Lesson n.2: to relate with your neighbor
I was not able to face it and that was why I avoided it. Sometimes it happened that she was waiting for me facing the balcony. Then I saw it from a distance and began to slow down the pace to be able to invent a plausible excuse not to rise and have to justify my absences. I felt so guilty and I was a bit disgusted. I did not think I was able to treat a person who had raised me so badly. The last time I went up to her, everything had changed. Maybe I had changed, but that living room did not seem so big anymore and that huge balcony that when it was small seemed very high and unreachable, now it had become a very trivial balcony.
That atmosphere and that magic of the soft light, which as a child seemed to reveal me from time to time the secrets never said, now appeared a normal shadow and smell in the house, now it seemed to smell stale, moldy, closed. It was when I entered the living room and saw her sitting bent over her dark brown wicker chair with the green pillow, obviously sewn by her, still in front of the empty chair of her petite friend, who had a pain in my stomach.
It was not a dejavu, but more a frame of the past inevitably consumed by time. I saw myself small and sitting on the table sewing buttons in that silence and in that dim light, while the petite friend sewed the hems and she recited the rosary. Only now I realized that all that sewing had made her fingers twisted and twisted and that time had aged her much earlier than it actually did grow me. Then I understood that things had changed.
I sat in my friend’s chair and told her about my day at school. She listened with her usual seraphic air, while she gave her usual points to the usual lace. That afternoon I told her all the things I had done in those years, wriggling between the words and nervously gesticulating so much that I only heard my voice echo in the room with the metallic clink of the many bracelets I had.
Her husband was always locked in his study. Everything had remained the same. Only I had changed. That was the last time she and I talked, then she let me go, understanding my need to want to live and continue on my way, as if I had used her and then thrown her when I did not need her anymore.
In reality it was not exactly like that and she knew it well, but condescending and proudly, like a real grandmother, she stepped aside.
Between the silence of that house and the noises of my feelings of guilt, I gave her a kiss on the cheek, very soft and fragrant and I went to the door that closed behind me.
I think we tacitly said goodbye or goodbye without a real reason.
I grown up, perhaps in the worst of ways, ungrateful and selfish. I will never forgive her and, even now, when I happen to sew, I think back to those afternoons and I get a spontaneous smile thinking that even one day, who knows, maybe I will be like Mrs. Orietta.
When I left for the university, I could no longer hear anything from Signora Orietta. Every now and then my mother told me about her news, until she gave me her death. “It’s life” I repeated, but if I wanted this whole story it would have had a different ending, but instead I preferred to hide behind the fatality and the succession of events. It was much more comfortable that way.
Here, the nun reminded me of Mrs. Orietta, and I, once again, instead of redeeming myself, had been rude and selfish towards her.
“Ah, here are the bags,” I whispered in front of the conveyor belt. So I took the suitcases, put them in the cart, but before heading for the exit, I approached the nun and asked “Mother, do you need help with suitcases? Can I take you to the taxi? ”
He replied very kindly to me and with the same smile of Mrs. Orietta, he said, “No, thank you, my sisters are waiting for me beyond the barricades,” and giving me a light caress on my shoulders, he quickly started toward the exit.
Here, I had relieved the feelings of guilt for having answered badly first on the plane and perhaps, in small part, but very small, I had the feeling of having apologized again to Mrs. Orietta.
See you on next monday