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The upstairs

The upstairs
The train slows down again. It’s just an Intercity, I should have expected that.

The train slows down again. It’s just an Intercity, I should have expected that.

I could have changed in Florence and taken the fast train but I preferred to follow the Tyrrhenian Sea. No changes and every now and then I can hope to see the sea, I feel like saying: “there it is!” When I see a bit of blue from the window, as if he were a friend I would also raise my hand to greet him.

And then it’s a train I know. I already took it to go to Follonica to see my mother’s cousins. Or in Grosseto, Luca hosts me first at home and then on his fishing boat.

But today I continue. I was 25 the first and only time I went to Rome. It was for a public competition after my graduation, which was as useless as the paper label on plastic bottles.

Between the Puzzle Week and the garden, my grandfather took care of finding competitions for me. He wanted me to leave Viareggio immediately and I still didn’t understand why there was such a rush.

That time I arrived in the city to stay for two days, I rented a room for a night, then the competition in the morning and the train that would take me home.

But on the day of departure I met Alice. I stayed in that room for almost two months.

I didn’t dedicate myself to looking for a job – given the indecent written test – but those were the days when I started writing. The rest of the time I was with her.

He lived upstairs.

In that first meeting he didn’t even look at me.

The second time I greeted her at the palace door. He didn’t even answer.

The third time I tried a little harder and asked her the time. She smiled at my originality, but she had noticed me.

I know Rome thanks to her. She worked in the morning at the University and sometimes I woke up early to accompany her. While she was writing her PhD thesis I was wandering around the classrooms, between lessons on Applied Geology and Analytical Chemistry. In the afternoon he took me downtown, to museums and then to see the city parks. But also in the suburbs, until late in the evening.

May is to Rome what a cigarette is to coffee.

But it was upstairs, in his house, that we were all. He had a beautiful house. Apparently a simple two-room apartment which in reality was the extension of Alice’s body. Never seen so much continuity between a woman and her home. Everything in there knew about her, her history, her interests, her passions and disappointments. His perfume.

We only spent two nights together.

Consecutive. In my room. The lines of his body in the dim light are still my sighs.

A few days later she gave me what she called a surprise. He moved my things from downstairs to upstairs. He never asked me what I wanted.

I didn’t say anything, but I realized how much I had loved her until the day before.

I put my things in a taxi and left.

Today I return to Rome to present my first novel. The publisher says I have to move to a big city if I want to take off as a writer. I resist.

I never heard from her again. I only know that he no longer lives in that house.

Rome Termini.

Walter Di Mauro


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The upstairs
The train slows down again. It’s just an Intercity, I should have expected that.