Cronache dal centro della notte (Chronicles from the centre of the night, 2003-04)

the life we know can usually be explained only in winter, when it looks like a footprint on the surface and the lake is frozen over. there are times, though, when the ice is thinner on some spots than elsewhere. and suddenly we realize that truth lies on the bottom.

Published: September 2004
Publisher: Edizioni del Leone (Spinea, Venice - Italy)
Series: Prose
ISBN code: 88-7314-111-0
Cover image: Mechanical Possibilities, by Riccardo Ciriello (2003).
Notes: parts of this work appear in the English-written book Plays published by Edizioni Eva in November 2007 (see section).

the other half

when he realized that there were too many people inside of him and that many were the things he had taken from the world along the way, he also saw he had been short of room for a long time now. the books stacked up in the corners of memory, the sealed boxes with all those recollections that had never been unwrapped, the footprints he had left free to walk across the kitchen tiles had all become a map of jammed roads where even one single traveller would be one too much. in order to let the room inside him breathe, he decided then that he would only have relationships with half a person at a time.
and this is what he did on the day he met averageharry: he created him in his own likeness, he spoke with him, he slept with him, he even went on a couple of trips with him, since it was summer and the woods offered a lot of shadow, then he took from him what he thought he liked best. there were things he kept, things he discarded, things he cut off, and even things he amputated. that’s how only half of him remained. then he allowed him to enter his life, which was a badly lit house with windows looking outside to the backyard at night and doors that slammed at every single wind draught.
this is how days and weeks went by for everytom. they went by all different and all the same while he listened to the music coming from the attics of his brain: never deadened, always too close, always too loud, as if he had headphones on. months went by as well, they passed without everytom’s realizing the one sleeping next to him wasn’t averageharry. he never turned to see that the other was sleeping only on his side, and that the profile he could see was always the same. he had made him leave the other half outside, where the garden started to be covered with snow and the footprints slowly faded away with the passing of time, day after day.
but there are nights when, in his dreams, everytom is free to walk about in the house. it is then, passing through the corridor, that he hears knocking at the door. he knows it is the other half demanding to be let in: that is why he walled up the entrance years ago and now you can still see, if you walk past it, the grass growing all over the place till it covers the name on the doorbell. just then the alarm clock generally goes off and everytom wakes up, lying on the only side that isn’t too much for him, the side he allowed to stay with him, while the other one has been buried in the cellar for years now. there isn’t much room there either, anyway, but it doesn’t matter: it’s just as dark down there, and nothing can be seen.

while she’s awake on the living room sofa in front of the evening programme watching the world happen inside her head as if it were a grainy old black-and-white replay of the same film she has been watching for years, now, she has the sudden feeling of being like a wooden russian doll and that there are many other dolls inside her as white as birches, one stuck within the other, all polished, all varnished, all smelling of freshly cut wood, as if of a ugro-finnic carpenter’s workshop, and of uralic murmurs. and each one empty, each one screeching when unwound.

just a series of phone calls to a friend, that night. four, five, six calls one after another, calls his friend would never be able to reply to because her mobile was off. she was going to find them the next morning on the screen of her phone and the number was his number, the number of the boy who had fallen off the edge of the road, down into the ravine, amidst the bushes, the rocks and the stones, halfway between muravera and cagliari, the place where a shepherd passing by was to find him weeks later. they recognized him by the identity card he kept in the wallet in his back right pocket. he must have dialled the last number in the list of his phone book, just a key to press, on the right, the easiest thing to do as forces had already started to desert him.
apart from those calls, he left no trace of himself during the following days and weeks. people thought anything about it. till the day he was found, there on the bottom, with the worms already creeping all over the steering-wheel.

many were the questions the living had to face in those days immediately after the finding. we are not talking about the sense of guilt that from that moment on began to torment his friend’s conscience, the conscience of a girl who was sleeping at that time, which most of us would be doing then. the question is how many calls she found on her mobile, but, most of all, when exactly they had been made.
according to the examination on the corpse conducted by the coroner, the boy’s decease must have occurred around ten or eleven in the evening. the inference is supported by the phone calls which are more or less all staggered across a rather short period of time, anyway not after eleven thirty. but there were six calls, we said, not five, and there’s no doubt about the time of the last one: the sixth was made just after five in the morning.

people had different opinions about these apparently inexplicable inconsistencies: some said that the information from the medical reports was not accurate enough, and that even though everybody finds acceptable the idea of the boy making all the calls at the moment when the accident happened, the car’s driver may have survived for a longer time than we suppose. the doctors exclude all doubt and are quite sure he can’t have survived the accident for more than fifteen minutes. they are still wondering how he even managed to call.
some say the whole thing is only due to the phone company’s bad service: there are times when you may receive notification of a message long after it has been sent, they say, so such delays come as no surprise. there are times when you see on the screen just the time you got the message, not the time it was sent. this is what most of the people involved chose to believe: bad service, they say; bad service, they go on saying.

but there’s still somebody who believes the boy did make the phone call at the reported time; there are still people who believe the phone call was made exactly at five in the morning. however, they also believe the boy had already died by that time. he was probably still standing with a letter in his hand and a stamp on his tongue, in another room, probably a room in a post office, and that was the letter where he had written in black ink and a beautiful handwriting that he wanted to be taken back to this part of the corridor again.
people do not agree on why he had written the letter, opinions vary according to those who hold them, but most of them believe that his ties with life were still very strong just a couple of hours after the accident: that’s why he thought it was still worth getting in touch with us. we haven’t heard of other phone calls ever since and, if there were any, they were not reported.
if i try to listen, i seem to see him: i suppose he must have leaned his ear against the wall, he must have remembered all that came before the accident. he must have listened very attentively, he must have put a great deal of care into distinguishing one sound from the other, the image must have flashed in front of him the way it had never done before, as if with a geometrical clearness, almost with a jolt of perfection, i would say, a shake of extreme brightness. and here jumps this side of the wall in front of him for the last time. once again.
that must have been when he thought it was not worth going back anymore. that must have also been why the letter never reached us.

plants take root in the memory, slowly but steadily, and grow. till they find themselves with their hands sunk into the night. it is the negative of day the one ending up on our eyelids.
and the children keep on playing hopscotch, outside, on the edge of the ravine.

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