Cheeky Face #1, Page 1Quelli di ZEd
“Cheeky Face” Series
Copyright © 2012
Cover Image provided by the author
My mother brought me to a shrink. Cool. Woody Allen’s film stuff. Too bad there was no bunk, just two chairs, even a bit uncomfortable I’d say. But we are in Rome, not in New York, and there’s no Brooklyn Bridge in the distance, or soft jazz in the background. Just a big grungy building in Trastevere, and the soundtrack of the noises coming from the flat next door. I guess they’re drilling the wall. The shrink smiles, embarrassed, and jokes a bit about it. I stand it politely, after all I am more embarrassed than her. The room window faces an inner courtyard. Other sounds in random order reach the study, from women's steps to voices in the distance. In short, it feels like home. If I had to choose some music for this scene, I’d pick something out-of-date, like Rolling Stones. Memories, sure. My father, when I was little, made me dance on Angie to put me to sleep. I didn’t have what you would call a traditional childhood, yeah, especially considering that my mother, instead, opted for Claudio Baglioni. So could I between them, with them, grow up to be a quiet person? And most of all, could those two, with such muddled and clashing musical tastes, really love each other? It’s all right, forget it, let’s go back to the study of the shrink. Overall, the room is to my liking. Nice posters on the walls, artistic black and white photos, and a bookshelf full of books that nobody has opened in years. How do I know? It’s evident. They have that look a bit like "look how cool I am", "I have it and you don’t", "I am the one who studies the mind and you are my sacrificial chicken". Freud, Jung and other names I don't know. All important tomes, bound in red. You feel that here knowledge has a value. They study and think. I am in a momentary apnoea, short of breath. I look around. Perhaps I am a bit out of place. I have another story on my face, I have a I’m-a-rebel-leave-me-alone look.
What do you say? Why must I go to the shrink? Well, you’d never believe it. My mother thinks that I asked her for this. Not with words, mind you, with deeds. She, my mother, not the shrink, is full of paranoia. To say but one thing, she doesn't want to buy me a moped, and not even a car. She says that she trusts me, but not others, and she keeps lecturing me because I am absent-minded. It’s true that, every now and then, I call her and ask her to pick me up from some place, because I’m tired, because I took a wrong turn, because I need to be cuddled and to feel that she’s there, always available for me... but come on!. It’s just because I have no means to go around, and I also hate buses. It takes them ages to get from here to there, and there’s a wicked stench inside. People who take them don’t wash much, believe me. However, in vey truth, my mother is a sissy. She is convinced that I would take some road the wrong way and end up stone dead along the road. She suffers of the I-read-too-many-newspapers syndrome, or the I-watch-too-many-newscast one, which is the same. She sees catastrophes everywhere. She’s so boring. Not to mention what happened after that thing in Brindisi, with that poor little girl dead. She brought me to school herself for two days like a woman possessed. I told her that it’s not something that happens every day. And if we really want to insist, those who died in Emilia, in the earthquake, were at home or working, for instance. Accidents happen when you least expect them, and only if it’s written in your destiny, don't you think? She thinks this is a different story. She doesn’t know what fatalism is. In life you need prudence, she repeats, as if she were an ancient philosopher. Maybe it’s because she’s a doctor and she works in the ER, but she’s really crazed! A scrawny torment, I’d say. She’s so thin she’s scary. Since she split up with my father, it must be almost a year by now, she has lost some more weight. If she goes on like that, I will have to force-feed her. When she comes back home she always has tired eyes and the look of someone who saw hell and the purgatory at once, and she hugs me as if it were the last time. You need guts to keep up with her. However, don’t you think that that woman is tender. On the contrary, she is a wood plank, hard like an oak. A general. Since my father left, she became even more stubborn. A mule. And she closed in on me like a stalker. So I decided, I started a strike. Or better I’ve been on strike for a couple of weeks. I stopped studying, which is useless anyway, since all the people I know, those who graduated from high school or university in the last years, are unemployed or occasional workers. They even hold demonstrations to ask for a future... So what should I work hard for? Better to be beautiful than studious, maybe somehow you even reach a turning point. Therefore, now I also want to stop eating. At least I will finally grow thinner, and maybe I become so cool that I’ll win someone over, a very rich someone, and settle down. I’m not telling my mother, otherwise she would howl and say that she did everything wrong with me in her life. She’s always lecturing that in life what counts is studying and working hard to establish yourself. "And you, as a woman, must give twice than a man", this is her motto, her perennial lesson for me. Old upset feminist that she is. I don't even answer her. I have other plans. Establish myself in the sentimental field, for instance, considering that right now the boys who like me can be counted without an abacus. Zero. Maybe less than zero. And therefore I don't want to go to school anymore, and I don’t even want to eat. I want to lay on my bed and look at the ceiling, until I get bored. Word of Julia, that would be me by the way, a tough fifteen-year-old girl from Trastevere.
We were talking about the shrink. Everything started with her. Where my mother found such a cool one I don't know, neither I know how she could convince me to follow her in this new madness, but – I must admit it – the shrink is nice. She always laughs and she winks while she looks at you. I don't believe she’s nearsighted, it seems to me that she does that to put you under a magnifying glass. She puts up a bit of an act too, but this is good to me. Because someone must well think about knowing what’s behind my cheeky face. Yeah, cheeky face. That’s what my father called me when I made some of my mischief. Every time. He used to tell me, "with that cheeky face of yours, you can go wherever you want", and I laughed and went back to be his little girl again. He knew how to treat me. He has always known that with me it takes some irony and imagination, because I have an attitude, but I wouldn't know how to live without sense of humour. That’s why I like Woody Allen, he makes everything light, even the saddest things. And anyway I don't want to think about my father now, ‘cause otherwise I feel like crying, and I want to laugh instead, and be tough. Like him, who hasn’t called or come to see me in three months. He abandoned me to my destiny. And he also stopped sending the check to my mother, who hit the ceiling and went to the lawyer again. That one’s not a pettifogger at all, he must be a billionaire with all the losers who turn to him for separation and divorce lawsuits. He keeps them at attention, delay the times and makes it so that they quarrel more and more. A complex character, I should speak to him myself, instead of my parents. I would put him in line. Instead, they keep me out of the games. According to them I should be the sleeping beauty forever. But they are deluding themselves, I know everything that happens because I have a very keen hearing. I am a cheap brand of secret agent, and when mom vents on the phone with aunt Patrizia, I crouch behind the door and I listen to everything she says. Aunt Patrizia, mom’s sister, is someone who helps you fall even if she doesn't want to. She knows exactly how to make things bigger and how to take candies from a baby. In my family she is considered "the social climber", the one without scruples. She never married, she spends half of her time taking care of her physique and the other half bringing people to parties, in pubs, pr
etending to be very, very available. But she just makes them give her money and she swindles them all. After all, she always hated my father, because he made “a lady” of my mother and never considered her at all. The worst possible offense for one like Patty, who instead wants to be considered the most beautiful, the focus of attention, and if someone doesn't look at her... the sky falls down – she makes up a lot of lies to take revenge. I can't stand her, but mom loves her and always seeks advice from her. Because my mother is good and daft, besides being a wood plank. She’s a chocolate, but don't you tell anyone, or she’ll never speak to me again.
The shrink held our first session as if we were a young couple about to split up. At following ones, she said, I will be there alone. This way I can let steam off and talk freely. For a start, instead, a lot of questions to know about my family history. She called it like that. About me, when I was born, my grandparents, my father, school. She was very interested in everything, she even jolted some things down on a big white