In a village, not far from mine, the Metropole cinema showed films for adults.
I had learned this when I was talking to Peppe ragù, the son of Carmelo the ghiancheri, the butcher. At Peppe’s house, they ate pasta with ragù almost every day and not just on Sunday like most families; this was the reason for his nickname. His mother was called Pina the jaddinara, because she bred hens and also to distinguish her from Pina the putiara (the shopkeeper).
My knowledge of the female anatomy was limited to what I had learned in science books, in which, however, the so-called private parts were not published.
I had never seen anything private that belonged to a woman apart from my grandmother’s and my mother’s underwear when it was hanging out to dry.
So I decided to go to the unmentionable Metropole cinema with Peppe ragù.
The nearest bus stop was in the main square, but to avoid being seen by the pensioners playing cards at the little tables outside the bar, we decided to walk to the next bus stop.
«They’re looking at us.» I said to Peppe as we walked straight past the bar of the zoppu.
«Tommy, you’re obsessed. Everyone looks at everyone and talks about everyone here.»
«Tomorrow my parents will find out and they’ll beat me silly.»
«So, do you want to come, or shall I go on my own?»
At the bus stop, there were a few women waiting under the shelter, protecting themselves from the April sun.
«Hello Tommaso, no school today?» Asked Assunta, the hairdresser’s daughter.
«No, it’s being disinfested.»
«So it looks like summer’s already here for you.» She commented, referring to the t-shirts we were wearing. «Where are you going? Anywhere nice?» The lady felt like chatting or perhaps she simply wanted something to tell her mother, who would in turn tell it to all her customers.
There was panic in my eyes. Peppe answered for me: «To my cousin’s house.»
Luckily the bus arrived. We got onto the bus and sat a long way away from the lady, who continued to stare at me.
«She’s looking at me.» I whispered.
«Of course she is. If you look at her, she’ll look at you. Stop it or you’ll make her suspicious.»
«She’s already suspicious. I can see it.»
«Tommy, relax. We’re not going to kill anyone.»
«Which stop are we getting off at? I mean, if we get off there, won’t it be obvious that we’re going to the cinema?»
«Be quiet. Don’t say that word. She might hear us.»
«Sorry, you’re right.»
«The bus stop is right behind my cousin’s house.» He said in a loud voice.
Fortunately, Assunta got off the bus at the stop before ours.
«What if they ask us for identification?»
«No way. They don’t ask for anything. They don’t even look you in the face. Calm down.» Peppe had already been there once before, with his older brother.
«And what if they report us and arrest us?»
«What the hell are you talking about? They can’t arrest you, you’re underage.»
«And what if they take us to the police station and call our parents?»
«Why did you decide to come then? We’re here. Let’s get off.»
My feet felt heavy. I was afraid that someone might recognize me and tell my parents.
We entered without even looking at the posters displayed in the window.
The lobby was small: there was a ticket counter on the right and a heavy red velvet curtain on the left.
A man was sitting at the cash desk, speaking on the telephone. He had a large belly, a black moustache and a coppola. He didn’t ask us anything and tore off two tickets. He took the money that Peppe had ready and continued to talk on the phone.
The cinema was dimly lit and there were four people sitting a long way off from each other. Inside, there was a smell of cigarettes and dust. The seats were large and comfortable and were also made of red velvet, like the curtain we had come through. My heart was pounding.
We quickly chose two seats in a secluded spot in one of the back rows.
After a few minutes someone entered and a woman’s voice called out behind us: «Tommaso, come to the cash desk. Dad needs to go out.»
Frightened, I associated the voice with that of my mother: she had said “dad” and had called my name. So, they must both be here. I had been found out.
«Damn! My parents are here.» I said, beginning to sweat.
«What the hell are you talking about, Tommy? Can you really see your mother coming to a porn cinema and calling you?»
A boy in the front row said, «I’m coming», got up out of his seat and started walking towards the exit.
It must have been the owner’s daughter calling her brother, Tommaso, who was sitting in the cinema, so that he could fill in for his dad at the cash desk, because he needed to go out.
«Relax. Enjoy your first porn film. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.» Peppe laughed, giving me a slap on the leg.
Indeed, it was true. The lights went out and the first scenes appeared on the screen: warm colours, slightly blurred images and a sound that seemed to embrace you. The screen was huge, and the sight of those female bodies was a revelation for me.
I watched the film with a desire to learn, as nobody would ever have explained how to make love.
I would have liked to ask my father a thousand questions, but I never had the courage to do so, and I couldn’t talk to my mother or grandmother about such things.
«Let’s go. It’s late. We’ll bring your brother Matteo too next time, what do you say?»
Little Matteo… my little brother. He was only thirteen years old, and he certainly wasn’t ready for this. He was still an innocent child.
On the bus home, I looked at women in a different light, like I was seeing them for the first time.
That experience had given me confidence. I would now finally be able to find the woman of my life.
I was born in Messina and raised in a traditional Sicilian family. I am the youngest of three sisters. I worked 10 years at a travel agency and then as a tour guide. Travelling is my passion. My writing career began somewhat by accident when I participated in a literary competition and won first prize. Two years later I tried my hand at the writing competition once again, my entry won first prize again! My first novel, "Her name was Aprile" was born after chronicling stories from a boy’s youth and the disappointments of lost love. In writing about these events, the characters came to life and the story wrote itself.