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That monster in the office who ate me…

Dear Anna, in recent months we have written to each other little, I have the feeling that we have written to each other distractedly. Out of habit, perhaps out of fear of never hearing from each other again. I know it’s very difficult for you, I know what you’re risking. But since yesterday I haven’t thought about anything else: I’m old. You will laugh. I have been for years, but in these days at the end of November, I feel like I can no longer deny it. I am eighty-two years old.
It’s eight o’clock, I open the windows and the hot air burns my throat, sets the room on fire. I go back to bed, I struggle to get up, you know. Like every morning, the light divides the bed in half and as I have done every day for years, I move to the next pillow, I still need shade. The old white curtains I brought with me shake as if who knows what was going to happen. And yet nothing ever happens. On this distant strip of land, we are all old and tired, we are few, too far from each other to meet. We look at the sea and have our backs to the marshes. The house is getting hotter, I decided to put curtains in all the rooms, but this constant partial shade makes me feel even more alone. The kitchen downstairs is cooler, which is why I moved Ada’s chair there. From the window above the sink, I see the sea and sometimes the boats returning. It depends on the winds. Yesterday I felt my legs shaking as I sank my feet into the sand, sweat rolled down my neck, my hair was wet under my hat. I was tired. I’m so tired that I feel like I’m no longer afraid. I lost Antonio, I lost your mother, I lost the others. I’ve always been ashamed but now I have to talk to you.

In the evening we finished working late, I was the slowest, I always finished the proofs last, I rechecked the colophon at least five times, I checked the back cover with the same obsession I used while I was observing the leaves of the orchids – you liked them like that much. Your mother envied them. Yes, you were teasing us, we were teasing her. I was in my early thirties. The first time he raped me in her office. Standing against the desk. It was so fast, so violent, that I had a hard time understanding what was happening. I had placed the proofs on the shelf. The last word always belonged to him, the boss. It was eight o’clock. I was always late. I don’t know Anna because I didn’t tell your mother, anyone, because I stayed late. I stayed. I was afraid of losing everything.
I would never have thought that the fear would last longer than my sisters.
Sorry if I’m only telling you now, if I’m telling you like this. They forced us to live here, alone, separated. We were punished. We were too old. Useless, they said. But that’s not the truth, we were dangerous. You know it, your companions know it, we knew how to make a revolution.
When the sea is too high and the few boats we have can’t leave to reach the city, I don’t speak for days. I think of you often, I don’t resign myself to this exile. Sometimes I have a hard time imagining you as an adult. I remember you little girl. Forgive me Anna, I have become melancholy. I remember how you laughed when I hummed while I tried to get you to eat. Your mother never had patience with you. I miss her, I miss them all, but I miss her every day. When I’m distracted she just seems distant to me as if they’ve sent her somewhere else, like the others, then I remember that she’s no longer there.
I’m old, I’m tired, I’ve lived for more than eighty years and I’ve let go of the strongest shoulders to lean on, Lucia’s wrinkles around her mouth, when she opened the door and knew it was me, late in the evening, because the Antonio’s absence didn’t let me breathe. I held Rachele and Lucia’s hands until the end; Eight months ago, I closed Ada’s eyes.

Dear Anna, who are far from me, on nights of sleeplessness I see your black, shiny, thick hair – braided in the wind – as your mother loved to say, your bold blue eyes, when at twenty-five you scolded us because we didn’t understand how you intended to organize the groups of revolt, I felt your flames on our flesh, already dry, which was beginning to cling to the bones.
Do you remember when you begged me for the umpteenth time to tell you our story, you were just over ten years old, because I had just turned forty, and you loved hearing how we had all decided to move in together. Like a parrot, you repeated with me: “It was for a garden, only for a garden of roses and lemons. And for that well in the center.” Rachele had separated. Lucia couldn’t wait for anything else. Your father lived elsewhere. Antonio yes, he was no longer there. And at some point, we had changed our lives, radically. How I miss the voices of the morning: Rachele and her war against cochineal. Lucia always pissed off about sick lemons.
With you next to me, who would soon become the tall, insolent teenager you see in every photo, I felt that what we had done, written, shouted, we had done for you. You gave meaning to all choices, even the most painful ones. I still feel your tiny hands that we held onto ours during the processions, in our arms you danced, sang, got scared, and then you became serious again and looked at us. Who knows if you felt safe, that’s all we wanted. Our strength would have defended them all. We did it for us and for you, Anna. For all the others.
Then suddenly, it was you who shook our hands in dismay. Our wars had become yours, they were taking everything away from us, but you were ready. We didn’t yet know that we were witnessing the end of everything. We were old and they were separating us. The old ones that were no longer needed. Far from the world. Far between us. We were scary and pitiful. But you Anna, while they were taking us away, told me not to worry, that you would fix everything, because we had taught you to do so. You swore that we would see each other again, that you would take us home. That your mother and Rachele hadn’t fought in vain.
Anna, it’s so hot today, the sea is calm again, I’ll try to reach the city because I need fruit and they’ve been telling me for days that it will arrive. I hear the sirens, they are about to start traveling again. When you were so little on our shoulders, I never imagined that all this would happen, that I would be taken away from my home, from my life, from all of you. They threw us away. Far from each other, because otherwise we would not have given in. Together we were stronger. We were scary, Anna. I thought
that something worse than the one thing I never told anyone would ever happen. Not even your mother. Today I told it to you.
The second, third, fourth time it happened in my office. I prayed that no one would find out. I was struggling to breathe. It happened to me, when I thought I was dying I felt like I no longer had air in my lungs. I thought maybe I liked him, I thought it was happening because I didn’t want to chase him away. I thought it wasn’t happening to me, maybe that man I repelled, I deserved it. It wasn’t happening to me. He wasn’t raping me. Anna, how I would have liked to get rid of that monster that had eaten me. And instead, I didn’t have time, they separated us. They devoured us.
Anna, forgive me, because you shouldn’t have read these words far from me, far from everyone. I hope you are with the others, I hope that one day you will be able to take us away from these lands where I only hear the waves breaking and the seagulls crying to the sky. I was scared too, Anna, in those distant months I died many times. Then you arrived. You have arrived, and it is you that I continue to wait for, not the little girl, not the girl, I am waiting for you and our garden of roses and lemons. The boat has arrived, I hope to find some oranges, at least a little color in that empty kitchen.

Francesca Mancini, creator of inQuiete, feminist literature festival. You have worked as an editor and created several literary festivals. She worked in communications at ActionAid Italia. Today you work at the Turin International Book Fair.

#monster #office #ate #me..
– 2024-04-13 20:09:43

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