Eros and Tano, Page 1Quelli di ZEd
Eros and Tano
Translation from Italian to English by
Carmelo Massimo Tidona
for Zed Lab
Eros and Tano
Copyright © 2013
Cover Image: Shutterstock.com
Any similarities to actual places, events or people would be embarrassing to say the least!
At the bar.
"... How I would like to die? Screwing, of course. It’s the most beautiful death there is..."
I think that sooner or later it happened almost to everyone, going into a bar, to accidentally steal such a declaration in the voice of the drunk of the day, just as I did in that sultry, oppressive afternoon.
Yet, people talking about these things are unmistakably alive. A little tipsy, maybe, but alive. And, above all, firmly convinced of what they are saying, even if it is natural to wonder if they ever had such experience.
To me, it happened at least twenty times...
It all started a long time ago.
I was a kid, stoned like everyone at that age. I was going back home by bicycle from somewhere, I don’t remember anymore. Having to turn right at the end of Via Vai, I decided to take the corner bending on a side like a true motorcycle rider, of those you seen in Grand Prix. Smooth tires, a bit of gravel on the asphalt, patapum.
When I opened my eyes, it seemed to me that the world had suddenly shrunk to the point that I could only see a slice of it above me. An indistinct background, perhaps a ceiling, much higher than normal.
The bed in which I had been laid was uncomfortable. Hard and narrow. Especially narrow, with those hateful lateral headboards used in hospitals to prevent patients from falling, and the fact that they had been padded with white velvet did not make them less oppressive.
The buzz I heard once I recovered from the initial confusion turned out to be a chorus of moaning voices and muffled sobs. I sat up to be able to see beyond those annoying edges, and understand what kind of hospital I had been taken to after falling off my bike. I mean, I know those are places where people go when they are ill, but moaning that way for sure doesn’t help healing...
"Oh my God!"
"Good heavens, he's alive!"
"A miracle! A Miracle!"
"Tano! My beautiful Tanuccio, I was already crying for your death!"
That one was my mother, screaming in a voice so penetrating that it overpowered the pandemonium that had been unleashed when I had peered out of the coffin in the middle of the funeral.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My name is Gaetano.
"Tano" for my friends.
"Here," the learned doctor declaimed, impressive in his impeccable white coat.
"As a result of the scrofondanian trauma with firopondatonesiritornicadic", he added, "the rescostroncoidalprystil made it so that the gulendronicacipillorial inserted itself into a dropponielloveruntic..."
While he was speaking he slipped, with the gestures of a true expert, a series of radiographs in that kind of interlock placed along the upper edge of those fantastic backlit shelves which constitute an inevitable element in every orthopaedic clinic. I always wanted to have one too, even if then I wouldn’t exactly have known what to do with it.
My parents were staring at him with wide eyes, remembering to blink every now and then. When he casually nodded, they smiled, but if he made any sign of denial, both became visibly saddened, and sometimes my mother let a few small tears slip.
But I didn’t let him fool me. I was already old and cunning enough to know a little about life. Since the beginning of that school year, my friends and I had begun playing at the supercazzola, that thing when one comes while you're distracted and shouts straight at you: "AndIhopehopeyouthisevening?"
Aware of the game the old sleazebag was playing, I heroically resisted the temptation to give in, to let myself be fooled by such a simple trick, which acquired some charm only because it was being served to me by that caryatid, whose appearance was even more authoritative than that of my school teachers who, to tell the truth, I had never found so authoritative anyway.
It was my dad the one who fell for it.
“Uh?” he said.
"Prrrrrr," I promptly punished him.
The slap that arrived unexpectedly almost sent me straight back to the ICU, so much so that the prestigious doctor felt compelled to point out that it was better to take it easy, since I was still recovering.
"For today you get away with it, but as soon as you’re healed I’ll deal with you", my father growled, and I knew that, about this subject, a promise was a promise for him.
The scholar took up his explanation from where it had been interrupted. My parents understood of it as much as before, that is nothing, but at least they could ascribe that to my untimely intrusion.
In the days that followed, all of my relatives took turns visiting our house, each eager to understand what had happened. My dad showed them the same X-rays, scattering them more or less at random on the kitchen table, he took the same posture he had seen the famous scholar flaunting, inflated his lungs for a moment, then uttered: "As a result of the scrofondanian trauma with firopondatonesiritornicadic the rescostroncoidalprystil made it so that the gulendronicacipillorial..."
Those who heard him understood more or less as much as he did, but as far as I know they never complained. They left, apparently satisfied, and after a few days the matter was set aside.
"Life goes on", was the comment of my aunt Assunta, the half-deaf one.
"Life restarts", would have been more appropriate to say, but no one seemed to give weight to that hint.
I had been pronounced dead by the coroner, had remained lifeless for almost three days and then returned to the world in the middle of my own funeral. Everyone seemed to think that the matter ended there.
They were wrong.
What are the chances that a boy and a girl end up for a dozen years in a row in the same class and the same desk? Few, very few.
In elementary school, it was certainly a coincidence. The teacher put us at the same desk because he had assigned places in alphabetical order, and since my last name is "Rossi" and hers is "Rosselli"... chance, then. But when two children are close to one another every day for hours and hours without a fight, never causing the slightest problem to the teacher, cooperating voluntarily in the study and thus achieving excellent results at school, well, then perhaps there is also a little bit of predestination.
Middle school, on the opposite side of the street, about twenty yards apart. It was teachers and parents who hoped that we were assigned to the same section, as we were already well tight-knit. The professors happy to have in their class two diligent and disciplined pupils, the mothers who maybe, in secret, were already enjoying the sweet pleasure of recommending wedding trousseau.
High school... eh, what to say? It’s not like I cared at all about going to teacher training school, and I already knew that I would have to put up with the gang of the wall, who would call me a sissy every time they saw me walking that road. But Fiorella went to that school, and I would have followed her even to hell.
Fiorella and our afternoons spent studying together in her room full of plush toys.
Fiorella and her delighted laughter when we cr
eated unlikely imaginary worlds from the synergy of her dolls and my toy soldiers.
Fiorella and the first kiss, the only real kiss, the one tasting like flesh, saliva and mints and, come to think of it, also a bit disgusting.
She was all this for me, she was much more than this. I think I was one of the few teenagers not to be obsessed with erotic fantasies. For me, the feminine universe was something tangible, concrete, and perfectly understandable, permanently present at my side in her person, whose desires and whose curiosity about the opposite sex evolved along with mine.
There was never a lie between us, a moment of embarrassment, one of the two who took the first step or braked. Simply, one day we decided together to do that thing about which our classmates talked so much. A trip of her parents, she staying home under the excuse of a sudden headache, her bedroom and an afternoon all for us. I was fifteen, she a few months older than me.
What can I say? What can you say about such an experience? Everything and nothing. A set of unique emotions, to be fully enjoyed. Or at least while they last, because just at the climax...
A green meadow, a stream, trees, lots of trees. It looked like one of those landscapes that Fiorella loved so much to shoot since when, at Christmas, depleting my savings, I had bought her a mobile phone with a built-in webcam.
I sat up suddenly, surprised not to find her next to me. Where was I? But most of all, where was she?
I wandered in that unknown, pleasant place. Views, landscapes of a haunting beauty, suddenly paraded before me when I went around a boulder, climbed a hill or came out in a clearing. A world untouched, except for a thin trail of smoke that led me to a village, stone and slate gray huts placed on the shores of a deep and still lake.
There I was warmly welcomed by the people who lived there. They fed me and quenched my thirst, they gave me clothes woven by themselves, and their hospitality.
"This is the place that mortals call «Paradise»" the Sachem of the village, a comely matron with raven-black hair, explained me.
"I'm glad of the welcome you have given me, but my heart is in pain for my beloved Fiorella", I told her.
"If your destinies are woven, she will reach you, in time," she said.
"I'll wait," I said calmly.
Then something grabbed me, pulling me away.
Since I had already had an episode of apparent death, I had been kept under observation. It’s not like cases like mine happen every day. When I opened my eyes, a row of medicine practitioners loomed before me, led there on purpose by the head surgeon to witness my return to the world of the living. After a moment of hesitation, a thunderous applause. I stood there with a stupid expression on my face, while my mother indulged in falsely modest thanks, as if she had been the one to resurrect...
I was really surprised because Fiorella had not come to visit me at the hospital. As soon as I was discharged, I rushed to her house. I rang the bell and her mother answered.
"Wait there, I come down," she said, instead of letting me in as usual.
The door opened and I saw Mrs. Rosselli come out. She was a typical housewife. A somehow angry housewife, I daresay.
"How dare you come here again?" she started, so as not to leave any doubt about my first impression.
"Lady, look, we haven’t done anything wrong..." I tried to soothe her, suddenly realizing that usually mothers aren’t very happy with the fact that someone initiates their daughters to forbidden pleasures.
The slap she stuck to my face took me completely by surprise.
"You... do you have any idea of the conditions in which we found her when we got back home? Curled up in a corner, crying and shaking like a leaf. And you, lying on her bed, eyes wide open and tongue out... and your thing, there... it was still..." she suddenly fell silent, too disgusted to continue.
"Damn rigor mortis", I thought.
"Ma'am, let me talk to Fiorella, I am sure I’ll be able to calm her down."
"Talk to her? She had to be hospitalized. She’s in a hospital for crazy people, you understand?! She hasn’t been saying a word for days and days, they feed her with the drip and certainly she cannot have visitors!"
I left, what else could I do?
Two months later, after my repeated insistence, Fiorella's parents allowed me to go and see her. I was allowed to meet her in the presence of a psychologist. When she saw me she became as pale as a sheet, she started screaming and didn’t stop until I was carried away. I have not seen her since.
Later I learned that she was discharged, she started studying at a school far away, in the city where her parents moved. I was told this, after endless requests on my part, by one of our mutual friend with whom she kept contact, and from her I also learned.
I learned that Fiorella no longer collects plush toys, and at night she wakes up screaming.
I learned that Fiorella no longer laughs with delight like she did once, filled as she is with drugs.
I learned that Fiorella no longer thinks about life, love, kisses, and that she’s eating less and less every day
Perhaps she'll die, but not for two days like me.
"Finally, my dear little sheep. How could it be that I had to go and complain to your parents to see you here in the church?"
"Father Peppino, if you think that I am still willing to wear garters under the altar boy tunic..." I immediately covered my back.
"Come on, Tanuccio. Let the past behind, we're all sinners after all. Rather, is it possible that after what happened to you, you haven’t felt the need to come running to your spiritual advisor for a good confession?"
"Confession?" I said a little dazed, "why? Apparent death is a sin now?"
"Come on", he said, in that tone of benevolent and somehow exasperated patience that adults use toward whimsical children. "I talked to your parents. Do you want the new console with all those nice videogames or not?"
«Well, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have been here now», I thought.
"Come on, don’t waste my time. Sit down here. In the name of..."
He wanted to know word for word all that I had seen and heard during those two days of vacation from the world of the living. When I finished the story, he made me start over several times, insisting that I tried to remember every single detail. He finally absolved me.
"Why do you absolve me? What have I done?"
"Tanuccio, you're a good son, but you ask yourself too many questions. Doubts corrupt faith, don’t you know?"
"Who gives a damn?" I wanted to answer, but thinking about the gift that was waiting for me at home, I stopped in time.
"Now go, go in peace," he concluded.
I had the time to make a few steps before he called me back.
"Tanuccio, what you told me is protected by the secrecy of confession. You know that, right?" he reminded me in a much less benevolent tone.
"But, father Peppino, I wasn’t thinking you were going to spread it around!"
"God forbid... but I was talking about you. What you have said here, must remain here. Sure you don’t want to be excommunicated, do you? You know your parents would beat you to death."
I left, more confused than I had been before.
When I finally received the coveted console, I understood how Judas Iscariot must have felt when he pocketed the bag containing thirty pieces of silver.
Life goes on.
If for my childhood friend that experience represented an insurmountable trauma, it wasn’t a cakewalk for me either.
I skipped school for one year, then resumed it at another institution. For a long time I avoided as much as possible to make new friends, especially girls. And to think that I, modestly speaking, always had some charm on the fair sex. Maybe because I'm a tall boy, with a lean and well-proportioned physique, broad-shoulders, dark eyes and thoughtful look... who knows.
I had found out that, for reasons that I ignored completely, girls tended to attribute a set of entirely imaginary qu
alities to boys they felt attracted to. Therefore, since nature provided me with an athletic physique and well-defined muscles – and this despite the fact that never in my life I seriously practiced any sport – they considered me "brave". Since my face had attractive features, they thought I was "mature and kind." And my eyes, in which they tended to get a little lost, showing clear signs of regression to infancy, were the reason why they believed I was a person whose intelligence was far above average. Sometimes, by dint of hearing such more or less explicitly stated opinions, I almost believed them too.
Of course, I don’t consider myself evil, stupid or cowardly, it's just that I don’t think I possess the opposite qualities more than the average Joe. After all it’s easy to show courage in class fights when you are almost a foot taller, and proportionally stronger, than the rest of the boys, and a steady and disturbing gaze can help you recover half a vote more from a teacher during an oral exam. And for what concerns the relationship between beauty and goodness, it seems clear to me that everyone is more open to people who had such luck in fate, and when you're beautiful, it is easier to be good.
Drawn the necessary conclusions, rather than benefiting from the general feminine consensus for qualities I had no more than others did, I should on the contrary have been blamed because, although I had received from fate all the prerogatives to develop them to a level of excellence, I quietly sailed into mediocrity.
These conclusions could perhaps induce me to take little account of women's intelligence, if not for one small detail, that is that I, in turn, judged them exactly with the same standards they applied to me. Therefore it was not a typical error of women, but of the whole mankind.
However, between this and a thousand other similar reflections, which back then I considered to be the norm for every teenager – before I found out to my surprise that they were going to be the same in adult life – a bit at a time I started again to study, to cultivate friendships, to live.