TAMMURRIATA OF THE BRONX
Copyright © 2004 All Rights Reserved
I went on a one day trip with the popular music band where I play bass guitar. The guy who plays mandolin works in a company where they test airplane engines. Every year the company takes some money off the budget to present all the employees with a little collective trip. This year they rented a ship that went from Naples to Sorrento (on the other side of the gulf, that is) and from there to the nice little island of Procida.
It is hot in Naples at the end of june, it was already very hot at ten in the morning when I left my apartment, which is actually a studio (this is what they call it in american english, here it is called monolocale or monovano, I don't know what expression they would use in english english, probably studio, the english have a tendency to copy the americans in many things including recent words that do not exist in the english english vocabulary) entirely faces south, is on the top floor of an old tall building and in sunny days it heats up very quickly, on weekends the university is closed and I tend to spend the morning in my apartment, but this time of the year I don't like it, it is too hot, and I look for excuses to go out.
The boat was small for eighty people (this is how many people between employees, their family members and the band and the band's family members came to the trip) and the sea was agitated as it already became apparent when we boarded the ship in the port of Naples in front of the spanish (I think it is spanish) castle called Maschio Angioino, it has a beautiful (at least in my opinion) unexpected set of renaissance looking glass windows facing the sea, this is what we could see as we boarded the ship and the ship although docked was already oscillating with the waves from the sea. Later as we left the port people started throwing up. This happened mostly downstairs, the boat (it was a motor yacht, no sails obviously, one of those boats that in cities that face the sea or the ocean they use for tourist trips so that the tourists if they want can look at the city from the sea to have a different perspective) was big enough to have two decks, I always sat upstairs, it was a beautiful day. People coming on the upper deck from the lower one (I never went downstairs) said that the passengers downstairs were throwing up like mad and someone came with plastic bags asking if someone needed to throw up; it would not have been a good thing to just lean off the side of the boat and throw up in the sea, because with the wind and the boat's lateral oscillation vomit could easily fall on people on the lower deck. There was wind, which is what caused the waves, I believe; the waves were pretty high, depending on the manouevres of the boat they produced two types of movements, left and right and up and down, in italian the first is called rollìo and the second beccheggìo, this I learned during the trip, I don't have the corresponding english words, both can cause seasickness and ultimately vomiting, clearly rollìo is stronger if you sit in the back of the boat and beccheggìo if you sit on the front, I verified myself, although this depends also on the course of the boat with respect to the waves, in any case apparently everything gets worse if you sit on the lower deck, which was a more closed space with less oxygen, everybody vomited there, or so I was told, no-one vomited on the upper deck, at least during the first part of the trip (from Naples to Sorrento), I did not get sick. Between Sorrento and Procida waves were still high and at some point I noticed that a girl that was sitting two rows of seats in front of me (most space on the upper deck was occupied by white plastic seats fixed to the deck by metal bars) had her face buried in the plastic bag, then the smell of vomit came to me very sharp, but luckily I did not get sick for the entire trip, it is funny how some people systematically get sick on boats and other are always fine; for this reason, hierachies that are true onland do not hold anymore at sea, one time when I lived in the United States I was on a catamaran between Long Beach and Catalina Island, with a friend at whom I always looked up (I still do) as stronger than me both physically and emotionally, he paled, got really sick and suffered for the entire trip, I did not feel any discomfort and even laughed at him a bit. He managed not to vomit, or if he did he did it in the toilet when no-one was looking. Toilets in ships are always dirty with vomit when the sea is agitated. Often they have very big vases that you can flush, bigger than toilets, specifically designed for seasick passengers, so that the toilet floor does not get dirty with vomit; it is slippery and can become dangerous, particularly when the sea is agitated and it is already difficult to balance. On our boat, the floor of the lower deck was dirty with vomit. I caught a glance as we left the boat docked in Procida.
I always sat upstairs, I think that preserved me from getting sick but it was a very sunny day and soon I realized that the sun would burn me. I asked Mario for some sun lotion. Mario is five years older than me, he works in my lab at the university, he is from Naples, it is him who proposed me to join his popular music band when I moved to Naples from the United States last november. Mario is the only person that I know, I am still a stranger for most of the band members and they are strangers for me, Mario not so much because I see him every day in the laboratory, although we are very different. It was natural for me to ask him, rather than anybody else, for some sun lotion, because I really only know him and I feel embarassed asking things to people that I don't really know. At this point I know fairly well the people that play in the band, eight people if I am not mistaken, including the accordeonist who recently (since I joined the band, that is) has stopped coming to practice because his wife is really sick, but he is here today, and the wife as well, I know at least all their names and I have some idea of their different characters, Consiglia the singer whom I used to find very attractive cannot stand Fifino who plays the tammorra; the tammorra is a folkloristic drum typical of the Naples tradition made with a short wooden cylinder some ten centimeters in height, closed with animal skin, pieces of metal coming mostly I think from coffee cans fixed to it to produce the typical folkloristic noise, before playing it the drum has to be warm, they left it in the sun on the upper deck as we slowly left the port, later on, after lunch, we left Sorrento and people had been drinking and wanted to sing and make noise, one of the employees who did not belong to the band attempted to play the tammorra and broke it, one of the pieces of metal cracked and fell apart, he showed it to Fifino but he was laughing, Fifino was not upset, he had been drinking too or maybe he is too proud to show that such a little inconvenience can upset him; I could have been upset if it had been my tammorra (I don't own a tammorra). Fifino can be childish, he is the one who takes care of public relations and organizing shows, once we had a show scheduled on a friday night, it was moved to thursday and Fifino knew it since the week before but did not say anything until the very last moment, Consiglia got mad at him because she had an exam on that friday morning, she is a student at the university, we asked Fifino when did he learn about this rescheduling and eventually he admitted he had known about it for a week, but he had "called on the phone and no-one was there" and for some reason that he did not make clear he did not want to leave a message on the answering machine, this behaviour is what makes me say he is childish (he is embarassed and does not look at people's eyes, his stare to the floor, looks at me in search of understanding and I nod, I am a stranger and I want everybody to like me, he knows it instinctively, I am not attacking him, I don't really care), he is some fifty years old, Consiglia can't stand him, as she told me and Mario later that night while we were driving her home, she is twenty or so, I just wrote "she told me and Mario" but really she was only talking to Mario and I happened to be there, they never really talk to me, I am a stranger, except for Mario who works in my lab and Pasquale who is about my age, at the end of the trip on the boat I and Pasquale talked about movies, he is studying cinema. Fifino's announcement about the rescheduled concert happened in Mario's (another Mario, not the one that works in my lab, the last name of the one that works in my lab is Zollo, the last name of this other Mario is Fusco or Di Fusco, I am not sure, these last names are common around Naples) living room, they have a huge picture of some lake with an island in the middle, there is a church or some kind of old palace on the island, from the vegetation I would say it is one of those lakes in the north of Italy, I think of Lago di Como first because of what the italian literature they made me read at school, those things you never forget; on the television Real Madrid was playing Bayer Leverkusen, the champions league final, Zidane scored an unforgettable goal but no-one paid attention, I did. The picture covers an entire wall, made of several sheets stuck to the wall like wallpaper. It is very blue, because of the lake. We meet every wednesday for practice in Fusco's or Di Fusco's house, Pasquale lives upstairs, Mario Fusco is his uncle, they live in the countryside around Naples, the whole band lives in the area, because I don't have a car I have to go there with Mario Zollo, every wednesday I have dinner at Mario Zollo's house (he is married, his wife's name is Maria Teresa, two names for one person is not unusual here, they pay hommage to saints and grand-grand-parents, names are repeated after a few generations and if there are not enough children then one child can get more than one name, Maria Teresa also came to Sorrento and Procida), then we practice and then I sleep at Mario's place (it would be too late to drive back to the city and trains don't run so late, either), in the morning we drive to the lab together, we work in the same lab, across the room from each other. I am the only band member that does not live in the area, I am a stranger, even more than the polish accordeonist (Dario). They all have pieces of land that they work. Fifino has potatoes, potatoes are hard work (to dig them out, I mean), and you must not leave them outside at night, after you dig them out of the field, if the moon is full, because moonlight makes them turn green and then they taste bad. They have a verb for that in dialect, "allunare" (the subject would be the potatoes: "non bisogna lasciare fuori le patate perché allunano"). I learned this much at practices, friends of the band that had nothing to do at night would come and chat about these things, they used to come very often before the elections, they are all old communists, one of them asked me whether I am a comrade (at first he did not believe I was italian, my northern accent is not common here), I said I am not sure (I want them to like me), most band members participated in the campaign before the elections, the elections did not go well and the right wing majority was confirmed. There is not much to do at night in small towns. At times I was bothered by those visits because we need to practice, I need to learn the songs, and we were wasting time. Real Madrid won the european champions league for the second or third time in a row, they have some of the best players in the world.
Fifino's wife had an accent I thought I recognized as northern, but then she spoke some sentences in napoletano, she might have come to Naples when she was young and learned napoletano as you learn a foreign language but when she speaks proper italian she still has a northern accent although weak, she could be from Ferrara or Ravenna. She came to the trip to Sorrento and Procida, this is how I first met her, she was sitting not far from me on the upper deck, neither I or she moved much from our seats because the sea was agitated and we were afraid to get sick, I thought about asking her where she comes from, I decided that I would call her "signora" and use the third person to address her, although I simply call Fifino "tu" (second person in italian), and I often wonder if I shouldn't use "lei" (third person), he is at least fifty years old (his hair is all white) and I am not even thirty, but when I was introduced to the band I decided to adopt their use and address everybody in the familiar way as fellow musicians although amateurish, also in consideration of the fact that it is clear from Fifino's behavior (he can be childish) that he does not like to think of himself as old, although he is not scared by aging and I am sure he laughs about it, if he ever thinks about it, as he seems to laugh about everything, you can see from the skin of his face that he always laughed a lot, he does not think much, his job is to test the response of airplane engines to strong oscillations, he described it to me and Mario Zollo (he looked at Mario more than me although naturally Mario already knew, they have known each other for many years now) while we were chatting on the pier in Procida waiting for the boat to come and take us back, boats cannot wait on the pier very long after letting the passengers out, other boats and bigger ships need the space to dock, our boat had left while we strolled on Procida, at that point we were too tired from the sun to play any music, I don't know where the boat went, probably just out of the port. I decided to call her "lei, signora" to ask her about her hometown in relation to her accent (maybe we come from neighboring cities, Ferrara and Ravenna are both not far from Bologna which is were I was born), I want everybody to like me, but then I decided not to ask, I am always embarassed to ask things to people I don't know. Barbara, the wife of the accordeonist, was also sitting nearby, I did not talk to her although it was clear to me that it was my duty to start a conversation, if there had to be any conversation, humble people never start conversations because they have not so much to talk about, there is no time to think, they have to fight over things that for us are simple and they live in a small world, family and friends, to defend themselves against a very unfriendly bigger outside world, both she and her husband are clandestine immigrants from Poland, people like them are called "extracomunitari" because Poland does not belong to the European Community, it is okay to be a foreigner in Italy (I am, in a way) as long as you are from North America (not Mexico) or the European Community, or places like, I don't know, Japan or Switzerland, if you are from Africa or Eastern Europe it seems to be a problem. I smiled to her a lot. She is not good looking. She is maybe fourty years old but looks older. She is ugly. On her cheek there is a big hairy mole. She has had a very tough life. She is very sick, now. The name of her husband, the accordeonist, is Dario, they are both from Poland, but their names exist also in italian, with the same spelling, I knew another Barbara in the United States, she is the wife of one of the professors of the department where I studied, this other Barbara that I knew in the United States is also polish, she is very talkative, sometimes I avoided her because when she starts talking it is not possible to stop her without being impolite, I don't like to be impolite, I want everybody to like me, I remember one time in the cafeteria, I asked like always for an espresso at the coffee kiosk, she came from behind and found me unprepared, she stopped me and talked to me, but was very nice and proposed to help me for my future, I was about to graduate, I thanked her and was very polite, but I had already decided to come back to Italy and I was not looking for other jobs at the moment, she smiled and left, she was in a hurry, I felt guilty. American universities are multicultural and multiethnic.
The polish Barbara that lives near Naples came with us to Sorrento and Procida, she sat on the upper deck of the boat and did not get sick although from her expression I gathered that she did not enjoy the rollìo, we were sitting near the back. This was the first time I saw her, and I have also seen her husband very little, after they discovered that she was seriously ill. When she started not feeling well, she could not breathe normally (I think she works, or used to work, in the fields, very tired physically when she comes home from work at night, doesn't pay very well), they went to see the doctor of a friend, another musician from the band (all band members are close friends, like an extended family, except for me, I still feel like a stranger), they don't have their own doctor because they are illegal aliens and are afraid to get thrown out of the country, for this reason they did not want to go to the hospital for various tests when the doctor advised them to do so, but when one night it became really serious, she almost couldn't breathe anymore, they had no choice but to call the ambulance and check in at the hospital (in italian there is a specific expression for checking in at a hospital, "essere ricoverati", it is passive, "check in" sounds to me like something that you do in a hotel, I wonder if there is a more appropriate expression in english). It turned out that according to italian laws even illegal aliens have the right to medical assistency, the doctors are not responsible of the immigration status of their patients, and don't have to report them unless they really want to. Barbara was sitting in the same row of seats as me and when she needed to stand up to go downstairs (maybe she was getting seasick and hoped that downstairs she would feel better, or she wanted to talk to her husband, or she needed to go to the toilet) and I was in her way, I probably had not noticed that she needed to pass, I am absent-minded, she talked to me in a strong, somehow masculine voice, "I want to pass", she did not say "please" or "would like", I mean the italian equivalents of those words, but from her accent I understood that she was not being impolite, her italian is not very good, at home they speak polish all the time, Dario's italian is better, he is the head of the family, he, more than Barbara, talks to people outside of the family. They are in their fourties. They have a son and a daughter, the son lives in Verona, this is unfortunate because his help would be needed now that his mother is ill, first there was surgery and now she has to start to do chemio, after she first went to the hospital they removed a lot of liquid from one of her lungs and then she could breathe well, this was the first surgical operation, my colleague Mario went to see her at the hospital right after, he told me she looked good and happy, they were waiting for the outcome of some tests. He told me so one evening while we were driving from the laboratory to Bagnoli, before going to Pomigliano for practice, Pomigliano is the name of the town near Naples where all the band components except for me live, I had not asked about Barbara, I do not ask about or even mention subjects that I fear could create an embarassed silence between me and people I do not know very well, Mario on the other hand is not very talkative, he told me that they call Barbara "la 'mbriaca" because she drinks a lot (alcohol) and smokes like a chimney, not anymore, I have not seen her smoking for the entire duration of the trip (ten hours), maybe she smokes when no-one is looking, ubriaco in italian means drunk and 'mbriaco is a dialectal form of the same word, she also did not drink wine, no-one drank much wine at lunch (we had lunch in a nice restaurant in Sorrento) because we were afraid that it could get us seasick, Maria Teresa at lunch told me that drinking a lot of liquids in general before being on a boat can get you seasick, her father used to be captain on merchant ships, I met him once at one of our shows, he said he has been following us for a long time (not me, I thought, I am new, I am almost a stranger) and invited me for dinner, they make their own wine in their property near the Vesuvius, I thanked politely, they are all very nice to me. He is retired and fairly old, he smiled to me and shook my hand, each of his children has several names from the family tradition. Volcanic earth is perfect for growing vineyards. When Barbara said she wanted to pass (maybe she wanted to go for a smoke where no-one would notice her) I smiled and stood up to let her go, behind us the wife of Fifino was repeating "c'e` maretta, maretta, questa e` la maretta, questa si chiama maretta", which means the sea is agitated, maybe she hoped that repeating this mantra the waves would finally stop, she chanted it for a long time after we left the port then she gave up, but "maretta" is not a proper italian word, I don't think, or at least it is not much common outside of the North-East (Ferrara, Ravenna) and maybe this is why I thought she could be from there, or she wanted to show everybody that she knew this unusual word. Later, while we were having coffee alone in Procida (the group had broken up by then), Mario and Maria Teresa made fun of it, I had noticed and nodded understandingly. Maybe Barbara wanted to go downstairs in the shade (I think she went downstairs after I let her pass), the sun was very hot, I had asked Mario for sun lotion but he had none, the wife of the other Mario had some, Mario asked her for it (they are all very close friends) and she was happy to offer it to me, she talked to me in italian, normally she speaks only dialect which I have problems understanding, she had two tubes of cream, one for the body and one for the face, I took both, the light, reflected from the waves, was very powerful, we were wearing sunglasses, the boat was oscillating, I did not want to get sunburnt, I get sunburnt very easily, their skin is used to the sun because they spend a lot of time in the fields, later on in Sorrento while we were walking in the small streets toward the restaurant I bought my own sun lotion, later we stopped for a while to play our music on the steps at the entrance of a church, tourists hanged around to listen, and people that worked in the shops nearby or lived upstairs, the streets are tiny and there are no cars, came at the window or out on the street, Consiglia sang from the other side of the street, I thought it was a good idea coreographically, the little audience was caught in the middle and felt more involved, I wonder if it was Consiglia's idea or it's the way they always do it, I had never played on the street, at the end an old american tourist came to ask where to by a tricchebballacche, it's a traditional percussion instrument that we play, in Naples there is a single street where most music shops are. Back on the boat, after lunch, Mrs. Fusco or Di Fusco saw that I had my own sun lotion, I wonder if she was offended, "there was enough cream for you, too", "but I needed it anyway, for the rest of the summer", I replied.
We usually drive to Bagnoli although it's not along the way to Pomigliano because Mario needs to pick up his wife Maria Teresa who teaches at a high school in Bagnoli, she teaches "teoria della nave" (ship theory) at the "istituto nautico" (nautical school), it's in her family, her father who is now retired and speaks mostly dialect as it is often true of older generations was captain of merchant ships, someone from the band while the boat was oscillating with high waves pointed Maria Teresa who sat unperturbed with her eyes closed and said aloud "you can tell she is from a family of sailors" ("gente di mare"), "she can sleep regardless of these waves", her father must have been in really bad storms back in his day, later Maria Teresa told me that she was not sleeping at all, she always gets sick on ships but she is used to it because she is been on scientific cruises (she has a degree in astronomy) and she learned to control the discomfort. Both Mario and Maria Teresa are overweight. Mario likes to eat a lot of pasta at each meal. They own six or seven dogs. The dogs attract flies. They live in a country house near Pomigliano. Upstairs from them there are Mario's parents and brother (with his wife). Mario's brother is a lawyer, apparently he is pretty good. Mario's father feeds the dogs (I often see Mario's father in the yard but Mario never introduced us, maybe his father does not like to speak italian or maybe he does not like to speak, period). The dogs are not allowed inside. It's a long drive in the traffic of the "tangenziale" between Bagnoli and Pomigliano, Bagnoli is a working class neighborhood built decades ago around the Italsider factory which closed down (a lot of workers lost their job, many articles on the newspapers expressing various points of view, back then I must have taken the side of the workers but maybe I was too young, I don't remember). The school where Maria Teresa teaches can be tough, many students are complicate cases, one of Maria Teresa's students whose last name is (I think) Di Gennaro sells drugs to other students (but probably just hashish), he is older (he was failed and repeated some years) and stronger and has power over the rest of the students, he keeps his power threatening to get violent, this even happens in class in front of the professor in the middle of a lecture, "but I raised my voice once and he shut up for good", said Maria Teresa, "he is weak". The tangenziale in his winding path crosses depressed suburbian areas that make me sad, near Pomigliano, exiting the highway, there are mountains of trash, people throw the trash from their cars without even stopping. At home Mario and Maria Teresa are careful with their recycling. There was some complaint from the school to Di Gennaro's father concerning his son's behaviour at school, Mr. Di Gennaro therefore came to school and tried to beat the director, professors that happened to be passing by prevented the fight, they talked to them, maybe they had to hold Di Gennaro's father, embrace him from behind, two of them, three of them, everybody screaming, he was going to beat the hell out of the director, maybe he was just threatening, the story became more spicy and less reliable passing from teacher to teacher in the school's corridors (high school teachers can be childish, Maria Teresa says that at meetings the director has to yell at them because they chat to each other and don't pay attention, she says that if the students could see how their teachers behave in those meetings they would lose any little interest that they might still have in learning). After dinner we drive to Brusciano to pick up Consiglia, the singer, when I first saw her I found her very attractive, I could tell her shapes from the tight jeans and she wore tiny t-shirts that left her belly uncovered, she has beautiful skin; I used to look forward to playing because I would see her, then I lost interest. She dates a student from the Air Force School of Naples, a fighter pilot (or so she says, or so he tells her), before she used to go out with some chauvinist guy that did not allow her to hang around alone, she always had to be with some family or "reliable" friends, I was surprised to hear this (from Mario, I think) because since I first saw her I pictured her as a strong girl, she lives in a tough neighborhood of ugly concrete buildings that were built after an earthquake that in 1980 made a lot of damage in and around Naples, her family lost their house (was she born yet?) and were moved in the new building according to the "legge 167" (the buildings are also called legge 167), but then they were one of the very few families to be given a home legally, most of the legge 167 houses were occupied, one way or the other (but usually, I suppose, with the help of the authorities) by mafia people who needed or wanted a new house, now Consiglia's father (he came to see us play once or twice, he runs a salumeria and cracks satellite-tv decoders, Mario has a home-made decoder that he bought from him, on sunday he watches serie A matches) is buying an apartment in a new house that is being built right now, it is only a few blocks from the old one but they have been there and they say it is much better. From Brusciano we drive to Fusco's or Di Fusco's house in Pomiglianella, another frazione of Pomigliano, and have a cup of coffee before playing, Mrs. Fusco or Di Fusco makes coffee and she is offended if you don't drink, coffee at night prevents me from sleeping but not if I am very tired or if I drink wine afterwards, sometimes at practice we drink wine, particularly if the communist agricultural workers (but actually one of them works in an ice-cream factory nearby, there are many factories nearby, primarily the Alfa-Sud which is now Fiat, this guy at times brings free ice-cream for everybody) come by, they chat, we all drink wine, if you don't drink they don't like you, are you a comrade? Consiglia can get away without drinking coffee, or wine, or without saying whether she's a comrade, this primarily because she's a woman and secondly because she's attractive, they are all shy with her (are they used to beautiful girls? their wives are not beautiful. I am shy too, but I am always shy, I want everybody to like me) and she doesn't notice, she does not have a high opinion of herself, the air force pilot can take advantage of her, he tells her what to wear (but Maria Teresa says he's better than the previous boyfriend who was really chauvinistic), he tells her what to wear (she is not my type, anyway), at dinner I ate too much (I am thinner than them, I eat different food, I am almost a stranger or I feel like one, they are all very nice) and now I am getting drunk on red wine while we should be playing some music, and no, I am not a comrade, or well, I need to think about it ("never come back here again, then!", they are all drunk).
Consiglia came to the cruise with her little brother, a curious young kid who likes to hang out with the grown-ups, he wanted my attention, looked curiously at the bass guitar but I didn't know what to say (Pasquale asked me, are you enjoying yourself, and I answered "of course!" with a smile and no doubts, I want everybody to like me), shortly his attention went to someone else (I am a strange animal), if I wanted to sleep with Consiglia it would be a good thing to make friends with the little brother, she has a white linen skirt under which I can tell the underwear or maybe swimming trunks, the elastic band stands up clearly against the thigh, she has broad shoulders and treats her brother like a son, she has at least another brother, if she's the oldest she has to be her mother's right-hand (I have never seen her mother), there is little money and everybody needs to do some work, she has broad shoulders and a beautiful voice, upstairs in the boat, while everybody is getting sick, from a few rows of seats behind her I look through my sunglasses (no-one knows where I am looking, what I am thinking and whether I am really enjoying myself) at her face without make-up, she looks a bit like her father and spreads sun lotion on her little brother's shoulders (she holds the tube with one hand and spreads the cream with the other, the right; her brother is sitting besides her and turned to one side so that his back, which will not get sunburnt thanks to the generous amount of cream, faces Consiglia directly). If I wanted to sleep with Consiglia it would be good to make friends with her brother, I thought about it some weeks ago, but then I lost interest and she's not my type anyway, she has a beautiful voice and while singing on the other side of the street she plays the castanets, playing the castanets she does a strange dance (it makes me think of flamenco, or something ancient and something exotic) with her foreharms up and down, back and forth, and the sudden, rhythmic jerk of the wrists to make the castanets snap really hard, it's nice to see, on the other side of the street. On the boat she never sang, she always sat by her brother, even while everybody was drunk and singing (employees, sailors, musicians) going up and down (beccheggìo) and left and right (rollìo) in the waves, everybody's noses becoming red from the sun (it might hurt tomorrow), she sat quietly on her seat, what is she thinking of? she is sorry that her boyfriend from the air force is not here, maybe they had a fight, or she is upset because we (the band) are so disorganized and we are not playing properly, or she thinks about me, she wants to sleep with me because she is tired of conservative boyfriends, and although less muscular I am more good looking than the air force man, I speak better italian (she must appreciate that because she studies at the university) and come from very far away (I am a strange animal, but I want everybody to like me); but she never looks at me, I used to always look at her (then I lost interest, her shoulders are too broad), one time at practice I stared absent-mindedly at her for more time than usual, she noticed, stared back and raised her eyebrows, maybe it was a smile, I looked away. Her dresses can be colorful and happy, but there are too many thoughts behind her eyes that I don't want to share, and her shoulders are too broad.
We, band and employees and family members of both (there were people in the group who seemed to know no-one there, a guy in his thirties with fancy sunglasses always smiling sitting in front of me to the right, he never spoke to anybody, he did not get sick, he was enjoying himself, young kids too young to be employees, though you never know, they looked like they knew each other, two were brother and sister, children of some employee, the sister sat in front of me and threw up in a plastic bag toward the end of the trip from Sorrento to Procida, it's a long way and the waves were high), walked before lunch through the tiny streets of Sorrento, looking much like one of those guided trips where many foreigners, often they are Japanese, follow some guide who (with a strong accent) screams about the city where you live stories that you would never have thought of and sometimes (not often) remember in case someone you know, some friend of a friend, comes visit from far away and wants to know something interesting, in the meantime they take pictures of everything, including the guide, at least this is the impression I had (and, I confess, I was ashamed), but we did not take pictures (someone lamented having forgotten the camera at home upon leaving Pomigliano early in the morning, they had come to the port on a bus) and being more disorderly in short we dispersed; this relieved me, I want everybody to like me and I wear sunglasses so no-one knows if I am really enjoying myself, behind the sunglasses I might have a snobbish look, they would not like it and from some points of view they would be right (I feel guilty), from others they would be wrong (I never lost eye contact with the group, I did not know where lunch was supposed to take place, I did not want to miss lunch). We played tammurriate, pizziche and tarantelle sitting on the steps at the entrance of a church, the church is not being used as it needs to be restored, inside it was strangely empty, Consiglia stood with her castanets on the other side of the street, she is smiling while she sings. In Brusciano the country is pretty but the legge 167 buildings are scary, the walls have coarse graffiti from football "ultras" (this is how hooligans are called in italian, "hooligan" is originally a russian word, see for example some poem by Esenin), near the place where we stop the car to pick up Consiglia a graffiti bigger than the others says "Bronx", in a reference to the degraded and violent character of that neighborhood of New York, Consiglia walks down a little alley which is not very well illuminated (I know she is not afraid), some of her neighbors (not her family, they are gente lavoratora says Mario, but lavoratora is not a proper italian word, the correct form is lavoratrice, they are honest and live from their work, plus a little extra from bootlegged satellite-tv decoders that Consiglia's father hids somewhere in the shop, he only offers those to people he knows well) have connected their own electricity to the communal wires ("condominiali", that is, belonging to the whole condominium), by-passing the counter so they don't have to pay taxes, and when we drive her back, sometimes it is late at night, it is really dark and I thought of walking her to her door, but if Mario never does it maybe it means that it's okay this way, and I always just say "ciao", often there are people hanging around inside their cars in the "Bronx" parking lot, what are they doing in their cars? I have seen (in other places) people doing drugs, heroin or cocaine, hiding, not really hiding, in their cars parked on some back street, in some desolate suburbian parking lot, this is an italian way to do drugs (Italy is overpopulated, it might be difficult to have some privacy).
Boats are not allowed to wait for their passengers for a long time on the pier, our boat had left while we were strolling around Procida, when we arrived at the appointment back on the pier the boat was still not there, we were early (I looked at my watch), but Fifino was there and we chatted. "So who drove them to the hospital on thursday?" "Pasqualuccio did (Pasqualuccio is a nickname for Pasquale, the suffix -uccio denotes motherly affection, Pasquale is the younger in the band except maybe for Consiglia, he looks older than his age, has a badly stitched scar on his forehead, I hadn't noticed when I first met him), but it was easy because they didn't start to do chemio on thursday, it was short and then afterwards she wasn't feeling sick or anything" (Dario has no car and he calls people from the band when Barbara needs to go to the hospital for treatment, she had surgery only a couple of weeks ago, they thought she would need to start chemio last thursday but that was not the case, but then the doctors said she will have to start next week), "if he calls me on monday, for example", says Mario, "I can't really make it, it's impossible, on monday, and on tuesday too, on monday and tuesday I have to be at the lab". "Maybe I can make it on monday", says Fifino, "I have to know in advance though, last time he called me at the very last minute and at work it was a mess" (Fifino tests the response of airplane and engines to oscillations at various frequencies), when Dario and his wife found out that she had cancer Mario told me that Dario thought, once the doctors would make it clear that there was no hope, to fly with her back to Poland so that she could die there, one time Fifino the evening of practice came to Fusco or Di Fusco's house while we were all laughing and said, "you forget about friends", we were watching tv, not football, some shitty show with real-life couples that would discuss their personal problems in front of the cameras, it's ridiculous but we watched it every wednesday unless football was on, everybody stopped laughing, I smiled because I thought he was kidding, but then I realized what he was talking about (he had just been with Dario, or he wanted to attract attention).
Later, on the boat back to Naples, the sea is still bad and the captain, too, has gotten sick, as the voice of his second informs us through the speakers; the boat goes wildly up and down, and back and forth, left and right, the night has fallen and on the coast the city is all lighted, a mosaic of little lights, yellow and orange and red; eighty people, happy to go home, are clinging to their seats fearing that a wave stronger than the others might throw them off the boat, but they laugh, they sing, they are loud, they play all the drums.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lapo Boschi lives in Naples, and is a volcanologist studying Mount Vesuvius. Because no volcanic activity worth mentioning has been recorded on Mount Vesuvius since 1944, Lapo has time for many activities, among which writing, watching football and going to the movies. Lapo is Italian, he was born in Bologna in 1972. If you're wondering why he writes in English, it's because he went to school in the U.S.; when he lived in the U.S., he used to write in Italian. Thus far, he's been published (in English) also on WordRiot.