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Today I think I’m not going to work, Page 1

Quelli di ZEd


Enzo D’Andrea

  Today I think I’m not going to work

  Translation by Carmelo Massimo Tidona for

  Zed Lab

  www.quellidized.it

  TODAY I THINK I’M NOT GOING TO WORK

  Copyright © 2012 Zerounoundici Edizioni

  ISBN: 978-88-6578-252-1

  Cover Image: Shutterstock.com

  Today I think

  I’m not going to work

  Vroom... vroooom... a blue parallelepiped on four wheels is going to pull over to the side of the road. Finally this wreck has arrived. The smoke invades our side of the road, obscuring for a moment the already gray sidewalk on which we usually wait.

  An acrid smell fills the air, pungent, artificial and polluting in a healthy and strong way, like only old means of transport can be. Today the wreck broke every previous record. A delay of no less than ten minutes. To be added to the time we’ll lose at the free-call stops to which my fellow citizens have grown accustomed.

  This is the bus that every given day brings workers from Monvio, the charming town – not so much, if you look good, but it's a common saying by now – where I live, to the capital. Except on Sunday, the holiest day of all.

  The distance is not great, just fifteen kilometres. But we have to add at least another seven or eight, made in fits and starts in the middle of the chaotic traffic. And this until the last commuter gets off, in the mist of the cold winter morning, to reach his workplace.

  After having left the last human being who is on board, the driver – usually a moustached guy, with a crooked hat on his head, either too quiet or too nosy about all imaginable facts – drives along the stretch to the last station.

  Every given weekday, the same old story, whether it rains or it’s sunny. Not to mention when it snows. That is the start of a separate chapter, and the comedy never ends.

  The driver hasn’t yet opened the doors and already Mr. Buffò, upright janitor – are they still called so? – makes his way through the crowd, smiling right and left repeatedly, while imitating with his arms a skilled swimmer, and he materializes in front of the door. It opens, brushing – as it has been doing for years by now – the tip of his pointed nose, always imperceptibly out of the way, as if the owner always calculated the distance perfectly. I almost feel sorry for that poor door, seeing it so mocked by a nose seemingly helpless but still too out of reach.

  We get on. As usual, politely, I let young and not-so-young ladies, elderly and even some big boy go first, until I decide to lay the sole of my shoe on the running board, knowing that if I keep stalling I risk to remain standing.

  Luck would have it that I am able to find an empty double seat, so that I can sit on the inner side. I can’t stand sitting next to the window, especially in winter. Too cold, you see. This is the first reason why I stay away from windows.

  I make myself comfortable – even though these old-generation buses aren’t that comfortable at all. I lay my bag at my side and pull out of it the book I'm reading, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments" by David Foster Wallace. A book recommended to me by a friend. I find that the author’s writing is a bit strange, but as I go on reading I realize two things. The first is his great power of observation. The second is that, believe me, this Wallace writes like a God.

  Meanwhile other travellers sit down. The inside of the vehicle smells stale, musty, old. The window is fogged by a moist layer of condensation. That annoying veil not only blocks the view of the outside – and I could do without it, after all – but also annoyingly wets what you’re wearing, leaving on it an unpleasant smell of wet dust. It even dirties your hair if by chance, dozing off, you happen to rest your head against it. This is the second reason why, in winter, I stay away from windows.

  The glass is sprinkled with droplets that start to slip downwards, slowly at first, then increasingly faster. For a moment I am tempted to write on it one of those typical silly phrases, like when I was a kid. But then I think again and I give up.

  The bus starts, maybe even today we can make it to work.

  I try to immerse myself in my five-six-at-best pages of reading, when I realize that I can’t concentrate. I have the strange feeling that I forgot something important. The thought runs away in the blink of an eye, so I let the matter drop. It must be just a feeling. If it is really an important thing, I'll remember, sooner or later. After all, I peed, had breakfast and brushed my teeth as well. I got dressed, closed the gas, and the door... yes, I closed that too.

  I look around and watch faces and situations that daily, in the bus, are a part of my life, known and intimate because they are repetitive. But now I seem to look at everything with different eyes.

  There is, for example, in the seat row in front of mine, Miss Combelli. Well, you won’t believe it... I don’t know if it’s because of her or me, but for years now we have always been sitting in the same places – she in front and me behind – without the slightest intention of doing it on purpose.

  The only difference is that, while rarely anyone sits next to me – is my face disreputable? – next to her, on the contrary, there always happens to be someone. Or rather, it is she who always sits next to someone. Then, since she is quite, you know... stout, she always exerts a bit of physical-mechanical compression on the body of who is next to her. But this is not her main characteristic.

  The peculiar fact is that the lady in question is equipped with a disruptive gab. A deluge of chatter – often not making any sense – comes out of her mouth. Sometimes I believe even God regrets having equipped her with such accessory.

  The flow of words is continuous, epic, annihilating. So much so that the potential partner has very few opportunities to add to the conversation a yes, a uh, a really?, or a more common yeah, yeah. And, on top of that, she has another virtue: the high-pitched tone of her voice. Ms. Combelli’s tone is so shrill as to be unpleasant to most people. Add this to the fact that she speaks without worrying about doing it in a normal voice, and you’ll understand that, before she gets off at her stop, the whole bus knows what she ate the night before, what she watched on TV and even, I am a bit ashamed to say, how many times she went to delight her toilet. And all this merely using a tone that she must deem normal. Imagine if she were screaming. Even penguins at the South Pole would hear.

  Thank goodness she gets off at one of the first stops, once in the capital. So us poor survivors have time and opportunity to recover. I wouldn’t want to be gratuitously bad, but sometimes she is quite unbearable.

  Meanwhile, the bus runs along the road, hitting, one after the other, dips and bumps that I know by heart. You might be wondering why, since it is not me driving? It's simple: the driver – whoever he is – hits them all every day, not skipping a single one, so I memorized the location of each of them. In my opinion they do it on purpose. Guess they enjoy to keep us awake and alert!

  I turn to my side and I see, immersed in a sort of musical trance, Mr. Zuffi. He’s about fifty, with designer goggles and a thin moustache, distinct, stout but not too much, works for the rails. Eyes closed, dozing, he’s listening to music from an mp3 player with the earphones cords hanging on his soft belly, made lovely by the beautiful blue wool sweater handmade by his loving and devoted wife.

  I must admit that the dim inner lights of the vehicle and the mist of winter dawn facilitate stupor. I suppose that more than a traveller feels the sensation of still being in bed, under warm blankets.

  Suddenly, as if provided with a biological alarm clock, Mr. Zuffi wakes up, wrinkles his nose until it touches the moustache and starts waiting, trembling.

  I look ahead and the reason of the sudden awakeni
ng is immediately clear to me. We are approaching his stop.

  While the driver, after his call, begins to slow down and pull over, Mr. Zuffi grabs his handbag with one hand and puts it over his shoulder. With the other hand he takes his faithful bag and makes the first attempt to get up from his seat. Nothing to do, he falls back sitting. It seems that the bus, in slowing down, recoils on purpose to keep him there.

  He succeeds in giving himself the final push and catapults himself into the narrow aisle between the seats, rushing like a river in flood, and, as always, he hits someone with his bag. Who, holymackerel, happens to be me today.

  Hey!, is what I say spontaneously. I have, however, been taught that, in our simulated civil society, we need to be as tolerant and willing as possible to forgive our neighbour for any unpleasant incident that may occur.

  I adapt and try to smile. Only after having forced my face to take on a stupid expression I realize that the man hasn’t even noticed my presence, he hasn’t apologized and he’s already a few meters ahead. He’s stumbling in the narrow corridor, tossed to and fro by the movement of the bus that hasn’t yet stopped completely.

  As other people get off along with Mr. Zuffi, I see the silhouette of another of the characters whose movements and oddities I happen to see every day slipping