A short story of love and resistance
She was wandering through the web of narrow streets of her city. She was searching for something but she was constantly thinking about him, about their last meeting. “Tonight I tell him everything, yes, I can do it.” But she knew she was only trying to persuade herself, and probably that night she would stared at him without saying what really mattered now.
She stopped thoughtfully looking at the bookstall at the corner of her favourite square. She picked up some old books without paying attention to the titles and authors, she picked up randomly until a little book seemed to call her. It was a collection of essays by Noam Chomsky. An idea immediately occurred to her. “I can give it to Lele”. She called the stall owner, a little old man, bent with years but with sparkling eyes beyond big amber glasses. She paid the book with a smile to the old man.
She carried the book in her bag already full of little strips of paper, a notebook, two books, a wallet, tobacco, three lighters and much other useful and useless stuff.
She had not always been like that. Actually, the whole thing started when her older sister gave everything up. Her sister, Laura, was there that night, she was in the school. Laura didn’t talk about “it”, about the violence, blood and whatever she saw that night.
Laura covered every bruise and cut on her body. She told everything to the lawyer and then moved away. She began a new life elsewhere, away from the sad memories and troubles.
In those days Barbara felt that something had happened, she was only thirteen, she didn’t fully understand what was going on in the world, but she saw her sister at the hospital and she saw the city paralyzed and all that television journalists and press conferences.
She asked repeatedly to her parents what was all that mess but they refused to answer. And so she started to make enquires, she wanted to find out the truth about that night, what really happened in those days, what really happened to her sister.
One day someone, maybe her aunt, said “luckily you were too young”. Luckily? But.. Her sister was young too. She grew up surrounded by the memories of that day in July. She saw in the news archives photos of the barricades, the attacks, she read about the violations of rights and the general panic. And she thought of her sister in the middle of all that.
One day she tried to speak with her sister. But Laura started to cry and begged her to stop. Barbara could only embrace her sister and didn’t bother her again. But she started to bother everyone who could give her explanations. She bought books, movies, she talked to the lawyer, and she started to hang around the occupied social centres of the city, even some squats. She met new people, she became more radical. Her father, with a little irony, called her ‘the teenage anarchist’.
She lost some old friends. “You become so dull! So tiresome!” and “Why don’t you leave alone the past?” were their favourite charges against her. But she didn’t care. She wanted to know, she wanted proofs. She wanted to resist.
She noticed his presence nearly three months before the day she took courage and spoke to him. She was introduced to Emanuele, even if everyone called him Lele, one evening by Mattia, during a conference about the Darfur. Lele’s father was working in Darfur and he was killed during a riot. Mattia convinced him to talk about his father’s experience in Africa. Since that evening Barbara saw him loafing around the AutAut or the ex-Pellicceria. Barbara didn’t know so much about him. He seemed so shy and he never talked with anyone but Mattia.
During a party he stood with his back leaned on the decorated wall. She stood next to him listening to someone talking about civic responsibility. He seemed to listen to every word but he didn’t open his mouth. She whispers in his hear, “what do you think?”. He didn’t turn around to look at her. He only reclined his head towards Barbara.
-I really don’t know.
And then he smiled to her. A wicked smile, like someone who knows better than that. She surrendered. She simply and inevitably fell in love.
The next week Barbara met him during one of her walking through the web of narrow streets. Blushing, she said a shyly hello. He smiled back to her.
-Are you busy?
-No, I’m just walking around.
-Well, why don’t we take a coffee?
-If you want..
Barbara was speechless. She felt her heart beating faster and faster. Her cheeks on fire. “Breath, breath. Don’t be stupid”.
They sat in a little café on the corner of the street with the bookstalls. They talked, and talked for hours. He looked for a revolution or maybe she only thought he was, because Lele didn’t know very much about politics and resistance, but he believed in a world-order on his own. He had a clear idea of what society had to be. Barbara had never found someone so keen and high-spirited. He was completely different. She was captured by his liveliness and wit.
That night she smoked the last cigarette on the terrace of her parent’s flat. She looked down at the street, few cars passed slowly. She could see the lights of the port in the distance. There has always been something melancholic in the sight of the night lights. Barbara remembered every word exchanged with Lele that afternoon.
He certainly had a special quality, something which made him uncommon, an aura of extravagance, something beyond description, something which made him see the world in a different way.
And she started thinking about everything she had done in the last years. Maybe it had been completely useless, maybe her sister was right, give up, and go away. “All that speeches about revolutions and changes, what was the real scope of it? She really thought she could change the world? C’mon. Her sister and her friends tried, oh, they really tried and they were defeated”.
Barbara felt the anger inside her. It was that anger which convinced her to follow the anarchist ideal, to become at least acquainted with the facts of the world. She wanted justice; she struggled for an ideal of justice for all. And now that. Love. “What does it mean? Love, love. Really, it can be a mistake.”
In nights like that she just wanted to scream fuck, fuck and again fuck. For everything wrong with the world, for her sister, for the dead, for all that stupid people that crowded the streets, for all that was lost forever, for the innocence, and now for that, for that stupid crush on Lele.
What did it mean the revolution? Did it really worth her efforts? She faced a wall of indifference every day in her life, in the streets, the emptiness of people, robots with rotten hearts.
She sensed the same anger in Lele. He was trapped in his life, tired of his friends, of everyday violence, of the absurdity of modernity, whatever! He looked for a revolution in his life. Barbara wanted to help him. She knew that anger, that feelings of frustration.
She saw a shadow beyond her back. It was her father who searched for a glass of water. He didn’t see her but she smiled to him.
She was lucky after all, she grew up with the gift of freedom of choice. She called it a gift because she saw so many young or even old people without that, without what was considered a right.
And then her thoughts fell back on Lele. She had never felt something so strong and unconditioned. There had to be a kind of magnet which pulled her towards him. Could it be possible? Meeting someone like him?
She looked at her watch. It was really late.
“I’d better go to sleep”. And she dragged the last cigarette on the floor, looking for the last time at the night lights of the city.
Barbara enwrapped the book in an old brown paper. “Ok, it looks nice. It’s not stupid. Ok.”
Her mother peered from Barbara’s shoulder.
-Go out tonight?
Barbara smiled accommodatingly.
And kissed her mother on the cheek. She felt incredibly happy. She was sure she was going to met him at the AutAut. Actually Lele gave her an appointment. Nine o’clock. It was his birthday and well, it wasn’t a real appointment. Mattia and Giulio would be there. But she was extremely happy, like a child. That was the effect of a crush, she thought.
She ran out in the streets, that web of caruggi which had always impressed her. Barbara undoubtedly loved her city, she was proud of being born there, near the sea, in a city with a history that everyone knows, but with little narrow streets which hides secrets and surprises. And she adored the feeling of resistance and rebellion that you can breathe everywhere along the walls of the palaces, houses, churches, shops of the historical centre.
She ran out happily, excited. For the first time she felt that someone with values, someone who understood her, who felt what she felt had entered her life. It didn’t really matter if it was love or not, who cares, she thought, she was completely conquered by Lele.
She didn’t believe in eternal love or love at first sight, all bullshit. But she firmly believed in kindred souls. Yes, why not, why in this planet with six billions of human beings there wouldn’t be someone who perfectly matches our needs and wills and desires? Why not?
She ran out and she crossed the street, as usual. It wasn’t her fault.
Lele was wandering through the web of narrow streets of his city, through the caruggi that she said she loved so much. It was the sight of the bookstall that reminded him of Barbara. “Three months? Yes. Tomorrow.” Somehow he felt responsible. It was his birthday, he invited her, and then, crash! Another young life taken in the streets. Another violence in their city. A drunken man. He didn’t stop, he dragged her for metres. She died the next day. Thirteen hours of agony. He could not even imagine that. What would that be?
He liked her. Barbara was one you could listen for hours without getting bored. He enjoyed her company, he could trust her. Actually they met and spoke only two times, but if she had lived maybe.. Well, one could only imagine.
He randomly looked at the books. He was struck by a title. “Political essays” by Noam Chomsky. He didn’t know him but one afternoon Barbara talked about him whom she called a genius. Lele picked up the book. He leafed through the pages and looked at the first one. He was struck, electrified. He couldn’t believe that, it was impossible.
“To Lele, will we talk about it one day, maybe on a dinner out? Barbara”.
Trembling and breathless he asked the bookstall owner who sold him that book.
-Oh.. Ehm, a lady, yes, two months ago I believe. I remember her, she was so sad, almost desperate. She gave me a box of other books, I couldn’t buy every book she gave me, there were too.. Well, some didn’t interest me. But this.. I sold it to a young girl three months ago and now, well..
-Ok, ok, how much?
Shaking, Lele gave a banknote to the old man.
It was his birthday present. He knew that. Barbara talked about Chomsky, he was a kind of political hero for her. He started to cry.
That night Lele admired the lights of the port reverberating in the night. He wanted to shout out loud, fuck. He wanted to set the world on fire. Tears of anger and angst poured down his eyes. And he started to read his new book.