«Hello! I’m Tommaso’s mother.» My mother entered the room in her usual boisterous manner, holding out her hand to Luna and sitting down in front of her. My grandmother sat down beside my mother and I remained standing, behind Luna.
For a moment, I felt like I was in an interrogation room in a detective film: two cops sitting opposite the guilty party and one standing behind her. Nobody was sitting next to Luna, not even her lawyer. The only thing missing was a light shining in the culprit’s face.
«What’s your surname?» Said my mother nonchalantly, beginning her cross-examination.
«Prestipino», Luna replied, putting a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.
«What does your father do?»
«He’s a plumber.»
«Uhm!» This comment meant: plumbers earn well.
«Have you any brothers or sisters?»
«No, I’m an only child.»
«Uhm!» This meant: How can you raise a family properly without any brothers or sisters?
«Does your mother work?»
I glared at my mother, but she was staring at Luna. My grandmother and I exchanged glances and she shrugged, raising her eyebrows, a little perplexed.
«No, she’s a housewife.»
«Uhm!» Meaning: of course, with the money her husband earns.
«Which school do you go to?»
«The third year of middle school.»
«Middle school. Uhm!» This meant: she’s so young.
«What do you want to do when you grow up?»
My grandmother tried to intervene: «Finish your ice cream, dear. It’s starting to melt.»
But Luna and my mother were engaged in a one-sided duel and she didn’t even hear my grandmother’s words.
«I don’t know yet.»
«Uhm!» That meant: she certainly hasn’t got any clear ideas.
My grandmother insisted, trying to bring the torture to an end. «Would you like a nice glass of orangeade?»
The poor girl managed to look away and answered: «No, thank you ma’am. I’m fine.»
My mother got up without adding anything else and went into another room, where she remained for the whole time until Luna left.
I was ready to go out the door to take Luna home, when my mother reappeared with a forced smile on her face. «Are you leaving already? Come and see us whenever you want. We’ll be waiting for you.»
Naturally, Luna never came back, nor did I bring her or any other girls’ home when my mother was present, at least not until I was more of an adult.
At school I soon realized that city girls more were a lot savvier than the shy, awkward village girls. They were friendlier, took the initiative and were the first to say hello.
A deafening siren, like that of a factory, sounded at the end of every hour of lesson and a stream of pupils and teachers migrated from one wing of the school to the other, trying to get to the classroom where their next lesson would be taking place.
Hundreds of girls and boys started going steady in the courtyard during lesson changes and the same number of tiffs between sweethearts took place in the corridors.
The scent of orange blossom filled the air on the day I bumped into Meg and Alfio outside my classroom.
«Hello there comrade, how are you doing?»
«Fine thanks.» I answered, walking on without stopping.
«Where’s your next lesson? I’ve got to go to A18 and walking there alone bothers me.» Meg said, with an aggressive tone, as always.
I would have liked to say no, but I was going in the same direction as her.
«Alfio’s going to B11. Will you come with me?» The extra explanation clarified her reason for her asking me. Alfio had a lesson in the new wing, and we were going to the old wing.
«I’m going to A15.»
We were like pawns in a game of battleships: A15 hit, B11 hit and sunk.
«Ok, let’s walk together then.» She gave Alfio a quick kiss on the lips and followed me.
«How long have you and Alfio been together?» I asked, not so much for curiosity as out of an effort to make conversation.
«Who says we’re together?»
«You kissed him on the lips.»
She stopped, grabbed me firmly by the shoulders, forcing me to turn and look her in the eyes, and pressed her lips against mine. It was a quick kiss, like the one she had given Alfio, without any emotion.
«So can we say we’re together now, because of this kiss?» She asked, walking on.
I froze, shocked. It had all happened in a matter of seconds but left a permanent mark in my mind.
«What are you doing? Hurry up.»
In silence, I carried on walking. When we got to her classroom, we said a simple goodbye to each other.
I had always imagined my first kiss as something unforgettable and, in a sense, it was. I had not yet kissed Luna, because I was waiting for the right moment, the right place and the right words.
That day, Meg had assaulted me with her black, unsmiling lips. She had stolen a kiss without asking first and I had stood defenceless. It was quite traumatic to see how a gesture that I had been dreaming of for so long, something that would be full of meaning for me, had been as simple as drinking a glass of water for her.
You sometimes think so much about a possible situation, imagining it, dreaming about it, idealizing it or fearing it, that when it happens you are surprised by how useless all that worrying was.
I realized that, in life, it’s better dive into things and see what happens, rather than thinking about it too much and not acting for fear of making a mistake.
I saw Meg again at the end of the lessons. It was as if nothing had happened.
I was with her in the school courtyard when Matteo suddenly turned up. «Have I missed anything, big brother?»
«What are you doing here?»
- Her Name Was Aprile - April 18, 2021