Armed gang



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Translated by Emilia Maiella


A karst river of incandescent lava, here is my current state of mind. I am at the public park, walking with my mother's dog, and I observe the world running slowly around me with the slowness of a pachyderm.

Slightly blurred images depict couples with a three-wheeled sporty stroller, pushed with vigorous pride by the man; a child on the swing with youthful grandmothers who flirt on their cell phones, not giving a shit to the child’s tears; dejection of animals whose only fault is to be companions of uncivilized people; broken glasses; traces of vomit from no future teenagers lead to have so much fun to almost die.

When we were young, we did not even think about death, even if it was dancing around offering cigarettes; we thought our present was scaffolding on which we would have built a future, and yet, to be clear, rather than a scaffolding ours were like barricades from which we attacked and within which we blurred ourselves. We got lost, we lost, and that is what it was, in the end.



In this park, we came when we had to meet without giving too much attention and especially for fear of being heard: we were more terrified by the bugs than by the slugs because that type of insect, even if not attacking, killed anyway, even if in a different way. We were the ones who were wrong.

Lucilla joined the organization directly from the university and at first I thought she was a bug herself, because of her super-fast insertion that I considered reckless. I looked at her with scepticism, and that time was undoubtedly hard for her. I wanted to kill her, I confided my purpose to the others, but I would have made a mistake, I did not have, fortunately, the permission of the group. She served our same amount of years, has never spoken, although she almost always disagreed with us: this was the aspect that I did not accept and that made me ask a thousand questions about her. Who and what made her do the jump?

She would have been a letters teacher if she had not chosen illegality, after all, each of us would have had another life. Lucilla used to bore us with paradoxes and reflections that thinking about it, the only deep thing was her presumption. She argued that the synthesis of our existence lay (it lay, this indeed is an opportune predicate) in the first singular person between present and simple past tenses of the auxiliary verb being. Beautiful discovery, I thought, moreover, was a distorted thought because anyone can say "I am" but no one can say "I was", the dead do not speak, at most, they let others talk.


I look around me, now, here at the park, these blurred images seem so much a lazy flow of the river and they do not belong to me as they did not back then; in the same way, in a certain sense, my life did not belong to me even if those of the others was imputed to me. At sixty-one, I served all I had to. My father died of heart attack, a heartbreak, someone told me, they told me three months later because the news does not filter in isolation. My mother, well, my mother does not even take the dog for a walk.

It was three months ago that I saw Lucilla again. I was on the bus going to the Cain association, created by the Radical Party for the recovery of former political prisoners. Our meetings, during the trials, had been fleeting, just the time for the greetings. My anger had calmed down. She looked at me, however, always with a look that extremely annoyed me. I do not know why, one day I stopped to stare into her eyes. She said "I was right, w...". For a moment, I was irritated like the old times, I had heard her sentence well, but there was no longer any right now, there was only to wait for time to run its course.

I was saying, I was on the bus and I saw her at the bus stop. I was unprepared for the meeting and stayed where I was. In the next two or three days I could not see her. I saw her again the following week and I convinced myself to get off the bus. Freedom or semi-liberty lead you to loneliness, you do not have much space (or even much time) to make a new life, you have to be satisfied because what you already have is a lot, but for heaven's sake, this is not a complaint, just an observation. After all, today's state of mind is the same as in the times of trials: waiting for time to run its course. People know who you are and that you carry your burden, at the beginning I also felt uncomfortable to let a fake smile slip. After so many years behind the bars watching the sun in chess holes, when you know that most of the public opinion, not without reason, would want you dead, all this freedom is something that even scares.

I slowly got off the bus steps, she did not immediately notice me. Another bus stopped and almost everyone got in. We stood alone at the bus stop, except for two old ladies with their shopping bags. Lucilla turned and saw me. We looked at each other for a few minutes, without saying anything or hugging each other. Then she started to move, but without haste. She turned to look at me and I followed her. Walking we loosened up, we talked about this and that, what you do and with whom, I asked, today was her day off, coincidentally, and this reminded me to call the association to warn that I had some accident and that I would be late. His mother passed away the previous month, Lucilla informed me. We walked a bit to the historical centre, more or less in silence with the traffic on the background. An English-style bus, open upstairs, stopped at the traffic lights and the tourists on it waved at us. We laughed, almost incredulous of doing it and we returned the waving: Lucilla was moved (even if I avoided to point it out), as if for anything, even the most trivial, we had to be grateful. We kept on walking and then we stopped in front of the theatre poster under the porticoes to look at the spectacles’ programming. We arrived at an outdoor cafe and we sat down. I asked for a coffee with a splash and she for a simple espresso, they also brought us chocolates. We sat, mute, smoking and watching the coming and going. On the square, a mime improvised a show with a tape player that played movie soundtracks and he imitated the protagonists of the films. The most requested was Charlie Chaplin, the mime made a ridiculous version of it using a huge ball like that of the Great Dictator, which he had deflated sending it in all directions and then clumsily groping to grab it. Some kids looked at him, sitting on the ground with their mouths open.


Lucilla stood up, asking me to follow her, I'll show you where I work, she said, it’s near. She led me around the corner, where there was a conference room. I organize conferences, she said, next week there is "The discreet charm of the goods", if you have time and you want to come, you can find me here. She left and I watched her leave.

While sharing the silence, feeling the presence of the other was comforting, we still had the dry smell of gunpowder, of iron and fire, the moral and juridical responsibility of a country set on fire, the conviction of spreading, through the acts, the social redemption rather than the terror that left us isolated. If Lucilla, with her foresight, perceived all this already beck then at the time of the facts, I am not able to say it today, certainly it is still unclear, if it had been so, the reason of her submission to the armed fight, it is likely, perhaps, that she lived with the conscience of those who knew, in addition to what I listed, they were living in an unhealthy country, as the chronicle and the history have shown at a later time, and therefore, to feel legitimized to... make mistakes.

I am still here, at the park, walking with my mother's dog, among the waste of Easter Monday picnic, couples pushing a stroller, vomit of teenagers who want to die, and how they say, in fact, the slow flow. It was here that, during one of our meetings, they arrested part of the gang and I was one of them. Lucilla claimed to be right, but I was too. I failed to identify it, but there was a bug among us, even if now it does not make sense to revive the past and some things would have happened in any case, maybe in a different way. It is not about losing or turning the world upside down, our world or other’s: it is all about what we waste of those remains we did not care of.



Playing with the dog, I throw a flat ball that he earlier found in the trash. He brings it back to my feet like an keepsake. He looks at my fake throwing with his tongue out, he takes the bite, he goes back on his steps, barks scolding me, and then I make a long throw up to the soccer field where some guys do some goal shootings. Bobby would like to exchange his flat ball for the one they are playing with. The boys pass the ball with quick touches, scared by the enthusiasm of the dog. I tell them not to worry, Bobby certainly does not bite, he is a quiet and playful animal. I recall him, he comes back with the flat ball and his tongue out for the ride. He leaves the ball at my feet again and lies down to rest. I look at the sky, it will rain soon. I start walking back home, Bobby follows me with this ball in his teeth that really does not want to give up. It heavy starts to rain, the April rain characterizes the first days of spring. In front of us there is the canopy of a pub with wooden benches. I cross the road through long steps and I take a seat. So I order a red one. The speakers in the background play the blues song Happy birthday to you by BB King. I always liked the blues, during the school years I played a harmonica. I sip my beer, smoking and watching the rain go down. Bobby is at my feet still chewing the ball. Years have passed, only now I can understand what Lucilla meant with her paradoxical "I was right, we were wrong".

As I think about this, I realize I keep the rhythm of the song by slapping the side of the pub table, while the rain descends and beats in countertops, washing that initial river of incandescent lava. 




 © ENRICO MATTIOLI 2018




© Enrico Mattioli 2018