When I first arrived in Florence for a three-month stay, my meaning of home shifted. One day I was walking around the city to get myself situated and ducked inside the Orsanmichele church. Initially, I didn’t know it was a church because of its rectangular shape and rather inconspicuous entrance. I made my way to the front of the church where a large, white tabernacle framing a painting of the “Madonna with Child” stood. I sat down in the wooden pew closest to the tabernacle and admired the details of them both. After a few minutes, I closed my eyes. “You are home,” a soft voice whispered to me. The voice startled me at first because it was not my voice and also because I had never once uttered those words. As if the voice knew I was unsure of what I had just heard, it whispered them again to me two more times. I released a long breath I was holding unintentionally and let my body gently find its way against the back of the pew.
The thing about mess is that it derails the already derailed mind. Mess gets everywhere, copulates with space and expands like a Bavarian’s stomach. Tidiness is concision, the opposite but mess, it has wings made of shit, and it has grand aspirations, to run like riverluts into every nook and cranny, leaving you ravaged. My place was an armpit because a workman was dismantling, excavating my place as if he were looking for the enchanted realm of Atlantis or Julius Caesar’s underwear or the remains of a subterranean race who had invented the wheel before us or sped through eleven dimensions and assisted us in our evolutionary arc as we aimed high for the stars and fell flat, beaten and wiped and timorous.
My house was a pit mainly because my landlady was a cunt and she had neglected with truly fascist devotion to maintain the upkeep of the place, poured scorn on me and all my ramifications as she worshiped at money’s squalid altar, counted her pennies, wiped her ass with them, saved them, penny pinched and treated all with scorn and six barrels of liquid nitrogen hatred. By rights she and her seed should have been cordoned off or forced into straitjackets, made to eat humble pie, should have been lobotomized and dissected like frogs. But she had money, she had property, she had status, she had all those sticky little feathers that society so favors, so she was ensconced comfortably in her cosy little death machine, playing a fiddle whose strings had been sequestered from the guts of the cows that she had primed and executed by firing squad. My landlady was the essence of all that is evil with a fur coat shoved around its ashen form. When she spoke children and insects perished in the heat ray, when she farted the Earth’s crust was singed and dislocated, when she checked her bank account on line computers developed viruses and hard disks crashed and burned. She was a living death embodiment of what they call capitalism. Capitalism, the way of expediency and exploitation. There is nothing sweet or cute or SantaClausy christmasy about the big C.
Let me tell you what it is, the big C, it’s all the little ants being crushed underfoot by all the big toads and hobnailed boots, those big old boots they have exclusive memberships in golf clubs and other rich boot relatives in Hawaii. And these old contaminating, toxic, carcinogenic boots never seem to have enough money, and they are always a little hard up somehow, despite owning most of the land and real estate and despite having quilts that are stuffed with dollar bills and despite ingesting five star fare that ordinarily would cause cardiac arrest on account of both its monetary and glutinous richness.
And those old boots have friends in high places who like to wield swords and generally make a lot of noise and sound and fury and those old boots live on and on and on and never die, never do they die those old boots because God don’t want them up there in the celestial sphere and you know what after a while those good old boots with their membership clubs and executive class and their double martinis and their imported wine and patè de frois gras very soon those old boots are stinking to high heaven and not all the perfumes in all the world would be able to dent even by a jot the helmet of that unholy, foul stench. And soon the boots are stinking so hard that they resemble walking cadavers and the old boots are dead inside dead inside because they have never really been alive let’s face it and they are plunged 50,000 leagues under the sea like jellyfish like seaweed and they get thrown about and tossed about under the sea within its chambers but even there in the zonelessness of water their stench does not leave them and then finally their submerge from the purity they have corrupted and they dry off, the old boots, they dry off and they decide to tread on some gentle flowers and they decide to roll in designer label shit and then they are finally wearying of this life, wearying of all their bloated pleasure and decadence wondering what on earth they might have left the earth, this world, wondering what they might have contributed to this beautiful planet and then they realize that it’s all gone pear-shaped, that their sons and daughters have wised up and now they loath them, the old boots, with a vengeance and as they finally see through all their lies and self-deceptions and their appalling abuse of power and people and their sickening worshiping at the altar of money and greed and profit and price tags the boots begin to feel they want to change, change for the good, make it all right do something honorable for once save a whale convert a Muslim copulate with a homeless person whatever nonsense it is but it’s too late too late and as Mephistopheles comes for them at last and the pit of hell opens and the old boots are swallowed Mephisto whispers to them you failed to pay the aqua bill of the condominium so now you must pay the price and their stench is so prodigious now that even Satan himself can’t stand it and they finally fizzle and fry and become blobs of grease and these blobs of grease are incorporated into a bright modern architectural structure in Milton Keynes and all then, finally, is right with the world. And they all lived happily ever after, having fun and being nice to everyone they happened to meet.
Short Bio: Baret Magarian was born in London, but is of Armenian-Cypriot origin, and currently lives in Italy. He began his career by writing features and reviews for The Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent and The New Statesman, then published fiction in World Literature Today, Journal of Italian Translation, the online magazines El Ghibli, Sagarana, andVoyages. He has worked as a translator, musician, lecturer, book representative, fringe theatre director, actor and nude model. He has recorded an album of acoustic rock, composed and performed piano music in the vein of Alkan and Jarrett (available for free listening on Soundcloud — Floto Music) , and recently staged his monologue “The Pain Tapestry” in Turin to great success. The monologue will be performed again on 28 October 2016 at Florence’s Teatro Puccini – Micrò.His writing has been praised by Bruce Hunter, the Canadian poet, and by Mia Lecomte, the Italian poet and critic. His lengthy, ridiculously ambitious novel The Fabrications will be published in March 2017 by Pleasure Boat Studio of New York. The novel has been described by Jonathan Coe, the esteemed British novelist, as “a brilliant achievement … extremely ambitious, original and accomplished … a novel which unblushingly seeks out the company of the modern masters.”
By Mundy Walsh
I was in Ireland last month helping my parents fix the flat roof of their shed. It was a cloudy day and I could see a field of corn behind the tall Beech hedge which separates us from our nearest neighbors—and their clothes line of souvenir tea-towels.
We had to lift a section of the roof and repair some of the rafters. There was a long ladder on one side of the shed, which extended high in the air, and would have enabled me to step directly onto the roof. But alas, I’ve seen enough cartoons to know what happens when you perch at the top of a tall ladder, arse to the wind.
Instead, I used the older, stouter ladder that, when I stood on the final step, made me waist high with the roof. From there I could climb up like a monkey. Albeit a monkey with matching bruises on her shins and a worrisome rip in the crotch of her trousers.
I started reading King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard while in Ireland (in truth, I still am—speed-reading is not my forte). I found it on a book shelf, one of those Penguin Classic special editions with the pale green and white cover; a copy I bought years ago. The paper is recycled and the ink regularly smudges as I hold it, and I often leave finger prints on the pages, especially during the August heat of my apartment in Florence. At first this annoyed me, as I am one of those people about books, but now I don’t mind that sometimes I can see miniature letters on the tips of my fingers.
I am reading a lot of adventures lately, perhaps because I am restless. Something new is percolating, as it does every 5 years, to make me want… more. I may not actually do anything once midnight strikes on the fifth year but there will be an irritating rub like sand in the sock, making me remember the last time I swam in the freezing, windswept Altantic. Deja vu in the corner of my mind, next to the chocolate, making me ask myself when I last took a flight to a place I didn’t know. Church bells that tap me on the shoulder—every day at 8am—to say, ‘Well…?‘. I feel familiar and yet foreign, as once again, my mind, body and soul are fighting over the car keys.
In the meantime, a trip into the African desert in search of Soloman’s diamonds sounds just the trick: ‘For a while we tramped on in silence, til Umbopa, who was marching in front, broke into a Zulu chant about how some brave men, tired of life and the tamenss of things, started off into a great wilderness to find new things, or die, and how, lo and behold! when they had travelled far into the wilderness, they found that it was not a wilderness at all, but a beautiful place full of young wives and fat cattle, of game to hunt and enemies to kill.’
The question is though, which ladder? Will I be high and proud, knickers flying, or low but secure with the occasional bruise?
Short Bio: From Ireland, Mundy has been living in Florence for four years working as the Administrator of St Mark’s and Artist Director of St Mark’s Cultural Association. Florence Writers was created from within this cultural association, providing events and workshops for writers. She is also co-Founder and Editor of a quarterly e-journal called The Sigh Press (www.thesighpress.com), author of one book, sketcher of small objects, and hoarder of watches.
By Marisa Garreffa
Many years ago, a friend sat me down. “Marisa, if you woke up tomorrow and couldn’t make theatre anymore, do you realise that people would still love you?”
No. I did not know that, or believe it.
How could I? Theatre was the only thing I loved about myself. Every other part I struggled with – the junkie, the trash-bag, the depressive, the girl who was “one of the boys” and always just a little “too much” of something. Too complicated. Too sad. Too talkative. Too loud. Too much. Too lost.
Theatre was my roadmap for life, giving me one clear direction to cut through the chaos. A place I could communicate the things I couldn’t bear to say or feel. A golden thread connecting me to a world where I was capable of being something that was good. Theatre was my healthy connection to other people, that wasn’t about drugs or booze or madness, but about shared creativity and humanity. Theatre was my great love and, through this work, I found people who loved me in return.
But it wasn’t always that way. Before there was theatre, there was something else.
I used to be a dancer. That was my identity, the doing of my being that tied me to the world. My best friends came from dance class, and together we belonged. I won my first of many trophies singing and tap dancing to “Tea for Two” – wailing every line with the over-enthused “E” sound that only children can muster. While dancing I felt free, joyful, and alive. It felt like my calling, and this sense of connection was written all over my raptured face. My movements were not technically perfect, but they transmitted a joy and connection with life’s heartbeat that could not be articulated any other way. It was my first great love.
In high school it changed. Bored during class one day, I asked to go to the bathroom and then snuck to my locker to read a book I was hooked on. On my way down the stairs of the building, I spotted a year 12 boy I had a mega crush on. Long hair, blue eyes, and a permanently stoned slouch that I translated as the epitome of cool. Busy staring, I misstepped and tumbled, ass over tit down the stairs. He passed by, not pausing to help. My ankle ballooned to twice its size and turned a fairly awful colour.
A few days later, determined to complete a ballet exam. I strapped up the twisted ankle and took some pain killers to soldier on. While in full split along the barre, my damaged foot gave way and slammed into the wall. I fractured a small bone in my big toe, and had to replace dancing with physiotherapy. I remember sitting on the ground with an elastic band around my ankle, instructed to twist my foot back and forth until someone told me to stop. I wept onto the scratchy carpet, frustrated to be alone and broken, rather than strong and dancing for joy.
I went back to dancing afterward but a piece of my love was lost, a long crack running ominously through the foundations. A fear had been born – that everything could be taken away at any moment. One of many depressions began. Life with its complexity dug more holes into my innocence and I piled addictions on top, burying one problem with another. My body had become my enemy, and I took less and less pleasure from inhabiting it. I no longer felt connected with the world. I no longer belonged.
My great love had fallen.
I had to find another way to speak.
I sidestepped into theatre, and was surprised to find success there. Perhaps dance was supposed to lead me here all along, still toward the stage but in a different way. I performed musical theatre at first, but my fears raged and I soon retreated to the safer roles of directing and writing, where I could express everything that lay, unwitnessed, inside of me without having to inhabit my body fully. I discovered playwriting – creating shows together with other theatre creatives who felt like family. I belonged and had a place in the world again. Here, I could pour out the twisted emotions that had found a home in me, morphing them into images and words, and my understanding of movement found a new expression in other people’s bodies. After the close of every single show, I would crash to a rock bottom and only emerge for another project.
My theatre productions swung from funny and beautiful to bleak and dark. The work and the expression was healing. Eventually, I tapped deep into my courage and returned to the stage, this time as an actor, performing my own text in a solo show for the first time. It was around this time that my friend tried to convince me that I was loveable – with or without my work. I did not believe her. Without my new-found great love, I was sure that I was nothing.
Theatre led me to Europe, where I dreamed of changing my life. I wanted to leave addictions behind and replace them with new experiences. Six months into my adventure, I was drugged and raped while looking for an apartment to rent. During the court proceedings, the rapist’s lawyer put an image from my solo performance on the judge’s table. I was naked in that show, hung on a long rail with pig carcasses, a comment on women’s bodies and death. The photo was wielded as evidence of my promiscuity. The judge didn’t buy it, but my safe space, the protective womb that was theatre for me, had been invaded.
Again, I didn’t want to be in my body.
Again, a great love had fallen.
Again, I had to find another way to speak.
Theatre could not contain the story I needed to tell anymore. Without consciously deciding to, I began to write a book. The words poured out of me, and the feeling of being “called” returned. Perhaps this was where theatre was supposed to lead me all along, to the page. As of today I have written two books already, to my own surprise.
I have no set idea for the next book, nor any sense of what I will do next. Now I move fluidly between writing, theatre, and new inspirations. I’m even known to dance a little at parties or in the kitchen – but none of these are my home. Something is shifting, liberating me from an old fear. My source of great love is in the process of relocating itself.
I couldn’t see it before, but my creative expressions were always merely roads. When one is closed to me, there will always be another that reveals itself in time. They are there to guide me and, in the end, they’re all leading to the same place.
They lead straight back to me, deep into the self that I was so sure I hated.
I am the source of the great love that I thought came from outside.
I am the source of my best self that people came to love.
I am the source of the love in my life.
And as long as I speak my truth, whether it’s through dance, theatre, books, a great conversation, or even just a hand placed over someone else’s – my love will always reach other people and be reflected back at me, connecting me with the world. This is my belonging. Not what I do, but how and that I do it.
I wonder what may fall next, and the road that loss will lead me to…
Short Bio: Marisa is a professional writer who works in Australia and internationally. With her theatre company, Mondo di Corpo, she has written and performed for presentation in Australia, China, and Europe. In Italy, Marisa has revised The Medici Dynasty theatre production for presentation to English speaking audiences, now in its second year with over 200 performances and 8000 audience members. She is a writer for Openhouse Magazine, and has just completed “The Flesh in My Life”, a memoir with recipes that captures the early life of her father Vince Garreffa, a well-known Calabrese butcher and personality in Perth. It will be released in Perth during December of 2016, and in Italy during May of 2017. Her own memoir is in development, and will be published in late 2017.
By Lori Hetherington
I’ve never been much of a movie buff. Don’t get me wrong: I like movies but I can never remember the title or the plot, not to mention the names of the actors. However, there is a film I saw on television once in the late 1990s that I have never forgotten. In that film, the protagonist, named Helen and played by Gwyneth Paltrow, lives two possible, parallel lives, spawned by the simple act of catching, or not, her commuter train: Sliding Doors.
The idea of sliding doors fascinates me. Can a spur-of-the-moment decision or fluke decide a person’s fate? Is there another me out there going about her life in a parallel universe that I am unaware of? My skin gets crawly when I ponder it deeply, like trying to figure out what’s beyond the most distant galaxy, or wondering if aliens are already living among us on Earth. Questions that are so big they’re scary; more likely it’s the answers that trigger the reaction.
When I saw the film, I was in my thirties, I had been living in Florence for quite a few years, I had a small child, a husband, and a job that seemed to fit me relatively well. Motherhood, an apparently stable family life, employment, friends, life in a beautiful country. But something inside me changed when I watched Sliding Doors, and as a result (or maybe not) so did everything else. I began fantasizing about how my life would be different if I turned right instead of left, if I parked my car here or there, or if I put on heels or sneakers. I didn’t actually become obsessed, but whenever I made an on-the-spot decision I found myself wondering what might have happened had I decided differently.
In an alternative universe, we might see Lori Two (or perhaps, Lori Too) as she seals another deal with a client with a firm shake of hands, as her left tugs on the hem of her business blazer to cover her ample bottom half. She’s shaped like a squat, bulbous Bartlett or Williams pear, not slender with a round base like the Abate variety. She’s known in the insurance industry for her ruthless sales tactics and she is driven to maintain her place at the pinnacle of the business world. Something of a bulldozer with a smoker’s cough. She knows cigarettes are bad for her but, hey, what the hell.
Satisfied with her day’s work, she marches down her new client’s driveway, slaloms around the tricycle and the bright red Water Blaster abandoned on the concrete, heaves her bulk into her minivan, lights up, and pulls away from the curb in the cul-de-sac. She’s already calculated her hefty commission before she reaches the stop sign on the corner.
The ninety minute drive—not bad if you consider it’s rush hour—to her rancho-style suburban home seems to fly by, thanks to a series of phone calls: her secretary, a client, her husband. “Yeah, Louise, I unloaded one hell of a policy on those folks. [Hack, hack.] You’ll find the paperwork on your desk in the mornin’. I’d appreciate you processin’ it first thing, ‘fore they change their minds.” “Oh, Mrs. Waldersmith, so nice to hear from you! I’ll check on that claim of yours and get back to you by noon tomorrow.” “Hey, Bobby, I’m on my way. Grandkids there yet? Waddaya think: a couple of king-sized pizzas? Pepperoni? I’ll be there in twenty… Gawd, Bobby, what did we do back in the ‘80s without cell phones!!!”
I imagine lives as intertwined pieces of string or yarn. Not neatly woven by a master weaver, but mixed up in a jumbled mass. For a certain length, a blue string may be in contact with another segment of blue string, the two pieces lying side by side or one draped over the other. They are free and unhindered, but may, farther along, be knotted together. Perhaps those knots in similarly colored string are points of commonality where a sliding door opens or closes.
Through the centuries there have been many discoveries that have proved what had previously only be theory. For example, the Earth as a round body, or the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein. Maybe someday sliding doors will be known as fact. But until then, hot damn, pass me a slice of that pizza! Cough, cough.
Short bio: Lori Hetherington grew up in California and has spent nearly her entire adult life in Florence Italy, where she works primarily as an Italian to English translator, writing other people’s words. She works on many different texts, from scientific articles for specialist journals to historical and literary fiction, and even contemporary romance. However, she also enjoys writing her own words when she gets the chance. You can find out more about her and her work at www.lhetheringtontranslation.com.
A 36 year old African-American woman with braids. She sits in an office chair, tipping backwards. She’s chewing gum. In the background, there’s the sound of women’s voices. It sounds as though a woman with a strong Spanish accent is speaking very quickly sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes it might be a made-up combination of the two languages.
Jasmine: D’you hear that? Huh?
In the background, we hear the Latina’s voice say, “those roses he gave me? He turned them upside down and shoved the stems – with all the thorns – up into my….”
Jasmine: You heard that, now. I can’t listen anymore. Every Monday, we sit listening to each other’s stories. They’re blendin’ into one big ol’ mess to me. Who cares? Every Monday we groan, cough, nod, flinch, and shake our heads. For what? It’s not like men are gonna stop doin’ it!
We hear a different woman’s voice. She’s obviously white and educated. We hear her say, “When you have the strength you’ll leave”. The white voice drones on.
Jasmine: (Pops her gum and snorts) She sure will. She’ll leave him. She’ll come here and stay for a couple weeks or months. Then she’ll go back to her husband. Back and forth. Back and forth. (chews gum loudly for a moment) Come to think of it, I think this is like the seventh…no. Eighth time I’ve left DeJuan.
The white voice comes into focus to say, “Seven times is the average” and then the Latina’s voice starts speaking really fast.
Jasmine: White girl’s name’s Cecily. Cecily says to me, “No one will be angry or doubt you if you go back. It just means you need to gather more strength. But in this moment, you took a big step.” Can you believe that shit? (mimicking the white girl) “In this moment, you took a big step”. (snorts) A step. That’s right, honey. We’re trapped on a hamster wheel. Only thing we can do is step!
Long pause. She thinks. We hear the voices of the women in the background
Jasmine: Cecily said she had an abusive husband. Guess he stalked her across the country after she left him. (pause) I don’t feel sorry for her. She wasn’t stuck. She moved across the country! Means girl’s got money, a car, and somebody helpin’ her. She never had to plop her ass into a shelter.
I got seven kids. Youngest’s three. DeJuan didn’t want me using birth control ‘cause the number of kids showed off his virility, I guess. White girl Cecily called that reproductive abuse. Can you believe the names they make up for things? (sarcastically) “Reproductive abuse”.
Total silence in the room. Jasmine puts her gum in a tissue.
Jasmine: Tastes like shit after a while. (pause) I met DeJuan at church. My mama knew his grandmother. She raised ‘im ‘cause he mother left him. Drugs. (pause) Look, I went to college. On scholarship and I graduated with honors in English. I wanted to be a playwright. Matter of fact, my play was put on at the Goodman. That’s in Chicago. It was this sweet little story about this girl and her grandmother’s last words. The play started with her grandmother dying. She says, “Who cares about love? Compassion’s all that matters.” The rest of the play is about this woman trying to prove her grandmother wrong.
An African American woman’s voice says, “You got any Kleenex? Girl’s cryin’ here.” We hear some shuffling around. Cecily laughs. “Unbelievable that we never have any out for group!”
I hate “compassion”. Easier not to give a fuck.
I felt sorry for DeJuan because his parents left. My mom was always sayin’, “Be nice. Imagine if you were in ‘his situation’.” He’d hurt me and Mama’d tell me, “Forgive him. His mama was an addict.” Over and over again. I could’ve drowned in all that compassion! Mama convinced me to marry him ‘cause he needed someone to love ‘im. Can you believe? That play’s about me.
Compassion. Com- meaning “together with” and in Latin “pati” means “to suffer”. Together with suffering. My mother wanted me to be together with DeJuan to suffer. (laughs) Who said mama doesn’t know best? I suffered. Shit! I suffered a LOT.
The group bursts out in raucous laughter.
So, DeJuan was in the army. We lived all over the world. Germany. Turkey. Bosnia. Tanzania. Australia. Lebanon. We never stayed anywhere long so I never got to know anybody. He got me pregnant in every country we lived. And punchin’ me was his favorite pastime ‘specially in the last part of a pregnancy. Can you believe that? You know what it’s like to be having contractions when your whole body is bruised and achy? And he seemed to get off watching me dealing with labor pain on top of what he’d done to me. Made him feel so strong.
No one ever asked me about those bruises. I know the doctors and nurses saw ‘em bruises. They just chose to ignore it. Course, DeJuan would never leave me alone in the hospital. He chatted away playing the nervous Dad. As if! Once I had the baby, DeJuan could care less. He was more interested in knowing how long it’d be before he could knock me up again. Certainly did prevent me from writing any plays, making friends, or staying in touch with anyone. I was just alone with the babies in some country where I didn’t speak the language.
The voices of the women are louder again. They are talking back and forth – it sounds like friendly banter.
Jasmine: I guess I discovered was a new word: comsolum. Com – together with and Solum – alone. Lonely togetherness. That’s what abuse is.
Short bio: Amy is an Associate Professor of Theater at Beloit College in Wisconsin. Sarno’s community-based play-writing work integrates oral history, archival research, and interactive community workshops. Her most recent project, Plan B, explores what happens when intercultural relationships turn violent. She also wrote Imprints, which includes collected ghost stories of Beloit, WI. In Imprints, Sarno explores the notion of sacred places within the city’s collective unconscious. Other projects have included “CasiNO!” and “Choosing Survival”, and “Do You See What I’m Saying?” a collaborative oral history/ theater project that examines the struggles and triumphs of a significant neighborhood in Beloit’s African American community.
Since childhood I was surrounded by only a few friends, but those few I had were very close to my heart. When I left my home country to move to Germany a few years ago, I knew my life was going to change completely; I knew that I will have to learn how to live without any friends around. Even so, I hoped to meet new people here, but it hadn’t been as easy as I thought. Not because Germans are cold, as they say, or because at first I didn’t know the language well (although of course that was an impediment), but because from a certain age on it’s fairly hard to find good friends.
Good friends are old friends whom you’ve built a relationship with since adolescence, whom you are tied to by history, whom you trust. You can trust them with your secrets, facing no judgment from their part, without worrying that your words may be heard by others as well.
From a certain age on it’s easier to make acquaintances, but friends, friends are harder to find, because although you can have a lot in common with the new people you meet, above all if there is no trust, nothing can be created.
Thus, there I was a year later, in a new country, alone, with no friends around, losing touch with many of those whom I left behind. Luckily I just had a newborn who took up a lot of my time, otherwise I would have missed even more the company of a good friend to chat all day about everything and anything and probably my postpartum depression wouldn’t have existed.
Then, suddenly, she came into my life. My good friend, my best friend now, the friend I’ve never met.
No, she is not an imaginary friend; she is very much real, full of life and ideas. We’ve been friends for almost three years now, but we’ve never met in person. We know each other from pictures, videos and stories. We know so much about each other, still we’ve never been face to face. We drank many coffees together, debated almost all topics life threw at us, whether it was politics, parenthood, recipes, important decisions, whether we had wonderful days or plain horrible ones. We’ve always been there for each other. We wrote each other entire stories which later on became novels. And there is still so much to talk about. All this despite the fact we’ve never met.
Man say that time seems to fly when spent next to a beautiful woman. That is exactly what I can say about a good friend whom you are tied to by a special chemistry. I don’t remember if at the beginning we had daily conversation or if that came with time. I know that our friendship is due to an article about mothers and babies to which she left a comment. In time we discovered we are on the same page not only regarding parenthood, but also so much more.
Now, here, in this place, she is my only true friend; the only one whom I can say anything to in any moment, the only one with whom I can’t wait to share what’s happening in my life, good or bad, the only one whom I consult with when I have an issue and the only one who knows when a depression comes my way to haunt me. And I am certain she feels the same. I can feel the reciprocity in our relationship and I don’t need body language to confirm that.
I can’t imagine how our relationship would have been if we would have met in real life; maybe the same or maybe it wouldn’t have existed. As individuals we have the tendency to wear a lot of masks in the real world. I’m not denying that we wear them in the virtual world as well, but the reasons are somehow different. In the virtual environment we take on masks in order to pose as someone else, to impress, to be whom we would like to be, maybe because we don’t have the courage to be ourselves. Whilst in the real world we wear masks to defend ourselves and more than once to hide our vulnerability.
Thus, I don’t know how our relationship would have been if we would have met in the real world. What I do know is that even so, without physically meeting each other, she is the ideal friend anyone would like to have.
When you meet that someone, things move forward effortless, dots easily connect. It’s the same as love: it exists or it doesn’t. Distance becomes only a meaningless factor. I think it was meant to be this way for us; everything connected so natural that I can’t even remember exactly how it went, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever.
Thus, my dear best friend, thank you for being.
Short Bio: Loredana Andrei is a psychologist and writer based in Germany. In 2012 she authored an e-book about children’s personality based on their temperament and has done notable work as a psychologist back in her home town Bucharest, Romania. Currently Loredana is the happy mother of a three year old girl, loves to write and communicate with the world through her blog and hopes to soon publish her second book in progress.
By Lorenzo Novani
I woke to howling wind and all the hostility that it brings: the little door to the shelter rattling violently, snow fluttering through the sides, cold air reaching up to sting my face and leave me numb.
I thought about my predicament. I was 1,345 meters above sea level on the collapsed dome of an extinct volcano, surrounded by snow, fog, and darkness, in freezing temperatures, miles from civilization, with nothing but the clothes on my body, a rucksack with a bottle of water and a biscuit.
Why did I climb this fucking mountain in the first place? Had I wanted to die up here? I don’t think so. My lack of preparation was reckless, but not suicidal. When I set off the conditions were reasonable. Fog had descended as I was in ascent, but I knew I was only a short distance from the summit at the time, so I pressed on. It was both naive and stubborn. The sense of risk superseded by my need for a sense of triumph. Pride wouldn’t allow me to be beaten by the mountain, but after reaching the top, the fog quickly thickened to a dense dark grey. The fog kept me lost long enough for darkness to surround and darkness kept me occupied until wind and snow blew me to the only suitable conclusion for the night: a tiny wooden shelter built by and for climbers seeking shelter; a humble haven in the eye of a storm.
I think I had just wanted some solitude. I had got it. Now I just wanted some sleep, but it was impossible. The storm was a distraction, still the pain was unbearable. I’m not talking about my feet, which were throbbing, battered and blistered from the climb, nor the intense ache in my back and knees, nor the stinging of the cold against my bare skin. I’m talking about a much older wound that had been gouged open with a few words. The words repeated in my head alongside voices arguing heatedly about self-worth and identity.
I skimmed over sleep until daybreak and as the sky began to glow a hazy white, I wondered into the fog, searching for the path again. Where did I come from? How did I get here? My search took me perilously close to several ridges which would have been the end of me. On one occasion I was so startled by the drop that suddenly emerged from the fog in front of me that I slipped on the ice and found myself on my ass, feet in the air, a few inches from the edge! I scrambled back into the safety of the fog. I found the shelter again. I stood on the metal step outside, still shaking with adrenaline after my encounter with the life-threatening drop. I looked around, the wind and snow had stopped but I’d underestimated how dangerous the fog could be in itself; I could barely see a few feet in front of me. I had no choice but to wait until it cleared. At first, I was indignant, “There must be some way I can find my way out of here!” Quickly I resigned myself to the situation. The fog was indifferent to my will and would clear when it was good and ready. I stared into the fog. It began to glow as day pulled the sun from the horizon into its full glory. It was as the light poured from behind me, that it emerged in front of me, the specter. At first, I doubted its realness. I hadn’t eaten or slept properly. Was it a hallucination? A lucid dream? I willed it away but it didn’t move. I pinched myself but I was numb. It was human-like with 2 arms, legs and a head but it was about 5 or 6 times taller than me and there were no discernible features on its face. I stood frozen with fear as the gigantic phantom grew taller and more certain by the second, until it towered over me still, dark and ominous. I couldn’t look at it. It was unbearable. Overwhelmed by fear and awe, I cowered beneath it, crouching down low and covering my face with my hands.
Why do we let shadows of the past dominate us? Who could we be without them?
I removed my hand from my face and stood back up to confront it. My shadow. Cast onto the fog by the sun creating the illusion of a huge entity standing in front of me. I stared at the illusion until it gradually dissipated with the fog, unveiling blue skies, wispy, candy floss clouds, and lochs below that stretched out catching the sun and dividing it into a majesty that the eye could safely behold; a million little sparkling stars on their rippling surfaces.
It was time to go home. I still couldn’t find the path that took me there, but it didn’t matter now. I would find my own way down.
Short Bio: Lorenzo is a 32 year old writer and performer from Glasgow, currently living in Florence. An Equity/Spotlight Actor and professional magician, Lorenzo primarily writes to perform. His debut theater play “Cracked Tiles”- a one man play inspired by his relationship with his father- received critical acclaim at Glasgow’s West End Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015 – www.lorenzonovani.net. Lorenzo has also produced and performed several successful magic performances over the last few years, most recently “Poet of the Impossible” which weaved sleight of hand wizardry with spoken word poetry – www.r-e-n-z.co.uk. He is currently writing his 2nd theatrical play.
By Lee Foust
For a fiction writer, one’s childhood grows plotted, thematic, and comes to reek of manipulated matter. The childhood recollection can be anything but honest, anything but benign.
I frame my own in Gothic. There were monsters. No, not under the bed, but along the deserted streets of a lonely, countryish California suburb. Before cement sidewalks and Astroturf lawns. Darting, rumbling Camaros and Chevy’s, the “muscle cars” of the disaffected teens of the late 1970’s. Like unchained pit bulls out to taste blood, they prowled the streets of my hometown. They were filled with frustrated and stoned longhaired teenagers. These “big kids” occupied the peg in the ladder immediately above my own in the hierarchy of horror created by an ordered, capitalist society. They wedged us “little kids” down, threatened and humiliated us to revenge their abusive, square, Vietnam-defending fathers, the aimless, ever-present existential threat that the local police were to them, to make up for the insult of the old women who left their porches, slamming the front door behind them, when these scraggly bell-bottomed dispossessed children of the age walked the streets of their own neighborhoods.
It was a kind of civil war between young and old. My generation was orphaned by it, squeezed uncomfortably between the great generation and the baby boomers.
This is the writer’s dilemma, how to squeeze meaning out of an indifferent cosmos. How to write of survival on a threatening planet of predators, in an eco-system that demands we gobble mouthfuls of other living creatures in order to survive, and, more importantly—in our great privilege and power—how we manage to thwart our own self-destructive urges.
The only meaning I have discovered remains the loud proclamation of the meaninglessness of both event and reflection. They are important motors of language and narrative specifically because they are meaningless rather than significant. The endless happening of nothing fascinates the observant author.
I often dreamt, as a child, of a hairy-armed ogre who used to crush me to death, night after night, after a long chase through a dark wood. Knowing that my childhood was a practically never-ending walk—through the foothills of Mount Diablo, along the unpaved suburban lanes, through the walnut groves, unfenced back yards, and along the Walnut Creek—to avoid my drugged-out mother’s smothering embrace is banal. It’s what I found in my endless walking that’s important: billions of indifferent scenes about which I might, someday, write.
Short bio: Lee Foust is a fiction writer and performer from Oakland, California who has lived in Florence, Italy since the mid-1990s. He teaches literature and creative writing for US universities and is the father of one. He has authored two books: Sojourner, short fiction and poems about the mystery of place, and Poison and Antidote, nine Bohemian tales of San Francisco during the Reagan era. Foust’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in journals, magazines, and newspapers in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.A.
Follow Lee’s writing and performing journey at http://www.leefoust.com
By David Orr
My two year old son calls me ‘Daddy’, occasionally ‘Babbo’, and a few times a month, ‘Davide’. Of the three, ‘Davide’ is the most startling, as if he’s aged sixteen years in a sentence and turned into an ironic teenager. Also, my first name is David – Davide is what comes out the other end of an Italian pasta-press, flattened and exotic.
Though he was born in Italy and we still live there, my son primarily asks questions in native English. ‘Davide, how are you?’ ‘Davide, what you doing?’ He hangs out on the upward lift of the question-marks, pausing for effect, more interested in getting a smile from his parents than an actual answer. He has the same studious air of a comedian trying out a joke, scanning the audience for validation, or, at the very least, a connection.
Disarming someone by making them comfortable – that was my trick growing up. In fact it still is. Ever a people-pleaser, if someone is in a bad mood, or worse, unhappy with me, it’s analogous to having committed murder. In my mind’s sensitivity levels, there is very little difference between the worst atrocity you can commit as a human being, and forgetting to take out the trash. Hence, I cultivated an extraordinary series of tricks to try to make people feel at ease. This worked some of the time, or at least, enough to make me keep doing it. Until I moved. To Italy.
Language was the problem. My first years in Italy I couldn’t crack a joke, couldn’t even manage levity, as I was missing the tools, the language to do so. I was basically a child, trying to make people feel at ease, and failing miserably.
I made cute attempts at rolling my R’s, and inhaling my C’s Tuscan-style. I would crawl from one train-wreck of a conversation to the other, throwing down tantrums at the most basic words or expressions. When I succeeded in understanding the odd phrase it was like catching a few raindrops on my tongue, enough to feel the wetness, but never enough to drink.
I tried reading newspapers, comic-books. I took lessons, improved marginally, then regressed. During this time, my son became a full-throated two-year old, struggling with his own lack of language. Young children display so many basic emotions there is a tendency to accept their behavior as inevitable physical law – an alarm clock rings, a stove gets hot, a baby cries. The hard part comes when ‘frustration’ enters the party, surveys the crowd, and decides that your two year old looks like a great dance-partner. Enter the toddler.
A forecast is displayed on TV, presented by a man, who, with cheerful and false exactness, shows my son’s mood swings on a wildly lit map. He points a toy fishing pole at animated suns blinking with ear-to-ear grins, and dark black holes swirling with crevices.
“…And tonight, we have a cold-pressure system moving in, resulting in unpredictable tantrums, mixed with occasional spots of absurd cuteness that reward your patience and leave you with the feeling of the sublime. Tomorrow, as per yesterday, you will struggle to understand what the term’ the sublime’ actually means.”
This was our existence – my son screaming in his crib to be heard, me screaming internally, both sharing an inability to live out the basic human practice of expressing oneself, our identities straitjacketed.
And then, a funny thing happened. We got better. I began to read every night to my son in Italian, starting with the indestructible children’s books – those of the cardboard pages. His craving for new material (‘six books tonight daddy’), led me to slow down to a pace where I belonged – at a two-year old level. My son bolstered his usual kingly demands with his own sets of new phrases. My pronunciation improved, and full sentences began to form. His identity started to take root while mine began to return.
Today, I’m now able to hold basic conversations in Italian. My son is able to identify precisely why he is crying (it turns out he has many reasons). We have both successfully navigated our own identity crises. He is moving onto underwear. I am moving onto complex tenses. The forecast is positive with hints of sun amongst the clouds that are bright, illuminating, one might almost say, sublime.
Short bio: David Orr grew up in the town of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, famous for swans, Shakespeare, and the future embryo of Justin Bieber. He graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Systems Design Engineering. David is also part of the Writers Group in Florence, contributing writer for the bilingual, local newspaper Florence Is You! and recently crossed the finish line of an ultra marathon, starting from the beautiful citadel of San Gimignano to the city of Siena. He consults for Wall Street technology firms, and writes to keep sane, seek truth, and overcome.
You can also read more of David’s stories following his website http://blog.thedorr.com/.