I couldn’t resist telling Matteo about what I had done.
He seemed very relaxed as he sat on his bed listening to me. Too relaxed, I thought. After listening to my account, he got up, lifted up the mattress, pulled out a magazine that he had hidden there and handed it to me. It was a pornographic magazine with photos that were, in my opinion, far too crude for a child to see.
«This way you can run through what you saw at the cinema, whenever you want to.» He said, with a cocky look on his face, and added: «If you have any questions, just ask.»
He left the room, leaving me speechless.
During the last year of the school biennium, I noticed one of my classmates, whose name was Aurora, peeping at me. When I realized and looked at her dark eyes, she pretended to be straightening her hair and casually looked away.
I waited for her to make the first move. It would have been useless for me to act first.
The “cowboy” attitude always worked with girls, as it makes them think you are tough and they can then bet their friends that they will be able to win you over.
In the end, it is always the woman who chooses her man and, therefore, I never tried to woo women whom I knew didn’t like me.
«Do you want to go out with me?» She had finally plucked up the courage to ask me, frankly and directly, without beating around the bush. Just few words, one breath, blushing slightly as she looked at me, waiting for a reply.
I did not answer, but moved towards her, looking straight into her eyes. My mouth was just a few centimetres from hers. I waited and made her wait. I had seen it done in the western films that I watched with my father: a cowboy speaks little and leaves dozens of broken hearts in his wake.
I knew she was waiting for an answer, but I could also feel her desire to stay standing there forever. I pulled her to me, putting one arm around her waist, and kissed her gently. She smelled of strawberries.
She threw her hands around my neck in a deep embrace. I reciprocated by hugging her tightly and kissing her passionately. We were happy and we would stay that way forever.
«Grandma, I’ve met the woman of my life.»
My grandmother never laughed at my now customary announcements.
«Good. I’m happy for you. Help me fry these aubergines while you tell me about her.» She was making an aubergine caponatina for supper.
«She’s really beautiful and she’s got a bewitching smile.»
«Then I’m sure she’s the right one for you.» My grandmother said, with a twinkle in her violet eyes.
I remembered our trip to Acitrezza, when the men stopped to look at her. Now that she was approaching sixty, her hair was silver, but her demeanour was always elegant. Her eyes would never age, giving her a timeless charm with every passing day.
My love story with Aurora survived the summer holidays and continued into the next school year, even though we were in different classes. Spring arrived and I thought it was the right time to introduce her to my parents. I was seventeen now and an adult.
«Grandma, I’d like to introduce Aurora to Mum and Dad. What do you think?»
«I think you should wait. Sometimes, when you’re very much in love, you don’t see things objectively.»
«What do you mean, Grandma?»
It was strange that she wasn’t supporting my choice in questions of the heart. Perhaps she was afraid that my mother would ruin everything with one of her interrogations.
«It means that when you’re in love, you only see what you want to see and you try to justify the bad things by telling yourself that you’ve not seen them properly.»
When she started playing with words like that, you could be sure that she was about to say something serious.
Matteo was standing next to her. The two of them exchanged a knowing glance.
«You two know something that I don’t know, and you don’t know how to tell me.» I decided to play with words as well.
«Tommy, you wouldn’t understand.» Matteo chimed in. «Grandma means that you’ve got slices of salami covering your eyes and you can’t see that Aurora doesn’t love you anymore.»
«What are you talking about?»
«Would you like a nice glass of orangeade?» My grandmother offered me the glass of salvation, as I called it.
According to her, offering someone a glass of any drink lessened the tension of heated arguments at home or embarrassing moments. It was a little like the English cup of tea that helps you, whatever the occasion.
«I saw her flirting with another boy.»
«Oh, blessed Mary! Did you have to tell him so harshly?»
«Are you sure?» I asked, hoping that I had heard wrong.
«Would I tell you a lie, big brother? You know I don’t joke about these things.»
«How long have you known? Why didn’t you tell me before?»
«Your brother wasn’t sure. He got confirmation yesterday and we were going to tell you today, but then you asked about introducing her.»
I got up silently and went out onto the balcony. I needed to think about how to react, how to take the blow.
«This girl isn’t the woman of his life either.» Matteo commented behind my back.
«You’ll see how many girls and friends you’ll both get through. That’s how life works: people come, and people go; some stay longer than others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t all leave their mark.»
«Grandma, why have you got only a few friends?» Matteo asked, stealing a fried aubergine from the plate on the cooker.
«I’ve known a great many people in my time, but only a few of them stayed close to me during life’s difficult moments. You see, Matteo, the only people who always remain by your side are your family. Your brother will always bring you life in any way and anywhere, because he’s a part of you. You may live in different towns in the world, because love or work may take you to distant places, but he will always be there for you as you will be for him. Even if a fight separates you, sooner or later you will feel the call of your family.»
- Her Name Was Aprile - April 18, 2021