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One More Day
By Fabio Volo, Gianluca Rizzo and Dominic Siracusa
MondadoriCopyright © 2007 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A.
All rights reserved.
Every time I've seen a girl I liked, I've always tried to get to know her, but most of all, I've always tried to make love to her. I've left alone very few of those I've liked. And why should I?
The girl on the tram was one of those. I've always saved her from myself. It wasn't a choice; it just happened like that. I never understood if she was the one influencing my behavior or if it was me who was changing. For about two months we met every morning on the tram. It was almost a date.
I'm the co-owner of a print shop with Alessandro. We print catalogues, short-run books, brochures, flyers, and for the latest elections, we've also printed electoral materials for both parties: we just switched the colors, the rest was exactly the same. Politicians always talk about a better future. Perhaps they're referring to paradise.
I began working for Alessandro a few years back. Later, I became his partner. It sounds bad to say, but I'm the kind of person who succeeds at everything. If I focus on a goal, I rarely fail to accomplish it. And the reason for it is simple: all those things that impair my personal relationships work to my advantage in my professional life. Come to think of it, I succeed because of a shortcoming instead of a special talent. My inability to manage my fragile emotive state has forced me to dedicate all my time to my job. I've always been defective emotionally. My job was my escape. My trick is to never be distracted by a love affair. I've always been in total control of my life and my feelings, and I've always thought I'd be that way forever.
I've worked abroad. Especially when I was young. It was in London where I started taking public transportation to work.
The daily encounter with the girl on the tram was one of the most exciting moments of my day. The rest would go on as usual. Those minutes on the tram were crystal clear, a window into another world. A colorful date.
None of the people in my life, or even in my phone book, for that matter, were capable of exciting me like that mysterious stranger. I was attracted to her. And, although I was genuinely curious about her, I never got any closer.
Every morning that winter, I would find her seated there when I stepped onto the tram to go to work. She looked like a cloud. She must have been about 35. When the tram would get to my stop, I would stand on the tips of my feet and stretch my neck to make sure she was on. If I didn't see her, I would wait for the next tram. In spite of this little trick, sometimes I had to travel without her.
That's about the time I started waking up before my alarm went off. If I didn't see her on the tram, I didn't want to spend the day wondering if she had passed before I got there, so I'd always show up early.
Often, during the day, I would fantasize about her, but mostly about us. It's nice to have a person to fantasize about during the day. Even if it is a stranger. I don't know why, but anytime I would think about her my thoughts lacked periods. Only commas. They were an avalanche of words and images without any punctuation.
She kept me company. And yet, our relationship was based on fleeting little smiles and silent looks.
She got off two stops after mine. I've often felt the urge to follow her, to find out something more about her, but I never did. I never even sat next to her. I would keep a certain distance, depending on the seats available and the rules of perspective. Day after day, I trained my eyes to look sideways. Sometimes, when she was far away and I didn't want to turn my head in her direction, I would follow her with my peripheral vision, and after a while my eyes would hurt. Sometimes the tram would get really full, and someone would stand right between us, blocking my view. I didn't spend the entire commute staring at her, I simply liked looking at her, I would be distracted by something else and then my gaze would return to her. Knowing that she was there gave me a sense of safety. The best seat to have was the one next to the exit. When that seat was available, it was a lucky day, because when she got up to get off, she had to walk by me and said hi with a smile. If I didn't sit down it was even better: in that case we would stay close, one next to the other for a few moments. I would breathe her in. She was like a mountain breeze when you open the window in the morning. I would breathe her in from up close, without touching her. Maybe someday, I would think. One day there was a little touch. One morning, as she was waiting for the door to open, the tram came to a sudden stop and she swayed in my direction. Her coat and my hand touched for a moment, and I clenched it as if I were biting it. If it were up to me, I would have never let her go. Sometimes she would look at me, too, from her seat.
We would often lock eyes; our intimacy was a mutual and silent understanding. I often feared the looks and smiles she gave me were just her being polite.
She wrote a lot. She would do it often. She wrote in an orange notebook with a hard cover.
"I wonder what she's writing. I wonder if she's ever written anything about me," I would say to myself.
I liked looking at her while she wrote. First of all because she would take off her gloves to do it, but also because you could tell she was completely absorbed in what she was doing. So much so that it would make me a bit jealous. When she wrote she wouldn't even lift her head from the page the whole commute. But looking at her so taken with what she was writing made her even more intriguing. I would have liked to be part of her world.
She wasn't easily distracted when she read, either. When she did it she wore glasses. They suited her. I liked to look at the way she would run her finger under the right page, separating it from the rest of the book. It was a very natural gesture, but it caught my attention, it was filled with all her grace.
Sometimes she would use her right finger to curl a lock of her hair.
The girl on the tram was beautiful. I liked her face. I liked her hair, straight, dark, thick. Her neck, her wrists, her hands. She only wore a small wedding band on her finger. No rings, no bracelets. Only a small wedding band. But the thing I liked the most about her was her eyes. What you could see inside them even if you looked only for a moment. Dark, deep, inescapable.
At the time I would ask myself, "Is it possible to fall in love with someone you don't know, someone you only see during your daily commute on the tram?" I didn't know then. I don't know now. I wasn't in love. I was attracted to her. However I can say with absolute certainty that somehow I felt a bond with her, and that it was easy to fantasize that destiny had something in store for me. Or for us, even.
I got close to the girl on the tram once because there were no seats left. I stood in front of her, but I was facing the opposite direction. That morning I saw her gaze reflected in the window. She was looking at me. We met there, on the glass which captured our images in its transparency. That's where, in the encounter of our reflected faces, I discovered that a side look is much more intimate than a direct one. As if someone caught you stealing. As if that surface had made transparent a desire that until then had been kept silent. That time, as soon as she got off and the tram pulled away, I turned to look at her. She did the same.
Twice a week she had a gym bag with her, almost always on Mondays and Thursdays. "I should do that, too," I thought. "I should take my bag to the office, even though the gym is by my house, and then go straight there after work. Then I would actually manage to exercise more." Instead, after work, I'd usually go home to grab my things, and I'd never make it out to the gym in the end. When I get home after a long day at work, the idea of going out again and facing physical exertion is too much of a battle. Besides, as soon as I'm home I get hungry and I snack on something. At the end of every day, I tell myself I'll go tomorrow. I have a weird relationship with my gym bag. As I pack it the night before, I'll feel like jumping in it to sleep on the folded bathrobe. I should really learn to unpack it as soon as I get home, too. Sometimes I forget and I won't remember until I'm already in bed. I imagine my sweaty shirt and the wet bathrobe next to the swimsuit that I wear in the sauna and I'll have to get up and unpack it. If I wait until the next day, I'm afraid I'll find mushrooms growing in it.
The girl on the tram was better than I. She would bring her bag to work.
One morning, I remember I got on and I saw her for the first time with her hair in a ponytail. High above her shoulders: the most feminine thing in the world, it makes me crazy. You could clearly see her neck, her ears, her jaw line. I remember thinking, "I'm going to go over there and stare at her until she gets up and we start looking into each other's eyes silently. We'll tell each other everything we feel without saying a word. A deep look, one of those that jars your soul. Then we'll kiss. Then we'll take a break and I'll give her little kisses on her eyes, her nose, her cheeks and her forehead, and then finally back to her lips. All the people on the tram will be looking at us and suddenly they'll start clapping. Music will play, the tram will stop and we'll get off and walk into the city. End credits. The lights will come on and people will leave the theatre in tears."
Instead, nothing. I kept my distance, as always. No music, no clapping, just the tram's foggy windows.
For her I've done a lot of things that don't make any sense. One day, after she got off, I waited a few seconds and then I got up. I went to where she was standing and I put my hand where hers had been just moments before. I could still feel her warmth. I needed something more. That day, just looking at her wasn't enough. My sense of touch demanded the same privileges afforded to my vision. That's why I was looking for a trace of her. Her warmth was something intimate, I wanted to caress a small part of the world she had already touched; I wanted to be the first to touch it after her. At times I pushed the button, calling for a stop, for the same reason. As I felt her warmth I wondered, "What are we? Friends, acquaintances, playmates, platonic lovers, perfect strangers?"
One morning, as she ran off the tram, she dropped a glove right in front of me. There weren't that many people and, as usual, almost everybody was half asleep. Nobody noticed it, nobody saw me when I picked it up. I should have given it back, but the tram doors had already closed and then, I don't know why, something stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps by calling her I would have broken the silence in which I was basking, perhaps I just didn't manage to find the courage. I kept the glove. It was wool, cherry colored. I was lucky; if it were made of leather it wouldn't have retained her smell as much. I sniffed it all day. I was afraid that if somebody noticed, they would have taken me for a maniac. I realized I was doing crazy things, things I would have never thought I could do. If a friend told me he did stuff like that, I would have thought he was crazy and I don't think I would have understood. The thing was, it was happening to me and I couldn't do anything about it. The girl on the tram had escaped the strict control I kept over my relationships. When I told Silvia, she laughed but she didn't think I was crazy.
Silvia is my best friend. She knows everything about me. The girl on the tram was often the topic of conversation during our evenings together. She objected only to the fact that I kept her glove in a re-sealable bag, like the ones on CSI: I did it to preserve her smell longer.
As I sniffed the glove I'd wonder, "What are you doing?" Then I would put it down, but I would keep thinking about it, and as I walked by, I would give in to the temptation once again. Like someone who's trying to quit smoking. Perhaps on the bag I should have written, "Surgeon general's warning: sniffing is harmful to your mental health!"
In the end I gave it up. Not the sniffing, but rather the feeling stupid. I wanted to do it and I did it. I enjoyed it. Period. The day after I picked it up I took it with me to give it back to her. Clearly I had let my imagination run wild. Destiny had given me the chance to break the silence with a legitimate and beautiful excuse. And with that glove I would have entered her life giving her some joy, "Hi I'm the guy who found your glove."
That morning, as the tram pulled up, I saw her. I got on and sat down. As I was building the courage to approach her, I thought that the glove was the only thing of hers I had, and that I could have kept it for a few more days. And that's what I did.
I also remember that during the commute she smiled at me.
At one point she went missing for about two weeks. I didn't know whether she was sick or on vacation, I only knew that I was afraid she had changed jobs, or decided to drive. I was inconsolable. The separation unnerved me, the feeling of impotence unnerved me: I had no way of seeing her or tracking her down, I didn't know anything about her.
I don't want to talk about those sad mornings. One day, she was back at her seat on the tram. I think I was unable to hide my joy. I was as excited as a newborn that tries to catch the butterflies hanging above his crib. I didn't know anything about her, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that she was back. I didn't know her name, where she worked, how old she was, if she was engaged or if she simply lived with someone. I didn't even know her sign. A person's sign never interested me, but with her it was different: in the morning, at the bus stop, I would always get one of those free newspapers and I would go straight to the horoscopes; I wanted to read hers as well, so I knew when it was the right morning to talk to her. I knew only two things about her: that, without knowing it, she made my day exciting, and that perhaps she lived a few stops before mine, other than in my thoughts.
One morning, after she finished writing, she got up, she came to the exit, ready to get off, and for the first time she didn't smile at me. She behaved as if I wasn't there. That hurt me. I, the king of the guilty conscience, became paranoid.Maybe someone had told her they saw me taking her glove.Maybe I'd stared at her too much and she was getting tired of it, or maybe she thought that the day we almost touched I did it on purpose. That I'd taken advantage of the situation.
She must have felt all my desire from that little touch. You know how women are: if you want them, they immediately know it. Maybe she got scared.
It's a good thing I never talked to her. And to think of how many times I nearly did. How many times I felt a force pushing me toward her. But I resisted. It wasn't easy because she was attractive in the truest sense of the word. Certain mornings when I looked at her, deep down my soul was swinging back and forth.. Heel – toe – heel – toe – heel – toe: go – don't go – go – don't go – go – don't go.
Good thing I didn't go.
As I was looking for an explanation for her behavior, she turned toward me and broke the silence.
"Do you have time for a coffee?"
"Would you like to grab a coffee before work? Do you have time?"
"Yes, yes I'd love to. I'll get off with you."
The doors of the tram opened and we got off together.
"There's a café right here Michela. Nice to meet you."
As I was walking I thought she possessed two more qualities I liked: her name and her voice.
I like women who take the initiative, the ones who take the first step—even though they always catch me off guard—because I am always the one approaching them. They make me feel threatened; they take away my primordial role as a hunter.
As we reached the café I held the door open and let an old lady go first. "Here you go, ma'am, bundle up it's really cold."
"Thanks, thanks, how kind of you."
That's because you're nicer to people when you're happy.
Excerpted from One More Day by Fabio Volo, Gianluca Rizzo and Dominic Siracusa. Copyright © 2007 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A.. Excerpted by permission of Mondadori.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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