Sotto alla Corona
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After a quick dinner that excluded any sort of meat because of Good Friday, we decided that the evening procession was not going to be a good environment for a 10 month old baby: too crowded, too late at night and too confusing, so we left him home with mum and dad and ventured down the village on our own.
Steven tried to insist for us to take the car, but I had been looking forward to a nice walk for so long that I was unshakeable in my intention to get there on foot.
"See you later mum! Call me on my mobile if you need anything ok?" I said whilst walking out
"Don't worry.... We will be just fine, I don't think Gabriel is planning to wake up before tomorrow morning..." she answered holding up the baby monitor, showing my son fast asleep.
The walk to the village was very pleasant, nobody on sight, everyone was probably cramming the church by now, but that was a part we decided to skip.
I ended up walking with my husband down the same street I used to walk down to every day on my way to school as a kid.
How funny can life be sometimes... Who would have thought that thirty years later I would be walking again the stage of my teenage misery with the man of my dreams by my side.... I wish someone had told me that everything would have been alright at the end...
We passed by the news stand where I use to buy stickers to exchange with my friends in class, then by what used to be a bakery, where my recess snack was purchased every morning, hot from the oven and finally walked along the school building, still the same brick red colour, still full of memories. Peeping through the windows on the ground floor, I even showed Steven my first classroom, where I sat at the age of 6 on september 1981 for my first day of school. The tables are still facing the same direction.
So it happens that we arrived at the village gate (yes...it really has a gate from medieval times and they lower it at night to keep homosexuals from getting in...No... Just kidding..... They lower it to keep the homos from running out..... Kidding again.... The gate is always open...).
The place looked very picturesque at night, some torches were already burning on the buildings walls in preparation for the candle-lit procession.
As I was anticipating, the closer we got to the church, the more people we began to meet.
How on earth is it possible that in 22 years of my life in the village I was rarely stopped in the street by someone that wanted to know how I was, and now that I have been living in London for 13 years I come back and can barely walk a hundred meters without being mobbed by somebody that used to know me once upon a time? Tragic.
It was funny in a way though. First I introduced Steven as my husband to EVERYONE. Upon hearing the word 'husband', somebody ignored it and carried on talking, somebody else congratulated me ('Good for you!' and a pat on the back...), some other old virgin that knows my whole family (shame you cant read this and you will never know I called you an old virgin... and a bitch...) did the sign of the cross and walked away leaving us in giggles.
My giggles were all due to nerves. I have to confess. Years of bullying don't disappear just because you get what you want in life.
I still felt vulnerable, observed and talked about. That bitch Dina was right. I do care about what people think of me, always have.
I had my cake, but there is always been this annoying fly buzzing around my head, distracting me from the hard-earned pleasure of the first bite.
I hope one day I will get over it.
Anyway, we were now struggling to walk against the current of people the church was regurgitating into the tiny cobbled street. It was almost nine o' clock, the mass was over... The magic began.
The old church bell clapper started its sad job of announcing Christ's death. Three....Two.....One..... Darkness.
Then as a a thousands candles lit up, Jesus was carried out of the church, draped in black cloth, followed by his poor mother, gorgeous in her grief. The antique black lace dress offset by the mass of jewellery in her hands and pinned to her skirt.
Why would any woman go to a funeral covered in jewels is a mystery to me.... But then again, they were Jews weren't they?
It was a spectacle, it truly was! Obviously I did not stop to consider the fact that I should've educated my husband on how to behave in such particular occasions.... I was soon to learn the sad consequences.
The body of Christ was preceded by a brass band, all in silence at first, but then, as soon as the procession entered the Via Vecchia, they exploded in a loud and pathetic music.
I think Steven was not expecting this and, caught up between the anticipation, the stifling crowd, the candles and the music, he also exploded in a loud cheer.....
"WOOOOO HOOOOO!!!!" he shouted clapping his hands.
The entire congregation turned towards us open mouthed, so we had to duck down to avoid all the disgusted looks thrown in our direction.
"What the fuck are you doing!!!!!!!!!" I snapped at him incredulous
"What? Why?" he laughed
"We are not here to see Jesus on a float at the carnival! HE IS DEAD! D-E-A-D!!! What the fuck is there to cheer about? Why don't you also get up there and lift Mary's skirt to look underneath, as you are already half way through to getting us stoned to death?" I ranted
"Well... Jeez.... If it's so serious, why do they have a brass band at the funeral then? This is not freaking Louisiana is it?" Steven carried on clearly amused
"Steven you are going to get us mob-lynched, nailed to the church door and I guarantee you that there will be some evil fucks charging people money to come and see us and even more evil fucks paying it!.... SHUT IT!" I retorted pinching his arm and trying to stifle a bemused smile
"OUCH!" he screamed
"SSHHHHHHHHHHH!!! FOR GOD'S SAKE HAVE SOME RESPECT!" an old woman in a wheelchair in front of me nudged me in the groin with her knitting needles.
"LADY! Are you insane? Oh My.... AGNESE!!!" I exclaimed with a broad smile "Is it you? Do you remember me? I went to school with your granddaughter Elisa!"
The old lady lifted her head to look at me and laughed "Dear heavens! I should've known it was you... Always laughing in church! What are you doing here? Give me a kiss!" and she hugged me as I lowered my head towards her.
My heart filled up with such joy! Agnese was Elisa's grandmother, she practically raised her and I used to spend so much time in her house that mum was convinced me and Elisa were doing the dirty and were going to get married one day. She kept banging on about it to Agnese 'You must be prepared.... These two are dangerous...'
Such fun I had with Elisa. She was crazy-funny. How I loved laughing with her when everybody else was laughing at me.... Blessed times the eighties... How many times we put on a hair band and some fluorescent leg-warmers and pretend to be dancers on a stage, choreographing our butts off around her bedroom.
How can I explain to you Elisa...
Well, Elisa is the one that taught me not to be ashamed for wanting to play with dolls because Barbie is far more fabulous than any miniature police car or locomotive money could buy.
"What the hell is there to do with some stupid little car? Aren't you tired of pushing it around to the sound of 'vroooom vroooom'? Gosh, that's boring.... Come, let's make some evening gowns for tonight's Oscars before you turn into a little turd like your so-called friends...".
How could any little insecure boy resist the rescuing hand of such a blast of a super confident little girl?
Elisa used the word fabulous way before the fabulous WAS fabulous. We were barely six years old.
Elisa was the only one in school that used to tie her white and navy polka-dot bow around her head rather than around her neck as the uniform rules commanded.
Elisa used felt-tips as pretend cigarettes and strutted her stuff in the class room like a diva and, when everyone else frowned and laughed at her, I used to look at her in a trance, totally dazzled.
Elisa was the first person I told I was gay and her answer was "Does that mean that I finally get to teach you how to pluck your eyebrows correctly? Christ! You are a shame to the gay community with those two hairy caterpillars on your forehead..."
She made me smoke grass for the very first time and kept me walking when all I wanted to do was throw up.
She hilariously divided the world's male population into two categories: too small to be taken seriously and too big to be taken.
Elisa is somebody that, like me, wanted out of the village and went on to work for a fashion publication in Milan as vice fashion editor and everyone thinks that she can afford expensive shoes because she is whoring her way to the shops with some rich industrialist. In this case though, reality is far more interesting than gossip.
I used to love Elisa. I still do, even if I had not seen her for at least seven years. Before that night.
Elisa.... Definitely more than any well balanced man could bear, but still worth it the chase. And boy she has been chased!!
I used to fall in love with every other guy she used to cast off. I was such a saddo.
She used to tell me "Darling, there are two things in life that you don't pick up once they are dropped: somebody else's dirty knickers and somebody else's ex boyfriend..... Besides, they both can give you crabs....".
I was smiling to myself remembering all this.
"Where is Elisa? Is she here with you?" I asked Agnese eagerly
"Believe it or not, tonight she is standing in for me... Over there.... See the mourners behind the Dead Christ?" she pointed vaguely her knitting needle at the procession
"ARE YOU SERIOUS? I thought that only being at a stone's throw from a sacred image was enough to send your granddaughter up in flames..... Is she really doing this?" I sniggered
"Well... I can't really walk anymore my darling... Wait! There she is... Look!" she insisted
"Agnese... I can't make her out from the rest of them... They are all wearing those black lace veils..." I protested, but then, glancing at the floor, among a stampede of black, sensible, 'lesbian-nun', as Elisa would put it, type of footwear worn by the mourners, I spotted a single pair of heels... Not just your average pair of heels of course, something perfect for the occasion: black satin strappy slingbacks, heels high up to heaven, dangling with jet-black crystals. I could barely make out the dark red nail polish.
All hail bitches. It was her.
"ELISA!" I shouted from the crowd, my whole face lit up
"SHHHHHH!!!!!" another old woman snapped at me bringing a finger to her lips with a disapproving look on her face.
Elisa turned around and lifted her veil.... She saw me straight away and, unfortunately, had the impulse of jumping out of her line and dive towards me yelling
"DAAAAAARLIIIIING!!!!!" whilst knocking the veil off the head of a couple of her fellow mourners and pushing aside several other people.
I think that even the Dead Christ Himself lifted his head up to have a look at the commotion. I simply wanted to shrivel up and die, but I was also far too happy to just drop dead.