“Three turns around the bell, what has begun will come to an end”.
I don't know why I felt the urge to write it down on a piece of paper, but this sentence can't get out of my head. Where is it from?
Every time I dare to step foot into my Memory Lane, I can evoke faces, places, movements, scents and sounds. Whether it could be a superpower or a curse, I fear it. Most people I know love to walk barefoot on the wet dunes of nostalgia, but not me. I have a hard relationship with my past, in a way that is still unknown to me. I have taken record of any relevant - whether good or bad that it was - event I assisted, experienced or put in place, but even after years of therapy, I still make my entrance in the past, slipping into as if what I see is anything but mine. I really don't know why, but every time the awkward sensation I feel, could be compared to suffering the slow, slimy, passage of a giant snail all over my body. It is something that doesn't disgust me at all, but it truly makes me feel terribly uncomfortable — to the point of feeling an embarrassing tickling (nothing other than pleasant) between the back of my neck and my ears.
All things, good and bad, that no longer belong to the present end up archived in a not easily accessible area of my mind. I can't enter and exit the past, bringing moments into the present with which to embellish what I'm experiencing. I would like to do it, but I can't. Something invisible and intangible is blocking me, perhaps something linked to the concept of ending – after all, how can you bring back to life something that no longer exists?
The floor begins to creak under my feet. I think that as much as I always look for answers in logic, what I'm gliding on is a ground strewn with wounds linked to abandonment.
Until 1999, my life was the perfect script for a successful sitcom: a large house with a garden and a view on the wilderness – perfectly matching the standards of well-being of those years – within whose walls it was the norm to hear five foreign languages of the ancient continent being spoken on a daily basis; a constant coming and going of friends and relatives of all nationalities, at any time of the day or of the night; exotic holidays and intercontinental travels at least twice a year; lunches, dinners, aperitifs, snacks and breakfasts with laughter, photographic films on the table and seasonal flowers overflowing from the omnipresent vases, as if every moment experienced should be celebrated and made indelibly unforgettable. I never had to commit myself to imagining enterprising adventures, because at the time life was giving me the most precious things I would have accumulated in my personal baggage. That was my Babylon.
Being the only child of parents far from their respective family clans, their friends had taken on an important role in my life. They were reference figures who, if I felt them like uncles or older siblings as a child, as I grew up they also became my friends. Talking about it in the past tense pushes me to deal with the most painful side of life, namely that nothing survives time and surviving those we loved brings us the responsibility of dealing with our unresolved issues. To deal with the pain.
Every time I think about the most sparkling moment of the most emotionally precious part of my life, there is George Michael's “Flawless” automatically playing in the background. Perfectly on point. When it starts to play, clips of experienced sequences snap into my mind, which, although distinct moments, create an overview of what I was fortunately already consciously grateful for: the smiling faces of my parents and their friends, intent on telling one another bizarre stories and amusing anecdotes while consuming lunches and dinners intoxicated with life; my grandmother's kind and delicate love in holding my hands while I wanted to stuff myself with as much life as possible; the city lights seen from the hill while I am sitting in the back seats; sequins on clothes and glitter in the hair; gourmand perfumes that I never imagined I would learn to love as an adult; the affection, joy and trust of my four-legged companions; the colored Christmas lights at the living room windows, seen from the street corner when I came home from the pool, that made me imagine my home as a gingerbread house; the hope of a sparkling future in the rosy sunset that rested on the curves of the mountain, while the warmth of the first summer foreshadowed that that evening we would all go to eat pizza together; Sal, Giampietro, Antoine, the Masters who with their fraternal and paternal affection, taught me nuances of life that I am grateful to keep forever painted in my heart.
Yesterday I was having a drink with the guys when, going from topic to topic, we ended up talking about giant squids, bioluminescence and hypothetical theories that Walter Benjamin might have had regarding the aesthetics of the abyss. From our comparison, strongly pushed by the alcohol level of our blood, we naturally agreed on the obvious fact that, in fact, we know much more about the space rather than the abyss – and this is definitely emblematic of our society. With a deceptive interest in others, we look out curiously in search of elsewhere, of what is external to us, but when it comes to descending into the deepest darkness, which inevitably concerns us, every attempt at descent is too dark, too complicated and too scary, for us. Too much. Too much to bear.
It's hilarious how most people are terrified of looking into the depths of their soul, to the point that they completely avoid the descent into their own hell although it would save them. It is no coincidence that to go to therapy we must necessarily wait for the manifestation of some pain or discomfort to be recalled and observed, accompanied by a personal Virgil, more lucid and wiser than us – because in fact, we, as individuals, are not used to recognize and face our darkness. It seems incredible that we are able to impassively maintain our gaze on the most atrocious things that concern the others, to the point of having the news - the medium that more than ever embodies the concepts of anesthesia and intolerance to empathy - as a background voice during our lunches. Representing the lives of the living beings as numbers, as names representing a macroscopic whole, as objective entities deprived of their specific subjectivity and uniqueness. How do you manage to put your bite on your palate, hearing the announcement of yet another massacre? How do you manage to fully lose yourself in the intensity of the flavor that envelops your tongue, while the imploring screams of pain are drowned out by a composed, deprived of any emotion, announcement?
How can I live my life carefree while there are those who don't know the rest?
I would like to know it. The truth is that to subvert the order of things, the shock must touch us directly, personally. In an unexpected and merciless way.
One day, victim of being bullied by my schoolmates, I tried to redeem my value by clumsily trying to replicate on someone - in my imagination - "weaker than me", what my executioners did to me. Until the last possible day, my only and beloved grandmother came every day to pick me up at the bus stop. I still remember the frenzy of getting off the bus so I could throw myself into her arms, safe, there where only love existed. I was incredibly attached to her, to her figure, her ways and her sweetness, and I knew that whatever I could ever do she would never judge me. That day, as my grandmother took my hand and stepped onto the road home, I looked at her contritely and said, "Grandma, did you see how ugly that child is?". Trusting that she would never judge or scold me, I looked at her intently, waiting with latent impatience for some response. Her answer, which didn't take long to arrive, astounded me, leaving me with a lesson for life: “Why do you say he is ugly? No child at all is ugly, all children are beautiful." Twenty-six years, various traumas and a thousand other lessons after, I can still relive the same knot in my stomach that was created when I heard her delicate and kind words, which however hit me like a punch in the chest and made me feel like a monster. I went back to this episode several times during therapy, because from that moment of guilt and shame, I unlocked the empathy skill – and never dared to mock someone again (thanks nonnie).
The order of things is subverted by the changes in narrative that are proposed to us, yes, but there must be a revealing moment charged with a strong shocking and emotional component, otherwise the change of path will hardly be able to be long-lasting and constant.
We spend our days wanting to pump up parts of us that make us feel empty. We pump up our lips, our muscles, our breasts, our eyelashes, our egos, words said with lightness, suspicions and thoughts playing hide-and-seek. Everything is poised between taking away and adding, and never once can the perception of our body and of our spirit reach a non-painful balance. Faced with the idea of carrying out cosmetic surgery, the pain and the dangers of complications become dematerialized, but if in the same way we were to carry out an operation for our health, oh there we would scrupulously review all the information, also translating it from Sanskrit if necessary.
This void that tries to devour us from the inside affects everyone living on this planet right now. We are all craving for serenity, for affection, for people who can understand and support us, for mental, economic and emotional stability.
My generation above all, we were born and raised in boundless comfort and well-being: material goods, homes, holidays, entertainment, sports, food; anything we didn't even have to want was already offered and served to us. Everything, as much as we wanted and when we wanted, to the point of not recognizing its value. We were enormously privileged not to know true hunger, thirst, the explosions of bombs, missiles and the hiss of bullets, sleeping in the open or under the shelter of a bridge, without even a blanket of stars to cover us – and now that the economic-productive model of our society has stopped working, here we are: suspended in the void, walking on the edge of an invisible blade like inexperienced tightrope walkers - hoping to hurt ourselves as little as possible if we fall - while our world is collapsing. Big cities welcome us only if we are willing to share a concrete box of a few cubic meters with someone else. Someone else that we potentially don't even know, but with whom we end up sharing the intimacy of our fate. Whether it's just one roommate or two, there's always one more stranger to do the most intimate and private things with — which not even a locked door can keep just for us. The malaise of our time.
It never leaves us, it is always with us, at any moment, even when we think we are alone. This intangible but constant presence, which made us stop dreaming, having a light heart, imagining a future and having hope in the days to follow. It is always there, in every corner of the house, of the surrounding buildings, of the road we take to move from one microcosm to another; it is there in its impassive silence, reminding us of the weight of the burden of our time. While there are people fighting to save their lives, at the same time there are us who are reeling as we see our privileges taken away and for once we begin to reflect on what we ungratefully had.
I heard a girl saying, "We are surviving instead of living" – and as mocking as it may be to say, when right behind the corner there are those who are truly dying and seeing their lives destroyed by lust for power, I understood exactly what she meant. We are passively living our lives, to the point of existing and not being.
We try to carry on our lives according to models that are now obsolete, which are no longer adaptable to the dynamics of contemporary society. We continue to try to keep them going while with one hand we try to keep our physical and mental health upright, with the other our private life which - full of unresolved problems accumulated over the years - is literally collapsing on us, while on our shoulders there is the weight of our collective responsibility, the weight of our actions on society and on the environment. Those who manage to find a square and redeem themselves, identifying their new life model, will still find themselves having to face all this – perhaps with less weight – because problems never go away, they will just have a different playing technique – certainly, with a greater probability of winning some battles of their own undeclared war — but it will still be part of the agenda designed for the block of our generation, nothing new. Nothing new on the front of those who dream of pearls of newfound hope – and don't even know they are at war with an invisible enemy, in part created by themselves.
If some time ago I had thought of a "Paradise for sinners" I would certainly have winked at all my vices; today, I imagine it as the desire for a decent future, in which we are all guilty of our sins as terrible human beings, but still deserving of clemency and mercy from chaos.
I wish for a new state of mind to feel home now that my house is different, perhaps even more beautiful than the previous one, but empty. Stripped of most of the souls that, with their noise and their heat, made my way of experiencing the world so colorful. Everything has changed and perhaps the most heroic act I can do for myself could be taking a walk through memories, dealing with the intimate pain of separation, in order to one day finally be able to enter and exit from it with no blues, bringing into the present what I need most.
Contemplating the vastness of the universe while the world falls apart could be the most impressive scenario for closing a chapter, yet my eyes see a carpet of colored buttercups and asters, emerging from the snow on a deep velvet night.
This is how I imagine the desire to live, reborning from the rubble of hearts that no longer know Spring.