On that long winter night we planned our life together. We didnt need so much, just a job for him, a house to rent and some money, the money none of us had. So he went back to Italy, to work and save what we were looking for.
As for me, I did have a job, and a good one, a job I liked very much…I was a teacher and loved my pupils. I was with them when I got his phone call. He missed me, he said, loneliness was destroying him, it was difficult to save money and… Do you want to join me? I went frantic, thinking of my parents, my friends, my job, all my world, but his moving, tender voice was more important than everything else. Yes! I said…
Six months later, on a nice October night we took a ferry- boat and OFF! To Italy! We had dinner at the restaurant, we had a nice cabin and were so full of hopes. I was not serene, though. I couldnt breathe, the ceiling oppressed me but it wasnt better outside. An invisible hand was throwing over me tons of melancholy.
We took a train in Bari, a long journey, a terrible tiredness. He fell immediately asleep while I tried to answer a thousand questions. My journey was calm, different from the terrible journeys of so many people travelling hidden in trucks or onboard rubber dinghies, beaten, chased by the police, travelling with no hopes, no future. I, instead, was travelling with my husband
( well, we had married, yes, mainly because of our parents, we wanted to do it any way, in the future…) and all my dreams were vanishing, all the dreams of our life together, of our projects to realize, of our love… Now he was sleeping next to me, while travelling towards our home, the long desired home,
the home I would furnish and embellish as I wished to, with no interference by our parents. We would have a wonderful time together, we would spent all the night out a and nobody would be waiting for us awake and a bit worried. HE was what I missed, what made me complete, my better half! My better half was sleeping next to me and I felt bad, I felt very bad,
I wanted to shout: Stop!. Why stop? What was wrong? What made me cry so painfully? Everything was as I had planned it, as I had dreamt of, but something, unpredictable, was hurting me. He was NOT my better half, he and me were one half, while the other had been left behind, in the country of the apples, and I saw myself as a quarter of an apple marooned in the country of pears of which I knew nothing.
The journey was calm, stormy and after the tempest, the rainbow, the enlightenment. And then came for me the time to understand the meaning of the word foreigner. It was actually used every day, without knowing what it exactly meant. For the first time but not the last time I felt I was a foreigner. As when I couldnt name the tools I used and But…you dont have anything down there?! or when I didnt show enough appreciation for piadina.
But more then ever I remember one summer night outside our beautiful home, in the garden…my husband, my daughter, a soft breeze caressing our faces, the stars, the lightning bugs, the scent of roses…..I didnt feel better: I was a stranger, a foreigner, in a foreign home, in a foreign country. Here we are, this is our region, Emilia Romagna – he whispered as soon as he woke up.
I looked out of the window, I saw a large green plain, a few scattered buildings; shortly later the sea, the same sea, which had been with us all the journey long, suddenly left us. I waited for the train to stop but it went on for an hour or so before my husband said: And thats Faenza, our town! Finally the train stopped and we got off. I was tired but I ran out of the station to see my new house. I looked around and I saw a small yellow building. My house?! –I thought – no, maybe the other one, the one hidden
amid the trees. They were all nice, those houses, Im sure Ill like it here…. I turned to my husband but he was talking to a taxi-driver and I already knew the answer, none of them was mine. Oof, Im tired! Dont worry…well be home in 5 minutes! The driver moved along a narrow road winding down the wood. Thats our home! It was me this time! It looked like the Seven Dwarfs home…little,
nice, edged with flowers and above all in a wood. It was not what Id been dreaming of but nice and well furnished. About one week later it started snowing, the first time I had seen so much snow…I played in the street and had much fun, but…the day after it was still there and so the third day and the fourth…An entire week we had to stay at home, under the snow, nobody came to clean the streets, I felt I had been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Winter there was making me crazy but I was with my husband at least! When the weather was nice, I felt even worse….He used to leave home early in the morning and came back at 9.00, tired, nervous… I used to spend my eighteen hours talking to myself yet Id have liked to talk to him, ask about things, go out, enjoy myself…always the same answers: dinner is horrible, bad ironing, Im tired, I dont feel like going out….
Repeated quarrels, me missing my family, the house I had so log dreamed of was difficult to manage: washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning…I had never done that before! I had to learn, quickly, immediately! The house had become my prison! Spring had been calling me out for months but Id never answered; I spent my days in the dark, shutters down and ears trying to catch any sound from the outside.
Nightmares all nights, I saw crazy men wandering out in the wood, popping up all of a sudden in front of my door and me, I shouted for help but nobody could hear me. So I came to shake like a leaf in the dark any time twigs crackled under the hoofs outside. Lots of animals around my house: wild boars, porcupines, pheasants, deers, lot and lots of deers, big and small.
Id always thought these wonderful animals only existed in the fairy tales but now they were there, out of my house, yet my curiosity never overcame my fear! So I was Snow White and the Dwarfs and the Prince were hidden somewhere, ready to rescue her; I was alone in that dammed house, all alone. It was August when I finally pulled the shutters up and saw there were many peach trees, plum trees, grapevines all around the house,
but whatI liked more were some roses…after ten months spent in that house! I gave my all, looked after them, pruned them, watered them, uprooted weeds…all my world went round them, till one day the owner came, thanked me for my work but said youre a foreigner and you dont know but roses should be grown by the owner otherwise they will never bloom again!
No, I didnt know, I came back into the house, shut the shutters and lay there in the dark, no more cries, no more hopes for anything…