outline of that now transfixed figure.

Silence. A fly buzzed, attracted by the cold light of a lamp.

“All right. Whiskey it is!” he exclaimed, pretending to interpret that muteness for tacit assent.

He went to the kitchen to prepare the glasses, but just as he finished filling the second one, he heard the dull sound of the door closing. In the living room, the curtain had been thrown wide open, and the fly kept bumping against the fogged glass in an attempt to get out.

Marzia arrived at the hospital entrance with the feeling of the man’s icy sex still inside her, like a blade now lying between her flesh. Attempting to remove it caused her excruciating pain, but keeping it inside her body was equivalent to continuing to vivify that horrendous feeling of being possessed by an invisible ogre, at whose call she would return to immolate herself without resistance.

His steps were unsteady, and he could not think straight: a thousand images overlapped like hungry beggars behind a charity counter; however, in every picture his mind could paint, the unattainable image of the woman who had bewitched his father was never missing. He saw her now close, then in the distance, then again amid an uproar of naked bodies, and then next to her, with an outstretched hand and a magnetic gaze.

He scrutinized its forms: they were at times joyful, but a moment later, the smile became a mocking grin, and the hand resting on its shoulder appeared gaunt, skeletal. The woman spoke to her, but behind her, an occult demon amused itself by imitating her verse, rendering all attempts at communication futile. She stopped beside a tree and closed her eyes, just as her grandmother had taught her. For a few moments, the image disappeared, and so did the voices. Darkness had closed the curtain of that macabre theater.

When he resumed his walk, it took him a few minutes to realize what he had had before him. Although transient in the city hubbub, that thwarted figure was none other than the woman guilty of irreparable wrong against her father: her mother, her most hidden essence, not her decayed and now unrecognizable body.

He stopped again right in front of the emergency room sign. Even visualizing her hips, thighs, breasts, forehead, and hair with fantastic clarity, Marzia could not look away from a hidden spot, barely visible in the half-light. An escape that catapulted all desire to a faraway place, where flesh appeared only a meaningless scrap. In that unreachable place, his father’s hoarse voice was now reduced to an indistinct wail, like the labored buzzing of a gnat seeking salvation on its way to death.

With her eyes glazed over and her heart pounding in her chest, Marzia threw her weight onto the handle and slowly made her way into the hospital.


Filed for legal guardianship with Patamu: certificate


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