We stopped in front of a construction site hidden by a fence made out of large corrugated-iron panels and lots of grey wooden posts. Inside, only a large dark hole and a half-finished series of concrete pillars were visible. I would have liked to go in and take some photos. Xheni asked for permission to enter. She spoke first with one of the workmen, who told her to ask the owner. The owner lived in a nearby block of flats. Xheni crossed the parking lot and rang one of the bells. She always says the same thing: an Italian photographer is compiling a book on Tirana and would like to take some photos of the construction site. A man wearing a blue shirt came out. He was rather sturdy and did not look at all friendly. I immediately understood that he would not let us go in. Xheni explained to me that this construction site had been at a standstill for fifteen years and that they did not want problems. Various legal problems existed in relationship to this particular site. A short distance from there I came across a stack of wooden boards. They were pieces of a not well-identified structure. Perhaps the panel of a roof or maybe the planks for a fence. Several boards were painted white, but by then the paint had completely corroded. Grass and plants cropped among the boards. I walked around the pile with my camera. A grey-coloured door, completely shattered. A red notice printed with the word “Plshr” written in blue letters. The planks were piled up against the yellow wall of a house. I took a few photos and we continued to walk. I found myself in front of a concrete building painted pink and pale green (I couldn’t make out whether it was a house or a warehouse). It had two doors, one black and the other beige. In front of each door there was a very narrow iron staircase. On the back there was another door: this one was dark green, and was entered by means of a brick staircase. I didn’t know whether it was a house or something else. The (two) windows were too small for it to have been a house. On the roof there was an enormous grey cistern with a green rubber pipe that dangled for at least four metres. There were no antennas nor air-conditioners. Only two outlets for the ventilation and an electric light bulb in the centre of the front. I approached and noticed that a second cistern (the same size as the other one) had been placed on the roof. The building was asymmetrical and illogical. In front, there was a sort of courtyard of red earth. Bushes and vegetal structures were growing there. Six grey-cement pots for flowers. The first two were empty, and the others contained unidentifiable plants that possibly resembled cypress hedges. The trunks were very dark and dried by the sun. I walked along the pavement. I noticed a Martini stand. We came nearer to a complex of council houses. There was a building with a yellow and pink front covered with electrical wires. A scooter was parked in front of a glass and aluminium door. On its front could be seen pipes of all shapes and sizes. Two parabolic antennas and four air-conditioners. Gutters channelled the rain water directly to the ground. Two posters that were completely ripped to pieces were hanging near the aluminium door. Someone had left a green beach towel in the sun. (A woman who noticed that I was photographing the building asked for explanations.)
A little further on, a metal cistern and a green gate made of wood. The gate led to a kitchen garden. A rubber hose, entirely coiled up on the ground, emerged from the cistern. The windows of the house were open, but were protected by a metal grating. I walked around the building. I found a heap of rubbish and various pieces of plaster. A bucket for paint and four enormous sheets of glass. Three of the panes were still whole, while one was shattered. There were also torn bags of cement and a green rubber tarpaulin. Amid the debris I discovered a terracotta vase that contained another vase. I also found seven huge plasticized-cloth bags that perhaps contained rubbish. The contents of the bags were barely visible (two plastic bottles and a few black rubber gaskets were the only objects sticking out of them).
We left the building and returned to a travelled road. At the sides of it were old women, their heads covered by a white veil, selling fruit and vegetables. There were two plastic crates full of white grapes and figs. Above the crates were other, smaller wooden crates, they too full of white grapes. About ten white and blue plastic bags containing cucumbers, zucchini, apples, onions and tomatoes were open on the pavement. The woman selling fruit was sitting on an upside-down white plastic bucket. She wore a blue apron and a pair of grey shoes. Further on I could see a man sitting in front of a pile of crates full of vegetables. He had on a white shirt and was staring into space. Along the road I also came across two wooden wardrobes, abandoned in a corner. Their surfaces were completely scratched and were misshapen from the humidity. The bulb of an unknown plant was enveloped in a brown membrane. It looked like a large tuber. It could immediately be guessed that it was a portion of an enormous organic structure, larger than a pumpkin. Behind the tuber, there was a yellow plank covered in dust and in organic residues.
We kept walking in the direction of the railway, but we were a long way from the tracks. I would have liked to get close to them, but to arrive there we would first have had to cross a field and take an unpaved road. Around us there were other abandoned bags of cement that had solidified from the rain. Unexpectedly, as we were waking towards the railway, I saw a very strange object. It was a huge tangle of black wires coiled around a cylindrical wooden structure. And as large as a car. The wooden structure around which the wires were coiled was completely rotten. From a distance we were able to see the railway. An enormous dirt field full of lampposts and rubbish. In the middle there was a blackberry bush and a red-brick building. Two abandoned warehouses made of grey bricks had black roofs. The roof of the first warehouse had completely caved in. Someone had painted a murales that depicted six children doing something (perhaps picking fruit) under several trees that had blue foliage and a black trunk. The sun was violet and covered with a flock of birds. I didn’t know whether there was a political or social significance behind this picture. I had no idea. The field was very dusty. The railway could be seen beyond the warehouses. Maybe this space was asphalted in the past. I found a mound of tar (perhaps it was a road surface that had been removed or tar brought from another place and dumped in the field). The said mound was huge. I managed to walk over it and take photos. It seemed like fresh tar. In several spots my shoes almost got stuck in this black mass. The ground was covered with puddles and debris of various kinds. It was muddy and very dusty. Every so often we saw a fire lit, as well as a few stray dogs with colourless fur and red-rimmed eyes. All of a sudden I caught sight of a building with a very strange shape. It was a private home that was very well cared for. And it was next to the railway. It seemed to have been built only a few days ago. The structure was bordered with white stone, and the roof was full of antennas. There was also a cistern and the casing of an air-conditioner. (This building reminded me of Tokyo.)
In Tirana, people steal the metal covers of manholes and the metal cores that support concrete pillars. The metal can be resold and melted down. It is not easy to document these things. When I approach gypsies and they see a person arriving with a camera around his neck, they begin shouting (I had to delete all the photos I had taken in a warehouse, because the gypsies threatened to break my camera).
Xheni and I stopped in front of a concrete ramp that led to a raised ledge. We couldn’t get up on the ramp because there was a pit of putrid water in front of it. We walked around the pit and came close to the ledge. I asked Xheni what those three half-spheres of reinforced concrete, similar to three overturned mushrooms, were. Xheni explained that they were the covers of three bunkers. This was a work of art realised by an artist from Tirana. The artist (a friend of Xheni’s, among other things) had removed the cement covers of three bunkers, overturned them in such a way that the curved part of the dome touched the ground, propped a very large sheet of iron on the overturned half-spheres, and thus had realised a theatrical stage. That strange structure was in reality a theatre. In the distance behind the half-spheres appeared an array of eighteen modern blocks of flats. I could catch a glimpse of a blue and yellow awning, a white fence, and (very distant) hills. I approached the three cement half-spheres and took a few photos. I noticed that someone had sprayed (black) paint over one of the half-spheres.
We continued along the railway tracks. A ditch covered in dust laid bare six black plastic pipes tied in groups of three. They appeared to be electrical cables. Wooden posts were everywhere, and cars were parked in the distance. I attempted to get close to the ditch. It was very deep, but the ground was dry. The few clouds made the light pale and diffused. The shadows of the pipes were grey and not very marked (despite the fact that it was already eleven o’clock). A tarpaulin made of synthetic material was stretched out close to the ditch. It looked like felt. Over it was some writing in blue that was almost entirely faded. The surrounding grass was dried up by the sun (we noted only some tiny purple flowers that resisted the heat).
I walked along an iron grid. Other debris. A curtain of half-burnt fabric, a small white plastic bag, a heap of concrete slabs piled under a sheet of dark green cloth, the base of an earthenware lamp, stones, sheet metal, two wooden beams close to a bush of yellow flowers, the fragments of a pipe. We arrived at a bunker. Some tens of metres away we found another bunker, this time close to a very poor dwelling. Next to the bunker there was a grey plastic basket inside of which was some indistinct black material. There was only rubbish inside the bunker. I saw a small purple bag and some remains of rotten vegetables. The wall behind the bunker had an opening from which an opaque plastic sheet emerged. I was able to make out the word “Jam” on the wall. Under the electricity pylons there was a hut made of sheet metal and plastic tarpaulins next to a patch of bamboo canes. The bamboo canes were almost totally burnt. There was also an enclosure made with metallic mesh attached to rusty stakes. I managed to make out the roofs of the houses and a cistern. A taxi was parked along the road, in front of a gate. A gigantic wooden circle (something similar to a lid) was abandoned on the ground a few metres away from the taxi. Someone had left a purple plastic bucket with its phosphorescent-green handle on the edge of the circle. The bucket had the form of a castle with two small towers. There was also a blue plastic bag and a pile of shredded plants. We continued to walk and passed close to the large rubbish containers. Other shredded plants, a plastic bottle, the destroyed remains of an unidentifiable electrical appliance (a cooking stove or maybe a washing machine). I turned towards the taxi. There was no one inside it. Further on, we encountered a fairly large black dog stretched out on a heap of white powder or plaster. His eyes were closed. One paw was stretched out and the other one was bent. I took a photo of the dog, and then asked Xheni if we could go and buy a bottle of water.
The shopkeeper was a young man of about twenty-five. He wore a grey t-shirt that was soaked with sweat. He had black hair and grey eyes. The first thing I noticed about him was his enormous white belt, which resembled a cummerbund (or surgical gauze). His hands were large and he had strong arms. He was suntanned and smiled at us. When we entered, he was moving some huge metal cans, the contents of which were unrecognisable. The shop was very small but very welcoming. There was a table on which there was a container of detergent and a blue plastic bucket with a cloth inside it. We bought a bottle of water and some ice tea. I left the shop and went to drink the water in an un-metalled courtyard surrounded by a brick wall and a row of trees. A girl went by, wearing shorts, a pink, yellow and white t-shirt, and sunglasses. She was talking on the phone. The clouds had disappeared, and the sky was totally serene. In the middle of the courtyard there was a sawn-off tree trunk and a black car was parked there. I could glimpse a long row of lampposts and road signs. Further on, there was a large blue Nestlé umbrella. Under the umbrella was a display stand made of glass and steel that contained numerous packets of cigarettes and chewing gum. There was no one there to sell them (the goods seemed to have been abandoned). Close to the umbrella there was a mutilated concrete pillar. Its metal core, darkened with rust, made it resemble a weird sculpture.
A grey Mercedes equipped with a roof rack arrived, its sides splashed with mud. It stopped in the middle of the courtyard. Xheni pointed out to me a motorised tricycle, the saddle of which had its leather ripped off. She knew that I liked to photograph things like that (it would be interesting to make a film in Tirana. Or just to film this reality without even having to think up a narrative structure or a plot. The reality already had its narrative force. I imagined setting up a television camera in this context and watching what would happen).
Debris. A cylindrical plastic structure. Perhaps it was the inside of a washing machine. The plastic was grey. Dark rust-coloured incrustations could be seen inside the cylinder. It was as large as a washbasin. Shards of bricks and rags. The light was neutral. A burnt black plastic bag. Other fire scorches around the cylinder. A mound of green and grey fluff. I looked around and snapped several photos. The camera was the sole instrument that linked me to this reality. Here, everything was similar to a photographic composition. I took lots of photos and the elements constituting the image always appeared to be carefully measured. Blades of straw. Other blocks of broken masonry. Nothing. A photo strengthened by concrete doses of nothing. Here, what was nothing had substance. A weight. Perhaps even an odour. A drained, dry, inert universe. Blocks with a frosty appearance. Xheni took some photos of me while I was photographing these blocks of masonry. Incomprehensible buildings made of concrete that were similar to a buffer. Perhaps it was rubble from a bunker or from a military construction. They did not seem to have a precise purpose. Xheni told me that this particular rubble was the remains of a door to a storeroom for provisions. There were lots of storerooms. Bunkers had also been used to contain foodstuffs. They were objects without a name. I couldn’t find at my disposal the appropriate words to define these pieces of cement. And yet this material interrogated me. It bored into me. This larval material, these extreme images did nothing but bore into me. They did not leave me in peace. Xheni accompanied me patiently. We almost never spoke. At times Xheni took photos of me. I felt that I was in another dimension. The undecipherable pieces of concrete were planted in the ground. I walked. I walked around them. I took other photos. Nothing. Always this thought. Nothing. A membrane of the material. An organ. The concrete had a superhuman strength. The concrete scrutinised me. It was observing me. It was a dreadful experience, it was a hallucination. I couldn’t manage to tear myself away from what I was seeing. I couldn’t think. The wheel of a lorry. A red lorry. Beyond the lorry, a perfect, white wall. A black gate. A dried-up plant. A green gazebo. On the gazebo was a parabolic antenna. Another house. A grey wall that seemed to be made of mud. I sat down on a block of concrete and looked at Xheni who was contemplating at the ground. She took a photo of me. Behind me there was an open window with six purple mats drying in the sun. I wanted to urinate.
We continued along a shady road that was on a slight gradient. Someone had dug up the footpath. A deep hole and a displaced manhole cover. Tubes of black plastic covered with soil. Blocks of pavement removed. Profundity. The door of a house was completely knocked down. Three pieces of concrete placed in a row, in order to make a sort of small staircase. Stones. Pipes. Red and green writing on the wall. An iron door set in the house front. Rust. Under the orange plastic gutter the asphalt was broken. I could detect a bad smell. Pieces of tar composed a mosaic that was undecipherable, illegible. The soil seemed wet, or in any case darker than before. We still continued to walk. Five enormous stones. A moped with a white parcel carrier. A dog. Still that sense of bewilderment (these object had no name, just as my sensations had no name). A group of young people were seated on the stone steps of a shop. A white van. A brick wall that had fallen to pieces. Numerous empty plastic dice cups (perhaps they had to be filled with water). A smell of burning. An odour of iron and tar. Two white bags full of plastic bottles. Another concrete block. Immobility. No sense. A sheep and a calf were tied with a rope to the bumper of a lorry. The sheep’s fleece was very dirty. It was looking among the rubbish for something to eat or drink. The calf did not move. Xheni asked if I could take a photo. She talked with the butcher. The butcher talked to another butcher, and they explained to her that their business was illegal. They preferred that I not take photos. In the end Xheni convinced them, and I was able to take about ten shots of the animals. Ramps of stairs. Empty grey-cement plant pots and a grey metal gutter. We still kept walking. A dumping ground. The bumper taken off a car. A lorry wheel abandoned above a pile of rubble. Olive trees in the distance. Blue shadows. I felt lost. Tyres from a car from which the inner tubes had been removed. Fragments of plastic. Foliage. Bushes. A low and completely dehydrated plant. Other olive trees. Young olive trees. Twenty or thirty years old at most. I told Xheni how a freezing cold front had arrived in Italy from Siberia in 1985, and millions of olive trees had died. It had been impossible to save the roots. All the olive trees in Tuscany had been killed. Only the trunks had survived. Tons and tons of wood were sawn up. (In the 1985 winter I was five years old, and centuries-old olive trees had died.) In any case, the trunks of the olive trees in Tirana were very young. They seemed to be sturdy plants. The leaves had a darker colour than that of Tuscan olive trees. They seemed blue. Here in Tirana I was unable to find objects that had some sort of decoration. Everything seemed to be rashly functional. Strangely enough, I found a lightly-worked stone vase next to some iris plants. It was a thing that had something maternal about it. Abandoned scaffoldings. Iron ladders painted green. Bricks covered with a transparent plastic sheet. Other plastic tarpaulins on the ground.
We walked in front of a garage. We were allowed to go in. A short chubby boy showed us the way. He told us that there were no problems, we could photograph anything that we wanted. He showed us the area. It was very large. There was a table covered with pieces of iron. Iron cables. Iron girders. Car pieces. Black was the dominating colour. Empty bottles. Metallic objects. A blue and white motorboat was abandoned in a corner of the courtyard. It seemed to be in good condition. The propeller had incrustations on it, however. A broken chair. A blue plastic jerry-can with a yellow tube. I walked. We could also go on the roof. The light was very strong. I ascended by means of a very narrow and dangerous wooden staircase. I was on the roof of the workshop. Here, it was full of completely indecipherable elements. Opaqueness. Black. Front and back seats of cars. Numbered pieces. Numbers written with a white felt-tip pen. Lots of numbers. Fans. Mufflers. Hundreds of inner tubes. Pipes everywhere. Plastic and silence. The sun shone violently down on the asphalt. The floor of the roof of the workshop was covered with a pasty layer of dark grey tar. Xheni took other photos of me. I looked down. Another garage. Blackened metal carcasses. Pipes like plastic roots. (I tried to find some sort of sense or order. Pure material. No pantomime. Documents. An image is just the way it is, and cannot be differently.)
We were close to a bus stop. Concrete block of flats, their walls painted dark green, could be seen beyond the parking lot. Two dried-up trees, a low bush, and two rubbish tips. The ground was covered with stones; the soil had a dense grey colour, and traces of automobile tyres were visible on it. The sky was neutral. A black car with white writing on it arrived and parked under one of the dried-up trees. We continued slowly along the road. I photographed a blue plastic cistern. It was a structure at least three metres in height. The cistern consisted of a plastic cylinder full of rain water supported by a black iron base. The cistern was positioned next to a wall a little more than one metre high that was made of grey bricks. Under the cistern there were a motor, a green water sprinkler, two bottles of soap, a white plastic jerry-can, and a series of accessories for washing the glass of machines. The floor was made of tar. The light was completely white. I walked around the cistern. Two wooden planks bore writing in blue paint on them. Behind, there was a mustard-coloured house with six windows covered with six white and grey mats. I took other photos. Another bunker. A woman aged about fifty was sweeping up dead leaves next to the bunker. On the concrete of the bunker someone had written “Roni” using black spray paint (the concrete was shattered in several points). Some plants with rather short stalks and covered in dust were growing on the ground. In approaching the bunker I realised that there were other writings in phosphorescent blue, green and yellow. A white plastic bottle and a few pieces of paper. The concrete in front of the entrance opening was completely corroded; its black metal core, which stuck out like a huge prickly body, was visible. A little further on, there was a market. A girl was walking with a plastic jerry-can full of water in her hand and a pair of glasses. She passed in front of two rubbish tips. The market was full of fabrics, hats, cloths, and sheets of fabric of various sizes. From here I couldn’t see very well. A boy went by, wearing aquamarine-coloured trousers and black trainers. The sun was very fierce. I was hot and thirsty. I looked at my watch, but it was still too early to eat. Around the fencing of the market were hung white panels bleached by the sun and full of plastic coat hangers attached with nails. On the coat hangers were numerous articles of clothing of all colours. They were women’s dresses crammed together in disorderly fashion. The heat was unbearable, There was a man selling watermelons. A girl walked by with a plastic bag full of fabrics. A man with a red and white hat was tasting the watermelons. Large blue and purple umbrellas. A tangle of electrical wires. Two plastic dice cups full of cold water. A blue gate with the paint coming off it. Garlic and tomatoes in wooden crates. Cucumbers, lemons, a couple of painters’ buckets full of grey water. Transparent black-plastic tarpaulins. Other cisterns in the background. I walked some thirty metres. I found myself in front of a very large house with four floors that had had its walls removed. Only the concrete matrix could be seen. A dark grey skeleton that was completely blackened in certain points. Three vans and an all-terrain vehicle were parked in front of the house. There was a row of rubbish tips and a large canvas umbrella (this gutted building had a very intense visual impact). Under the building there were two shops sporting neon signs. They sold used refrigerators and washing machines. In front of me there was the casing of a washing machine with a grey metal motor on top of it. There were also four refrigerators and two more intact washing machines. There was no one in the shop. The rolling shutter was half open. The inside of the shop was completely dark; I could see only a bottle of mineral water and a mirror. Two light bulbs without shades were hanging from a wire. Another house. Iron bars painted white and roll-up shutters. A green plant. A sheet of grey and yellow material attached under the rotor of an air-conditioner. The house was raised by a concrete ledge full of rubbish. More blue dice cups full of water. A brown dog was sleeping on the asphalt. It was a female. A little further on, another brown dog was stretched out on the pavement behind an iron gate. A shop that sold computers and cell phones. A grey lamppost and another cistern. A military-green tarpaulin was covered in dust. Antennas and electrical wires were everywhere (I felt a sense of bewilderment and dizziness). A red-brick house. Hundreds of shoes piled up on a sheet made of green fabric. I continued walking. The asphalt was wet. White cars and scooters. Two shelters covered with yellow awnings that reflected the light. An abandoned pushchair full of plastic bags and belt pouches. Dusters drying in the sun. An ironmonger’s shop. Other cisterns and antennas on the roof of a house (these forms have something brutal about them, but the brutality and aridity always had a magnetic capacity). A house with a small white staircase leading to the entrance. I went through the garden, which was full of dry grass and pieces of stone. I slowly approached the window of the ground floor. The window pane had been covered from the inside with navy blue and yellow terrycloth. The vases on the steps of the staircase were full of dried-up plants. On the pane was the label from a Coca Cola bottle. I continued to think about the brutality of the landscape in which I was participating. A concrete block the size of a car wheel was motionless on the ground. Fragments of iron cables protruded from the concrete (I was unable to think. My thoughts were as though blocked in these images). Another heap of rubbish covered with burnt grass and dust. We went over a bridge. I went to see what was underneath it. There was a flow of dark water full of white foam close to the bank and around the stones. Under the bridge there was a drainage conduit that spurted other water into the torrent. The drainage conduit was a completely black tunnel with a diameter of about three metres. The noise was very great, despite the fact that not much water was coming out of this sort of large tube. Someone was throwing plastic bags into the stream. On the bank there were bags of solidified cement and a couple of aluminium girders. The sand was similar to sawdust. In the midst of the bags were also pieces of bricks and wooden planks. There was a disk made of black plastic and a plastic beaker with two blue and green stripes. After passing the bridge I went down a flight of stairs to go towards the river bank. I found a very large plastic container surrounded by an iron grating. The container was full of rain water and dead leaves. It was supported by six bricks, and two black plastic pipes escaped from the opening. A heap of bags of solidified white gypsum. Another container of rain water was surrounded by a grating. Dust mixed with gypsum. Synthetic fibres amassed together with gypsum and fragments of polystyrene. Beer and peach-juice tins. Dark shadows and a (very violent) contrast.
A dirt road that led to a field with red, clayey soil passed above the bank of the river. Rubbish and pieces of concrete also here. It was very hot. Other modern buildings could be seen in the distance. A pink condominium and two white blocks of flats. I didn’t know where we were. Xheni told me that it would take us about two more hours in order to arrive on foot as far as Kamza. We had gone around haphazardly, without having a precise destination, and had forgotten that today’s programme was to visit Kamza. Two enormous coaches (one white and the other bright yellow) were parked in the middle of the field. The doors were open, but no one was inside. There was no one even in the immediate vicinity. Behind the coaches I could see some warehouses that had metal roofs and white brick walls. Knotted and abandoned plastic bags. The shaft of a street lamp. Black tar in pieces under the sun. Xheni approached a cube made of pale yellow bricks that was hollow on the inside. The wall had caved in. Debris and pieces of dark cardboard in front of the entrance. Blue and black writing made with spray paint. Several clouds passed by. I took a photo of the brick cube and another photo of Xheni, who had found a dog. (Xheni is a girl from Tirana who accompanies me and acts as my interpreter. She is 22 years old and speaks perfect Italian and English. I had loaned her a digital Ricoh and a lens. Today she was wearing a green sweatshirt and a pair of ragged jeans. Her long hair was tied back with a black elastic band.) She held the dog’s muzzle with one hand and took several photos. The dog seemed to have gone crazy. It jumped up on a pile of rubble, and Xheni took other photos. I approached her and also took other photos. I noticed that someone had lit a fire. A pile of plastic and cardboard was burning and by then was already distorted by the flames. Very dense and foul-smelling black smoke was rising from the fire. The flames had an intense luminosity that was dazzled by the light of the midday sun. Xheni took off her sweatshirt and knotted it to the canvas rucksack that she was wearing slung over her shoulders. We continued on. A polystyrene crate and a small blue-plastic tub full of dead fish. They appeared to be river fish, but I didn’t know of what species. There was a man selling fish, and I asked him if I could take a photo. He was a robust boy of about twenty, wearing a red t-shirt that bore the design of a white football. He was sitting on a sort of large dark red mattress that was crossed by a blue line. Behind him was another boy wearing a black tracksuit who had a tattoo on his wrist. A short time later, a child about three or four years of age also arrived carrying a toy guitar. The boy tried to drive the flies away from the fish using a magazine.
(On the roof of Xheni’s cousins’ house). Together with Xheni I gazed at the usual fountain. We walked for about ten minutes. Xheni was wearing a grey sleeveless sports t-shirt and a pair of very short jeans. She was carrying her usual dark green rucksack. She walked hurriedly. I took several photos along the way. We arrived at her cousin’s house. We rang the bell. We did not go in, but at the door they offered us a glass of water full of ice. I was very thirsty. We asked for the keys to the roof. Xheni took the keys. We had to enter the roof from a door at the top of the building. We arrived. The first thing that I noticed was the flooring of the roof strewn with grey tar. A rusted cistern was abandoned on the floor. A sense of joy and serenity. Neutral colours, lots of grey metal cisterns and a blue plastic cistern. Lampposts and television antennas. The view was exceptional from the roof. I could see all of Tirana. Xheni, too, seemed cheerful. Twenty metal cisterns. The roofs of the houses were scattered everywhere. Red and grey blots. Blocks of flats were amalgamated, one on top of the other. Broken roof tiles. Long, narrow iron stakes. Rust. Chimneys and outlets of the air-conditioning conduits. Concrete. In the distance a blue awning. A green tarpaulin. Houses of all shades and colours. Infinite details. On the ground, pieces of rusted sheet metal. Plastic. Green and white pipes. The roof of my wife’s house in Tokyo came to mind. Buildings that are always very similar. Similar functionalities. Everything has an instrumental raison d’être also in Tokyo. Only things that serve, that have a function, exist. Aphasia. It was not possible to conceptualise my thoughts and express them in a conceptual manner. In reality it was as if I did not think. When I use a camera, I do not think. We went down into the street. We went to a food shop to buy something to drink. Xheni bought some fruit juice; I bought only some water. I would have liked to try a drink which has a salted yogurt base that is very common in Albania (I didn’t remember its name). We walked together for another two hundred metres, and then Xheni went off in another direction. I returned to the hotel after having stopped off to buy a tube of toothpaste and the usual tins.
FROM: RECOGNITION (APRIL)
The entrance to an underground parking lot. Two metal shelters with four neon lights, photoelectric cells, closed barriers.
It’s a deserted space, three o’clock in the afternoon. White and grey sky, a white metal net on a concrete wall, two signs with parking rates and rules, ticket machines.
The asphalt is wet. Damp spots along the ramp, no light or reflections, some small dead leaves under the shelters and on the sides of the pavement.
Further down, the pedestrian exit. An enormous brick cylinder with a blue metal skylight, an elevator and a glass door.
A girl with glasses and a yellow bag gets out of the lift and slowly walks across the garden and the cycle path. She’s wearing jeans and leather boots and looking towards the traffic. She’s waiting at the traffic light. Tens of mopeds and bicycles parked on the other side of the street, a woman with a purple sweatshirt holding a child’s hand.
The girl’s name is Ambra. She’s thinking about plants. In a cement tub full of soil there are four tropical plants with huge shiny leaves and stems. The tub is next to a glass door. The image lasts only a few seconds.
Now Ambra is thinking about a river bank, rocks covered with moss and roots, plastic bags and rubbish. She’s not completely aware of what her mind is showing her. Perhaps they are places she’s been to, fragment of an old film, splinters of dreams that find it hard to slip away into nothingness.
A text message arrives from her aunt. “I don’t want to drag this out. To avoid queuing at the bank, you’d better come to my place and I’ll leave you the money”. “I’ll be by in an hour.” “No, I haven’t got it all in cash. Come in the evening.” “Ok.” She switches off the mobile puts it back in her bag.
She walks towards the hills. An empty street. An abandoned car-wash. Someone has broken the window of the control booth with a huge grey stone. No, not a stone, a block of cement. Old magazines, visiting cards, a thatched stool and a keyboard. A dog appears, sniffing around. It trots out, sinks its teeth into a plastic bag and tries to rip it apart. There’s something to eat inside. It stretches out on a bench, frantically pushing its muzzle inside.
Ambra sees the dog from the street, through a thick grey wire fence. It’s still biting the bag, maybe it’s managed to get at the contents. It stands up, abandons the plastic and moves off. Its coat is ruffled by the wind; it starts to bark. At the end of the car-wash there’s a black and white bar and a sign that says unauthorized people cannot enter. Behind the bar there’s a signpost with an ad showing a tennis plays hitting seven balls with only one racket.
A boy on a motorbike stops. The engine is turned off and he tries to rev it up, without success. He’s wearing a helmet and a pair of dark green trainers. He looks as if he’s not there. He moves like a person who knows what’s going to happen. He takes off the helmet and moves the bike. Ambra sees a small black nylon backpack on his shoulders. He drags the bike for about ten yards, puts it up against the fence and puts his helmet back on.
(A deserted street)
A deserted street. There was a very old man, alone, looking for something in the boot of his car. Ambra watched him for a minute … he looked tired, and seemed to be trying to lift an enormous weight.
She thought about asking if he needed help, but he’d already closed the door of the boot without taking anything out. He seemed to be having a problem He locked the car, then opened it up again. It wasn’t clear what he was doing, his hands and arms were trembling.
Another man passed by with a bag full of rubbish and orange peels. Ambra thought it was about to rain, but a ray of light illuminated the asphalt. The sun lasted only an instant. Ambra crossed the street and saw that the old man was holding some sort of wooden tool in his hand while he walked slowly away from the car. It looked like a painter’s easel or some mysterious toy.
She walked for another ten minutes or so, crossing the parking lot, the public garden and the arcade. Under the bushes, cartons, an old doormat, newspapers covered with excrement, paper tissues, flies and wet rags. She lifted her camera and took a ten or so photos. She usually took about a hundred a day. She chose six or seven and used them as a background to paint on. Every painting was made of several photos.
She was attracted by rubbish. For almost a month she’d been systematically shooting objects thrown under plans, on the street and around rubbish containers, but she still hadn’t painted anything. She put the lens cover back on and put the camera into her backpack. She sat down. In front of her, a large white greenhouse, hidden behind a bush and a magnolia. It seemed to be shut. She saw a man with a band-aid on his cheek. He reminded her of a tv celebrity. He was wearing a black raincoat with two white and one orange stripes; he went into the greenhouse, it was open. Fifteen or so snails were attached beside the glass door, all in the same spot.
Ambra went in, too. She sat down in a corner, on a concrete step full of dead insects and rows of ants. The greenhouse was almost empty, there were only six vases of purple flowers, an extinguisher, a wastepaper basket and two water fountains. It wasn’t clear if it was allowed to stay there, outside it started to rain. The glass window was surrounded by pine trees and a bamboo mat. She took a shot of a long white tube hanging in the middle of the building and then left.
In the street there was a strong smell of moss and gunpowder, Ambra took shelter walking under the holm-oaks, her camera bag was already wet. A grey and pink stain terrified her. It was the face of a deformed woman. She was walking under an umbrella with a little boy six or seven years old. The left side of her face was disfigured by a giant growth, a knob of tumorous flesh, dark and wrinkled like a crow’s foot. Ambra stopped in her tracks, horrified.
A vase of dried flowers, four cardboard envelopes, a paper package with official stamps containing two books. Photos, books, transparent plastic folders. A shoe box painted red, the photo of a man around sixty sitting at a white table. Records, the photo a girl standing under a viaduct, a leather bag, an open suitcase. The suitcase is beige and inside it is black. In it there’s a small red umbrella, medicines for diarrhea, a book, a toothbrush and a lap-top power supplier. The suitcase is a few inches from the rug. Behind it, against the wall, a book gifted by an ice-cream company, a box full of slides, the poster for a jewelry show.
Alessandro is sitting. His leans his head against the wall and shuts his eyes. A woman’s voice in the street, outside the windows. He rubs his eyes.
Alessandro looks at his hands. A small wound like a grain of rice between the thumb and index finger. Sturdy fingers, suntanned, nails without luster and a little dirty. A smear of blue or green paint on his thumbnail.
He looks at the cover of the suitcase, it seems to be vibrating. He looks at the toothbrush, green and white, a strip of black cloth, the medicines. His right leg hurts. A sharp pain, hot, climbs up from the sole of his foot and slides along his calf, envelops his knee like a strange electric shiver.
He shuts his eyes again and tries to fall asleep. He turns his head and looks at his suede jacket, the gym bag, a grey plastic lamp. He opens and closes his eyes slowly. He sees the image of the room stamped on his retina. The image slowly disappears against the orange ground of closed eyelids.
He is thinking about Fabio.
A bus goes by. The sound of the bus, in Alessandro’s mind, is a sort of flux flowing and crossing the space. A deep sound, suggesting fire or cement. Another bus. The door of a car closing. In the instant while Alessandro is closing his eyes, everything seems to be turning around. He can feel sleep coming on. He hears himself breathing. He thinks that light has a sort of body, a weight and an identity.
He gets up and looks at his mail. A message from Fabio. “Ciao. Bad luck. I lost my suitcase at the airport. I’ve been waiting for news for three days. I hope they find it. It had my hard disk with all the material. If it doesn’t show up I’ll copy all our files on another hard disk and send it to Rome right away.”
He reads the message without paying much attention. He leaves the computer and goes into the bathroom. He unbuttons his trousers and urinates. The water comes out of the sink with a hiss. He wants something to drink and goes into the kitchen. He opens the fridge and takes out a bottle of water. He drinks a glass and puts the bottle back into the fridge. He goes into the study and starts copying the files on a new hard disk. He goes back into the kitchen.
Ash-colored shadows on the walls and in front of the burners.
A kettle, three tomatoes on a ceramic plate, a magnet shaped like a ladybug in a crusted-over flower vase, a paintbrush covered with glue, a hair band, dirty dishes, a can of tomato sauce covered with plastic wrap, breadcrumbs, spoons, an old coffee pot and bottles of oil.
He throws a plastic cap into the trash, fills a bottle with tap water and puts it into the fridge. The bottle is dented, it’s made of plastic. The tap is dripping.
Alessandro’s testicles feel sweaty and relaxed. He stretches his spine. The pain in his leg is gone. In the sink there are two puffs of cotton soaked with lipstick and perfume. Alessandro tries to imagine Ambra wiping the makeup off her face and chin, or washing her neck with a sponge.
The phone rings, it’s his mother. – Laila’s all right. Maybe the police will be able to find her. She sent a text. She said she acted like an idiot.
– How many days ago did she disappear?
– Almost ten. Her parents are furious. They still don’t know exactly where she is, or who she’s with. But I think the police can locate her.
Laila is his younger cousin. Alessandro tries to imagine the scene — Laila is running along a dark road that leads to the beach. She disappears in the distance, maybe she’s escaping to India or Asia.
A bus goes by. A slight smell of sweat and anti-mosquito cream. It’s almost seven o’clock. On the kitchen wall there’s a splotch of white light. White and grey reflections on the tiles behind the sink, delicate shadows on the floor and table. A long instant of total silence, he can hear vibrations coming from the fridge. Suddenly there’s a shrill, undefined noise. A clang of metal, the sound plates clashing. It lasts only a few seconds. Then once again the fridge vibrating. Cars passing, a dog in the distance.
Alessandro goes into the study. The computer is copying the files. A blue light, off and on. The scanner, empty bottles, a bag, books and electric cables.
A porcelain cat with red ears, plastic bags and spray paint, an old laptop, sticks of incense, scotch tape, cartons.
A dark stone, only a little larger than a coin. Alessandro picks it up. It almost falls out of his hand. Cold, maybe muddied.
Again, that intermittent light, blue.
Old glasses, flash-drives, a jar of glue, diaries, objects printed in 3D, batteries, styrofoam boxes, paper cups.
Alessandro looks at the blue light. He goes online and turns down the music. The nape of his neck feels cool. He turns towards the window and shuts it.
A flacon of red insecticide with yellow tap and silver label. On the label, a black fly fulminated by an electric shock. Alessandro picks up the flacon and shakes it hard. He sprays the walls near the bed. A big mosquito with a dark belly full of blood flies away and tries to avoid the spray, but falls on the floor, wings vibrating. Alessandro takes a black cloth case out of his pocket, full of anti-depressants. He swallows a couple of pills and lies down on the bed.
The house is immersed in the light of sunset and of silence. In the bathroom, creams and cosmetics, floss, talcum powder and scented salts, a bag of powdered soap, contraceptives.
Alessandro imagines a very small woman, naked and covered with tattoos. The woman smiles at him, leads him into a room with an unmade bed and slowly takes his clothes off. She takes his penis in her mouth while he caresses her neck and back. Alessandro imagines squeezing her neck. A huge star-shaped tattoo covers her sweaty chest. He fantasizes about sodomizing her. Tattoos all up her spine. Great black butterflies, a woman with the head of an insect hidden in the hole of a tree, winged dolphins, fire. In his imagination, the drawings change endlessly.
A sense of fatigue and shame grips him. He thinks about eating something or sipping a sweet drink. He gets up, looks around in the kitchen. He takes his wallet and keys and goes out. Wet asphalt, ads in the mailbox, a black plastic tube thrown on the ground, bikes, lowered window blinds. It starts raining.
It’s raining harder and harder. Alessandro takes refuge in front of a furniture shop window. Noise of rain, water flowing below the pavement and in the gutters. A dog goes by, a woman in a purple sweatshirt and shorts, a few cars, two Chinese girls. Alessandro looks at the shop window. A grey foulard, a sofa, a flower-shaped lamp, a silver table with red metal legs. Chairs, fabric samples, a huge green eye painted on a wooden table.
The rain continues. Alessandro hurries across the street. He walks towards the take-away. He goes in, orders ravioli, chicken, rice spaghetti and vegetables. He sits down in front of a mirror. He swallows another anti-depressant pill. The shop owner is a Chinese woman of about thirty. On the counter, a pile of plastic trays full of spaghetti, onions, coke, hot sauce, seed-oil and artificial flowers.
The dish of ravioli arrives. Shortly after arrive the spaghetti and the chicken. Alessandro eats quickly. The Chinese girl prepares three bags full of things to eat and drink for home delivery. He’s almost finished the ravioli. He takes a sip of water, cuts the last ravioli in half and dips it in the sauce. He drinks some more. He dunks the spaghetti in the ravioli sauce. A really beautiful girl comes in and sits down at the counter. The chicken fat is full of wine or spirits, the plate is hot. A man and a woman come in, speaking Chinese. The food and the pill have improved Alessandro’s mood. He devours the chicken, finishes up the sauce with a plastic spoon. He feels pleasantly full. He drinks the rest of the water. He glances at his face in the mirror. He pays and leaves.
It’s stopped raining. He passes in front of a herbalist’s. A woman with bleached hair and two enormous dogs comes out of a front door. He walks by a very fat nun, she looks Alessandro in the eye. Alessandro lowers his face.
Just before two a.m. Alessandro wakes up out of a strange dream. He’s in the kitchen with his mother and father. They’re eating something, a bowl of soup and a brown ice-pop, rice and some sort of gruel with bits of blue in it. His mother urges him to take a swimming course. The dream shifts suddenly. Alessandro finds a big mustard-colored flute on the ground, with worms and ants coming out of it. He wakes up, rushes into the bathroom. He empties his bladder and bowels. He thinks about the tattooed woman again. He feel depressed again and can’t get back to sleep.
The rubbish bin next to the bus stop is a black metal cylinder, almost three feet tall. Cigarette butts, ashes and fluff spill out of a slit at the bottom. There is a dark grey bag attached inside the cylinder. It’s placed over a manhole cover less than a yard from the stop.
Two women with a little girl arrive. The little girls is laughing, she’s wearing a pink and white tee-shirt, a butterfly-shaped plastic bracelet and a purple hair-band. She opens and closes her arms. One of the women caresses her face and hair. A black boy on a bicycle rides by, motorbikes with their lights on, a woman carrying a big white plastic bag
The pavement is full of chewing gum, pigeon feathers, small pieces of paper, pine needles. Three boys wearing tee-shirts and shorts cross the street.
Ambra is holding a little girl by the hand, she goes and sits under a tree in the middle of the square. She takes out a pink plastic tube of soapy water and a ring for making bubbles. The little girl takes the tube and tries to unscrew the tap. Ambra loosens the girl’s hair and blows gently into the plastic circle. The bubbles come out, bursting almost immediately. Ambra blows again, but the ring is empty.
She takes off a sandal and massages her ankle. She takes of the little girl’s shoes, too, puts her down on the bench and blows into the pink rings again. She takes out a refreshing tissue and wipes the little girl’s feet and knees. Her name is Gaia.
Ambra is wearing a pair of cloth sandals, a beige top and sunglasses. A bracelet and a white ring. She takes two pieces of focaccia out of a paper bag. She bites into one, then hands one to the little girl. She’s thirsty. The cafés in the square are closed. The little girl drags her feet over the wood of the bench. Ambra feels a sense of boredom and heaviness in her stomach. She takes out more tissues and wipes her hands. She throws away the tissues in the trash. The little girl follows her.
(The coffee shops in the square are closed)
They stayed in the park until sunset. Gaia observed the drawings on the stone bench carefully. There was a sort of star, instead of rays it had nine drops of fire, small round sparks converging on a luminous center. There was a red figure, some kind of crab or seahorse.
Gaia came closer. She found a light blue cloud, too, with purple, green and blue flames coming out of it. She picked up a shard of glass from the ground, set it on the stone next to a small piece of dry moss. A few yards away she found other drawings. A sort of green candelabra, held up by a human face, a red smear, a white clack square, two imprints of yellow paint, a coral bead with a hole.
Without realizing it, Gaia went up to a black-haired girl who was nursing a newborn baby. She had a long dark braid, and delicately touched the baby with dark fingers. Gaia stared at her for a long time, she was strangely dressed. She was wearing a phosphorescent jacket, a yellow skirt and cork clogs. She lay the baby in the pram and quickly disappeared behind the phone booth.
Where the woman had been sitting, there was now a black man with a crutch and a plastic bag. The little girl was still looking for drawings. She found a feather, a straw and a few daisies. The man with the stood up slowly and looked at her. Gaia needed to pee. There weren’t any more interesting pictures. She crossed the garden invaded by pollen. An abandoned mattress next to the bins of glass, an empty water –pistol package, ants and tiny red spiders.
The earth was dry and very hard. She walked down the avenue and stopped in front of the window of a closed butcher shop. She approached the glass. She could see only a few jars of tomato sauce and tins of tuna. She knew she shouldn’t go too far, but she could take a few more step. She thought she’d walk around the phone booths.
Ambra saw her move away and ran to catch up to her. They looked for a café that was open, the toilet in the park looked dirty. The pavement was covered by a swath of black tar, fresh. Ambra could smell tobacco, but there was no one to be smoking. They continued walking for another ten minutes or so, Gaia staring inside the cars they passed. They found an old Punto, and she leaned over to look inside. On the windshield there was a piece of grey paper showing a man’s face, a bow, a black sword and a policeman with a strange object in his hand. It looked like a hose, but it was a space gun. On the back seat there was a dark folded up, and a broken umbrella.
The coin laundry was the only thing open. Maybe it had a toilet. Gaia ran in. It was a long, narrow room, lit by glaring neon lights. There was an artificial plant, eight washing machines and a container for the laundry. The radio was on, talking about cinema. They were talking about a film where a child finds a magic ring and changes herself into girl with super powers.
Gaia rummaged in the basket of forgotten clothes and fished out an old checkered napkin. The door to the toilet was locked, but Gaia wouldn’t leave the place. Ambra thought that Gaia was imagining she was in the control room of an enormous spaceship, that she was dreaming up an enchanted realm and had forgotten about needing to pee. She tried without success to pull her away, but it was no use. She sat down tiredly near the detergent vendor. The area was video-monitored, two tiny white webcams were installed between the washing machines.
Ambra could smell the odor of tobacco again. The light was vibrating. On the counter in front of the window there was a heap of magazines, flyers advertising yoga and meditation courses, ballet schools, pizza places, cat and dog toilettes, a brochure against nuclear weapons. The packets of softener in the automatic vendor looked like sanitary napkins or hospital bandages.
Ambra senses that the little girl wasn’t playing. The washing machines weren’t spaceship monitors, they weren’t gigantic bubbles of energy, capsules launched on Mars or Jupiter. The idea that it was a game grew out of her own adult mind, while Gaia’s reality was unfathomable. Ambra was almost aware of witnessing a mystery or a miracle. Gaia’s existence made objects enter a dream. The plastic plant, the windows of the washing machines, their buttons and doors, everything that Gaia’s hands and organism met became something else. To say Gaia was only imagining she was exploring the cabin of a spaceship was foolish and senseless, it was an approximation. Ambra had no way of imagining or comprehending what the little girl was actually expressing and experiencing. She felt suddenly poor and naive.
Gaia’s mother and father arrive. Ambra says goodbye and leaves. She’s finished work, it’s five o’clock. Pine needles and small bits of bark are drifting down. Long, dark shadows on the asphalt and the fronts of buildings.
Ambra walks slowly. Still that same restlessness. A feeling of oppression in her belly, nausea and weariness. She looks down at her feet, with their small nails and slightly deformed toes.
Dead leaves, smears of red paint, a dog.
She crosses the street distractedly. The soft drinks stand is closed. A cement column in front of the entrance, an open lock attached to a chain; chairs, dust-encrusted tables and smog.
The basketball field is surrounded by a metal net, green, at least five meters high. Ambra finds a plastic bag attached to the net. Ants, an ice-pop cover, a crushed plastic bottle, something thick, maybe a crust of bread or pizza.
A woman walking a grey dog. The dog rolls in the sand and barks. The woman sits passively on the seat of the swing, letting herself be swung. She gets up, touches the dog, moves off and runs towards the river.
Ambra looks at the bag hanging from the net. It turns around. Lower down, the net is torn to pieces. Black ants climb up the pole holding the net and slowly and relentlessly go into the bag. Wasps, fleas and flies. A smell of dirt and decomposition. Something sticky and sweet foaming in the plastic is attracting the insects. There’s nothing to see. A white object, like a big embryo. A bag of manmade material with fermenting liquids in it. Rays of sun and dead leaves.
Ambra is taken by surprise by a shudder of disgust. She goes away, watching the bag vibrating in the sun.
Dozens of cigarette butts, throw-away forks, torn sugar packets, black plastic straws.
Something stirs in a bush. A ray of sun strikes her hands and forehead. The hot, blinding light quickly penetrates her temples and eyes. Ambra doesn’t know what’s happening. Reality seems to draw its force from a tremendously cruel source. She feels like she’s experiencing the world through the eyes or shell of an insect.
The feeling lasts but an instant. A heap of red and brown rags in the middle of the field. Skeletal arms, dark skin, a blue dot rug. A black boy, lying in the grass. He’s wearing a red tee-shirt and a blanket. Motionless, he’s sleeping or staring into the void. A pigeon lands near him, fluttering its wings. Ambra draws near. She looks at his arms. The young man has a series of letters and numbers tattooed above his elbow. He looks exhausted.
Ambra is forced to feel a horrifying picture come to life within her. A group of men pour petrol over the boy and set fire to him. She hears a cicada chirping. She concentrates on that sound. She’s trying to find an answer to the image that has invaded her mind.
She looks at the boy again. He could be the larva of a giant butterfly, she thinks, a mysterious creature, without eyes or vertebrae. The world of insects penetrates her own.
Music, people singing. A man teaching his son to play soccer. He kicks the ball gently and turns towards her. Ambra looks at him for a second and keeps on walking.
The park is full of people. They’re mainly Peruvian. They’re sitting on tiny plastic or aluminum seats, eating in groups of three of four, listening to music, drinking beer or coke.
Colored balloons hang from the branches of the trees; yellow, green and blue stools, bags full of ice and cans, a transparent plastic container with some dark blue or purples liquid in it.
They’re almost all fat, talking and gesturing, laughing as they grill sausages or ears of corn. Someone has turned on an electric generator with a long grey cable coming out of it. More music, the sound of drums, bass and castanets.
Ambra senses an extreme sadness rooted in the bodies of these people. She looks at a boy smiling and playing volley-ball. He’s wearing a loose Nike tee-shirt with silver letters. Something is tormenting those eyes and that smile. Perhaps a tender, relentless fear. Ambra isn’t able to explain to herself what she saw and what she sees in him.
The shadows tremble on the asphalt. Little transparent ants, light blue leaves, leaves curling under the light of the sun; nettles, a marble bust on a white column.
Something sting the sole of her foot. Perhaps it’s an insect or a pine needle. The pain turns into itching. She takes of her sandal and shakes it. Nothing, but the itching continues. She takes off the sandal again and rubs her foot. The itching seems to go away. Her chin and temples are wet with sweat, her forehead and hair burning.
She watches a girl sucking on an ice-pop. The girl has a deep scar on her right cheek. It looks like clotted blood, or a smear of tar. Sun, more heat. Heat on her neck and nape.
Ambra passes in front of the agriculture college. She turns left, towards home. Ads and political flyers, writig, pigeon leavings. The drawing of a man’s face. Black ink; a piece of chewing gum has been stuck where the eye should be. Anarchic symbols, the picture of being with the head of a mouse or a pig. Sunrays on her body, her hands.
She walks down the pavement; she’s nervous and bored. A cloth towel on the ground, on the asphalt. A blond woman with a colorless complexion. She’s sitting in a car doing a crossword puzzle. She looks at Ambra’s face, her eyes widen and she writes something down. Another basketball court, a green metal cabin with a security camera fixed over the door. Intense heat. Ambra crosses a narrow, dark stream. Shadows move in the water, branches thick with leaves dip into it; white flowers, bamboo canes and fig plants. A sense of emptiness and coolness. Grey and dark green reflections. Ambra thinks about the meaning of physical intimacy.
A black dog limps down the sidewalk. Burning hot rays. A Chinese girl is wearing a light blue bracelet. Ambra looks at her swaying arms, the thick mass of black hair down her back. Heat in her stomach.
Ambra pictures herself lying naked on her back in an empty room. On the floor there’s only a tiny rabbit or hare bone, white with black tips.
There a bit of wind blowing. Florescent gym shoes cross the asphalt. Colors, bright pictures. Ambra thinks she’ll paint a picture. She’s like to paint dark stones, a heap of black or grey stones. An enormous canvas, cold and without light. Compact stones holding up an immense cylindrical cage. Equidistant metal beams, perfectly symmetrical and parallel. Densely packed stones, like coal. The cage should look terrifying, one cage inside another. Steel plates that reinforce the bars, sharp stones wedged in everywhere. A cage of iron and stone, a trap without any way in or out.
She tries to picture every detail of the painting. It has to be in ink. Not a canvas, but a piece of paper as big as the whole floor. Or maybe a sheet of plywood or cardboard, a rough, brutal backing. Something halfway between a painting and a drawing.
Suddenly the day doesn’t seem lost or useless. She’s thought up an image, a form to create slowly and carefully. She observes the street. She thinks about her own death. The world going on without her,without her body or her memory. A woman at the telephone, far away, alone, at the window. She’s holding a piece of yellow paper, then she disappears into the house. Ambra doesn’t want to forget the image of the painting. Maybe she should take some notes.
It had been raining for almost an hour. There was no one around. Ambra had left the house with the windows half-open. A pile of used CDs, an earthenware vase full of sweet-smelling grasses, a cardboard handbag with a yellow and red leather handle, a few bottles of polished glass, books, the table lamp pointed at the wall, turned off.
On the table there was a paper envelope with a hand-drawn plan. The plan represented three rooms, showing the doors and windows, the length and height of the walls and the areas to be covered. Shower, eighty centimeters, a large bathroom, two meters by two meters ten, closet, two meters thirty-five. The measures were approximate and incomplete. The handwriting belonged to Ambra and her father.
Hidden by a pile of printed sheets of paper, there was another piece of paper, on it a man and a woman in a tight embrace were kissing. The man’s hand circled the woman’s body, and the woman was hiding her body between his shoulders. Beside the woman’s head you could see an open book, marked by a black Y-shaped stain. Underneath the drawing of the kiss a mysterious figure was sketched, circular, it looked like an egg or the engine of a plane. Near the drawing of the book a phrase was written: “For this book I need S.” The rest of the paper was blank, except for some illegible initials at the bottom of the page.
They weren’t notes for a painting. They were wishes. Ambra wanted to be kissed passionately and to publish her diary. She desired that kiss and that book, she thought if she drew them over and over again her wishes would come true.
A gilded bracelet, an elastic hairband and a medicine box. Sticky tape, a pair of pincers with a yellow rubber handle, electric cables. Alessandro’s hat, a book by Pavese that she’d never finished and the electric flashlight, new, that also served as a key-ring. During the night, Ambra had dreamed about one of those objects. She dreamed about tidying up the table and finding a small flash drive wrapped in a sticky gelatinous substance.
The pen really did exist, it was leaning against the books, near a fragment of stone. Ambra didn’t often dream about that house. At times she dreamed in the bathroom, in her dreams it was like a prison, the walls were black and the windows sealed with a block of cement. In her dreams the hallway led to a garden. She never dreamed about the kitchen or the entrance.
It rained harder and harder. The balcony was full of water, the water slowly seeped in from the glass door of the study, it gathered in small puddles on the vinyl floor. In the kitchen a light blue brush had been left in a glass goblet, along with the mobile charger and a colored wood ladybug. An upside-down jar, more boxes of medicine, cases full of erasers and pencils. Ambra got back at nine. On the way home, she’d bought a jar of freeze-dried Thai spaghetti. She hadn’t used the kettle for months, it was all encrusted at the bottom. She opened up the spaghetti, filled the kettle and plugged it into the socket. She poured the boiling water over the spaghetti and waited a few minutes.
The spaghetti swelled, she gobbled it down with a pair of chopsticks. The broth was hot and salty. She considered transferring the broth to a cooler container. She took a fruit salad bowl out of the cupboard and poured it all in. It tasted delicious. Small bits of chicken floated in the bowl, carrot and celery slices, small oily bubbles mixed with ground pepper.
She finished up the portion quickly, rinsed off the cup and unplugged the kettle. She was still hungry. She took out a package of matzo and a can of tomato sauce, checked to make sure there wasn’t any mold in the can. She dipped a piece of the bread in the sauce. She looked more carefully. There was a small lump of mold inside the can. She thought about putting some oil and salt on the matzo, there were some toasted sesame seeds, too. She dribbled the oil and a few seeds over a sheet of matzo. The oil was sweeter than the sauce, the seeds stuck to her fingers.
She noticed that the faucet leaked. When she turned it on full force, a thin continuous stream squirted out of the side of the tap. She realized that a noise had started up in the bedroom wall, like a rotating fan or a refrigerator engine. The noise moved. Now it seemed to come from another room, the bathroom or the hallway. For a second, Ambra thought that the vibration was only in her head. It was a helicopter. All at once, the engine stopped.
Two hours later, the noise seemed to come back, maybe pulsating. Ambra couldn’t tell for sure. She dreamed about a concrete dome abandoned in a wood. The dome was very large and covered with a layer of soil of rotting leaves. She dreamed she pushed aside the leaves with her hand, while a helicopter blade rubled inside the strange black structure.
She woke up at dawn, turned on the light and jotted down her dream. She’d slept only a few hours. She thought about the time when Alessandro had laid his head on her breast, two years before. She remembered the stairway in her parents’ house, and when as a little girls she’d heard a strange metallic sound vibrating in the wall and the piping.
She shut her eyes and dreamed again. She was opening the door of a hotel and she found dens of shining lines suspended in the air in front of her face. It was a sheaf of white neon-like lines, they floated in the void giving off a violent lights. The shining mass ran from above to below, while a woman’s voice murmured something, inside or beyond the cage of light.
She woke up definitively at ten o’clock. The sky was covered, the air filtered from the terrace into the bedroom and from the bathroom door in the study. A white shadow, reflected on the door. She got up and folded the eiderdown. In a few days, she thought, there wouldn’t be any need for a quilt, she could sleep with just a sheet and pillow and nothing else. She opened the window, gulped down a yoghurt and annotated the last dream. As she wrote, she realized she’d dreamed many other things as well.
Ambra sits on the bed. A grey plastic paint-stained wire sticks out of the telephone plug and twists along the floor forming a strange sort of skein. The plug has been disconnected for at least ten years.
Facing her, a wicker basket. In the basket, a ball of white string, sheets of newspaper, a pair of beach shorts, electric wires and plastic bags.
Ambra looks at the wall. White with light grey shadows. Small dark bodies, an outline in the shape of a shell, squashed mosquitoes. She pulls the basket towards her with a foot. She finds a novel by Yehoshua, a grey envelope with her name written on it. The envelope is sealed with a small tulip-shaped stick-on – it’s empty. There’s an old hard disk, sale slips, hair clips and receipts.
Alessandro is immobile in his car with the engine off. The buzz of a chain saw on the other side of the hedge. On the dashboard his wallet, two small remote controls, a packet of mint chewing-gum. Coins, keys.
The chain saw goes on buzzing. Cicadas, leaves tossed by the wind along the street. A red car parked behind a stone wall. Alessandro looks at it for a second, biting into two sticks of gum. His mouth and throat are invaded by the synthetic taste of the mint.
The saw has stopped. Alessandro picks up a transparent plastic bag full of keys, a frog-shaped key ring, another remote.
He gets out of the car. An abandoned camper covered by rust, cracks and scratches. A yellow tube dirty with dust, mud and spider webs; the pink feet of a stuffed animal sticking out under a wheel of the van.
A boy of twenty or so comes out of the gate, gets on a moped and disappears. The street is completely empty. The buzz of an airplane, white butterflies. The chewing-gum is almost finished. Alessandro walks on for a few yards. He realizes that his car lights are still on. He goes back to the car. He spits out the gum and walks down to the end of the street. He arrives at a grey gate, recently painted. He tries to open it. The key turns but it doesn’t open.
He takes a few steps, tries another gate. He opens the chain and goes in. The courtyard is empty. From a sawed-off trunk an enormous fungus is growing. It looks disgusting. It doesn’t resemble a fungus, it’s more like the inner organ of some animal. Alessandro uproots it with a kick. A moment after, he feels a sense of unrest and pity. The fungus is alive, a spongy mass full of water and fragrance.
Alessandro wants to examine the house. He takes the keys. He realizes he hasn’t got the front door key. There is everything in the bunch, the mailbox key, the key to the meter, the garage and the cellar. He tries to walk up to the first floor climbing the external stair. Here the key works. He enters slowly. The house is empty – no furniture or lights.
Sheets of felt to protect the parquet, the smell of enamel and paint. Boxes, electrical wiring, light bulbs switched off. Dust and smears of paint.
He looks out onto the open gate from the window of the large sitting room. Behind the gate, a patch of light.
The gate was open. The trunk of a felled tree emerged from the stones of the courtyard. The wood was grey, surrounded by very small plants, cigarette butts and strange purple rings. A squirrel crossed the yard and disappeared beneath the bushes next to the stairway. Plastic pails full of water and mortar, piles of dark sand.
Two workers drilled through the asphalt in the street in front of the gate. They had to locate a gas pipe that was leaking. The leak was found at about twenty yards from the house. The marked the exact point where the pipe leaked with yellow spray and climbed into the van. The street was empty. The older worker made a
phone call and filled out a form. A piece of plastic brought by the wind ended up under the wheel.
The house was perfectly visible from the street. Doors and windows were painted white and light grey, the front was hidden by a linden tree almost fifteen meters tall. It was a modern house. The flower vases were covered by grass, the windows of the balcony and the first floor were open. In the garden behind the house someone was burning the trimmings. The smoke rose up. The blows of a shovel or a pickaxe mixed with birdsong.
A man was talking on the phone, he was talking about a steel bar that served to close the gate. The man came into the courtyard. In front of the stairs seven white radiators were piled up, lying on styrofoam slabs, full of spider webs and dead bugs. More styrofoam slabs were piled in the garden a covered with a transparent plastic sheet. A tiny green bug had climbed on to man’s hand, near his nails.
It was hot. The photoelectric cells next to the gate were covered with a black plastic tap. Inside it was full of light and smelled of fresh paint. A white table was covered with the dust of bricks, a sponge cloth folded in two, grease or coffee stains, a very thin sheet of pink cellophane, papers and documents scattered on the table.
The first paper showed a pencil-drawn plan. There were four rooms, a bath and a room with a fireplace. The drawing was done by hand, the writing and measures at the computer. The room was empty. Next to the table, a gigantic carton, almost as big as a tub, full of empty bags and scotch tape.
The noise of a farm machine entered, a tractor or a lawnmower. The house had no lighting. All the outlets had been disconnected, tens of colored plastic wires bound with insulating tape spewed out of them. The living room door showed scratches made by a dog’s paws. The bathrooms and bedrooms were empty.
The street lamps are on. Smell of a septic tank or dead leaves. Someone shouts. A black spot on Ambra’s retina. The spot last an instant and disappears. Ambra is looking at the street from her balcony. It’s about to rain. A mosquito on her thumb, Ambra crushes it. The smell of sewer is coming from a drainpipe protected by a thick metal fence. The pipe is only a few yards away from Ambra’s body.
More voices, in the distance. A chain grating. Ambra turns towards her neighbor’s balcony. The windows are closed, the light low. The objects can’t be made out. Perhaps an aluminum stair, a rug, clothing and cloths hung out to dry. A light is turned on. A yellow rectangle, white figures moving in the room. Ambra leans towards the lit window. A white cylinder, a dark line. The cylinder could be a vase, or someone’s head. What looks like a line is actually an arm, a hand moving something on the table.
Another light comes on. Another white object. A woman’s face. Ambra is sure it’s a woman. Pale blue clouds against a grey sky. The head in the light moves slowly and disappears. The white cylindar is neither a vase nor a head. It looks like a bottle of milk.
The line appears again, in the corner of the window. Ambra watches silently. Maybe it’s an arm. Something half-way between the human and the material. Ambra thinks of Van Gogh’s paintings. The white cylindar is definitely something living. A head hit by an electric ligth. It’s a head, she’s sure now. A head and a hand.l Someone is eating.
The smell of rot is much weaker, hardly noticeable. In another window, an oval painting. The face of a man covered with a black hat, or maybe the face of a woman with dark hair in a bun. Ambra feels dizzy. She looks at the painting. It’s no more than a mass of confused line, a black sphere on a gold background.
She thinks about her paintings. The rug on the seashore and the blue sword, the man lying on a red bush. The naked man stroking a duck that is dead or asleep. The muscular woman with yellow, black and blue lines scattered over her. The watercolors roughed out on the pages of books, the white head with the red and blue neck and the square black mouth. The abstract canvases; blocks of color, squares and blue-green triangles, strange green or black towers.
The paintings in the kitchen and the bedroom. Ambra never paints what she sees. Now, she’s looking at a tree swallowed by deep darkness. A light goes on behind the tree and immediately goes off. Maybe, around he, there are signs. From these signs a new painting could be born.
She leaves the balcony and goes back into the house. She’s overwhelmed with the need to sleep. She switches on the air conditioner and lies down. In another vita, perhaps, she was a really fat woman, Chinese or Indian. A woman who had fled from home, who died of hardship or was slaughtered. Slowly the dream seeps in and wraps around her. Before drowning in it, a white flash crosses her whole field of vision. It’s very brief, hardly perceptible. “Ask me a question and I shall answer you.”
Ambra wakes up. A furious rain is wetting the floor. She gets up and shuts the doors and windows. She’s cold and looks for a heave pajama.
She opens the wardrobe, a pile of sweaters and tops, a watch, old yellow pants.
First image: a light blue rug. On the rug there is a computer. On one side of the rug, a piece of paper and a roll of tape. Second image. An overturned table, black. An anti-mosquito ring, a cell phone and a pair of checkered pajamas. At one edge of the screen, a mirror partly covered by a veil. A bottle of iced tea, a sheet of plastic. The third frame shows a table with a ceramic dish on it, another roll of tape and an orange carton box. The image lasts for an instant.
The scene changes. A mattress filthy with excrement and vomit, a case and a beige bag. Train tickets, sheets of plastic, a black backpack. A new image. Two pairs of women’s shoes, white and blue. No sound.
The scene changes, we are outdoors. A mud puddle next to the wall of a modern building. Train tracks, a green bus shelter in the heat of the sun.
The image changes again. The telecamera frames a photocopier in a department store. A long black pause. Without images or sounds. Another indoor scene, maybe the same house as at the beginning of the video. A kitchen. Dirty stove, two glasses, a red roasting pan, an aluminum folding table.
Ambra doesn’t recognize these places. She compares the blurred image of a cat in a white cage. The cage is bathed in a merciless light. The cat tries to get out, it gets up on its back paws. No sound.
The video continues. A scaly sink caked with dried toothpaste. Razors, a bar of soap, hand-towels, a hair clip. There follows a blurry, opaque image. A fish bone, a plate smeared with soy sauce, pickles, cabbage and vegetables. Black. A car parked in a court.
Ambra is nervous, the images follow no logic or sense. The engine room of a train. Black. A bundle of rubber tubes next to a train track. An oriental girl appears. She looks into the lens. There are two unframed paintings hanging behind her. The girl’s age is uncertain, but she’s hasn’t reached twenty. The camera frames her whole body. She’s wearing a pair of black shoes. They look like men’s shoes. Green stockings, shorts, a blue checked shirt. Her eyes are half shut. The camera draws closer. Ambra notices a gold ring on her left hand, a pair of sunglasses, and a scar on her right knee. She’s covering her eyes and face with her forearm. The camera moves closer still. It shoots her head and well-combed hair.
A black space. The drawing of a bear or of a gold lion with a microphone in its hand. Another woman, her back turned. She’s looking at a concrete wall where tens of photos of girls are hanging. The next image shows the woman’s face. Extremely thin, a bottle of yogurt in hand, a gold pendant, painted nails and blue glasses. Another girl comes into the frame. She greets the lens and smiles.
Ambra is growing more and more tense. She has the impression that the video is in some mysterious way aimed at her, or is about her. The image of the lion or the gold-skinned bear cub returns. It has emerald green ears and tail, it’s holding the mike breast-high and smiling.
Another girl. Maybe in a hotel room. A bed with black headboard and footboard appears, a pale blue sheet and a wooden plank at least half a meter wide leaning on it. The girl undresses, her back turned. She sits on the sofa next to the bed. The camera moves around her. She has a small sturdy body, heavy breasts, a pair of earrings and a white band on her wrist.
Ambra feels a shudder of disgust run down her spine, yet she can’t turn the video off. Black. A stone statue covered by moss. Black. A dog immersed in water in a sink, maybe dead.
Ambra is sure she is feeling, inside, the emotions and anguish of another woman. She thinks about her mother, she thinks about a dream where the woman is dressed in red. She’s sitting on a throne and hugging a man with very long white hair. The throne is set in a t.v. studio, surrounded by tens of transparent chairs. The video and the dream seem to be one and the same.
Something is about to happen. In her mind the name of a man appears, Eddy Farrow. She’s hungry, she has to eat something. There are only a few bars of puffed rice, in the fridge. She goes into the kitchen, turns on the tap and fills a glass. She sips the water, takes a bar and gobbles it down.
The fear is gone, but she has to live with the images of the video she’s just seen or imagines she saw. Eddy Farrow. She knows who he is, she imagines she knows who he is. She knows with absolute certainty who he is. Another place, two men and a woman pick up white stones in the middle of a lawn. The man is wearing a florescent tunic. The stones are set in a circle, slowly and with great precision.
(The fear is gone)
The closet below the staircase had the smell the house used to have twenty years before, when Ambra lived there with her father. The only corner of the house that hadn’t changed was that space. It was a tiny grey room with two metal hinges in the wall, a wood shelf papered in pink and a torn mosquito net on the floor.
When Ambra was little she’d heard a metal clang, like a basket of falling forks, coming from that room. It was a mysterious, indescribable sound, like the laugh of a madman, the grunt of a creature with steel guts and veins. The sound lasted only an instant. Ambra was alone in the house, it was an afternoon in April. That sound had terrorized her, and she’d never forgotten it, it had remained frozen in her mind like a scar. It was impossible to match the sound to an image. The only image it evoked was one of mercury or liquid mercury. It was a sound that had no origin. To calm herself, Ambra imagined that it could be caused by the air compressed in a heating pipe, maybe in the washing machine or the dishwasher. But actually that sound wasn’t like either pipes or a jammed appliance. It seemed to be the song of a huge insect, the lament of a butterfly or a dragonfly that had been burned alive, a crushed grasshopper, the agony of a bird or a lizard in the grip of a bird of prey.
Now the space was perfectly silent.
Ambra is watching the video again. A square of black earth, surrounded by a concrete pavement and protected by blue netting and a plastic cage. In the cage there are small red and yellow flowers
The telecamera is motionless. Black. The outside of a house. The windows are hidden by enormous wicker mats. A box of orange fruit, upside down. A pale blue bowl, two skeletal cats climbing and sniffing everywhere. The camera moves closer to the window.
Inside, a dog’s paws. An old man, extremely thin, wearing a tee-shirt will Chinese writing. He has a pair of glasses around his neck and is looking at a blue drawing on the wall. The drawing shows a girl with something to eat in her hand. The man puts on earphones.
Black. A girl with a camera. The setting is indefinable, maybe a shop or a cellar.
Ambra is impassive. She feels she’s watching the video with less and less attention. She’s not watching the video, she’s only imagining it. She knows that. Yet that video exists, it’s there before her, on the screen. Maybe it’s some sort of casting to recruit porno actresses. Maybe it’s a documentary on the world of pornography and prostitution. The video doesn’t appear to be planned. No design, no planning behind the images. She wants to see the whole thing.
The video reminds her of her mother. She can’t say why. The fear she had when she was small, that her mother would kill herself. All this is in the video, she thinks it’s in the video. Ambra is the victim of a memory. Her memory has attracted this video, it’s brought it before her eyes.
Black. Two Chinese boys walking by a factory wall. Black. A blond girl is washing the dishes. The telecamera draws closer, the girl smiles. She looks Russian or Polish. Very fair complexion, a troubled face. The man holding the camera starts asking questions. – Tell me everything in detail. – The girl smiles and looks into the camera. She continues rinsing the dishes.
– He comes in and gets undressed – she says. – He lets himself be ties to the bed, naked.
She speaks with a foreign accent. – He enjoys suffering.
– He likes suffering?
– He likes physical pain, it’s a kind of perversion.
– Strong pain?
– I take a candle and burn him.
– You really do burn him?
– I let the boiling wax fall onto his body. I light a candle and pour the wax. When he feels pain, he gets excited.
– Can you describe the whole encounter to me?
The camera is lowered to frame the girl’s chest.
Black. An empty parking lot, a pile of boards, three abandoned cars in the middle of the lot. The voice continues. – I whip him. I put a leash on his neck.
– Where do you get these instruments?
– He gives them to me. He brought me a pack full of chains. Then he asked me to whip him.
– Do you hit hard?
– Yes, very hard. With all my strength. If he can’t stand the pain, I stop.
– So even he has a limit.
– Yes. He has a limit.
– And then you have sex?
– No. Never.
– He only wants to suffer.
– He wants to suffer, that’s right.
– Aren’t you his girlfriend?
– No. He hasn’t got a girlfriend.
– How long do you whip him?
– An hour.
– Does he touch himself?
– Sometimes he touches himself. But not always.
– Any other details?
– The chains are metal. They’re real chains. There’s a leather collar attached to the chain. The whip is real. I light a candle, I pour wax on his stomach, on his penis or his back. Then I get an electric toothbrush. I scrape the wax with the toothbrush.
– Is it fun?
– Yes, it is. Rather.
The man is looking at a very high wall, painted red, next to the entrance of a department store. The wall is ablaze with sunlight, it has six windows of different shapes. The man lowers his head.
A group of young people are sitting on a concrete bench, a boy with a white tee-shirt, a woman on a wheelchair. Another red spot, just as intense as the wall. It’s the dress of a woman about fifty, robust, wavy hair, three bracelets.
The man has a bag in his hand. In the bag, two packs of paper wine glasses. He’s wearing a pair of shorts and a dark top. He talks to himself, no one bothers to notice. He sits down. He has a coral bracelet and a blue band on his wrist.
He’s thinking about the phone booth. The booth might explode. He looks at the booth. Two metal telephones, the roof dirty with smog and bird droppings. He points at the booth, a boy looks at him for a second, then stops to take of a shoe. He fumbles in the shoe. – Mom, there’s something here. – The mother arrives. He cleans the shoe and puts it back on. He has a hard time getting his foot in. His mother helps him.
The man is still staring at the booth. He knows how to hide explosives. He keeps talking to himself, getting more and nervous all the time. He crosses his arms, looks at a woman cradling a newborn baby. The baby’s hand tries to grab the necklace. No, it’s just an impression. The baby’s hand moves jerkily. It’s so small that it couldn’t grab an object. It looks like a doll.
The man makes a strange gesture. Perhaps he’s mimicking the woman cradling her baby. He brushes his hand across his forehead. He looks at the woman on the wheelchair. The woman moves her jaw jerkily, it looks like she’s chewing something. The man knows that those convulsions are caused by a drug. He looks at her neck and hands. The right hand grips the arm of the chair. He thinks he can recognize and understand that woman’s pain. For a second he thinks that her discomfort hides a flow of contempt and fear. The woman is seated crosswise. The wheelchair seems huge compared to her body. She has the body of a swallow, or a child, he thinks.
Now the baby’s face can be seen, in full sunlight. It puts out its tongue, thin as a blade or a spine. The man lights a cigarette. He rummages in the bag. He gets up, throws something into the rubbish. He thinks about the booth and the explosion. He sees himself in another time and another space. Now he’s an old man with eyes staring into the void and face devastated by wrinkles. He thinks he’ll wake up in another body.
The woman with the newborn baby sits next to him. The man knows he stinks of sweat. – How many months old is your baby? – he asks. – Two months. – He smiles. The woman jumps up and goes to sit down in another place; she takes down her top and gives her breast to the baby. She squeezes the nipple with her fingers, the baby sucks slowly and avidly.
The sun is setting, it’s almost seven o’clock. Pigeons, a styrofoam container left under a faucet. An old man dressed in black approaches. The man looks at him suspiciously. The old man has a tattoo on his neck, a serpent or fantastic creature. The man observes him, the old man is grasping a t.v. guide in his hand. On the cover, a woman in a bathing suit against a blue background.
The man gets up and takes a few steps. He goes up to the styrofoam container leaning under the faucet. The container is full of water and feed. The man tries to cross the street. He stops, turns around all at once and goes into the shopping center. He needs to belch. The shops are full. Household ware, linens, perfumes and watches.
He thinks he’ll have something to eat. He goes into a huge coffee shop, empty, but the smell of food and sweet stuff is unbearable. He leaves and looks around him. He looks for another coffee shop or a snack bar. He’s obsesses by the smell of sweat he has on him. A policeman looks at him. He needs to belch but he holds it in. He goes out into the street again. All the coffee shops are closed. He watches a pigeon pecking at a crust of bread.
A short distance away, Ambra. She’s coming out of a department store. She’s wearing a dark, flowered dress, sunglasses and sandals. Her handbag is behind her back. The man looks at her and starts to follow her.
There’s a whole peach, set in the middle of a black metal pilaster. Its peel is dusty and scratched.
Ambra walks quickly, she crosses the street. The man follows her at a distance, decided to find out where she lives. The girl finally sits down, takes out her mobile phone. The man keeps looking at her. He fumbles in his pocket. He’s looking for his mobile to take a picture of her.
Two homeless people go by, loaded with dirty bags and cartons of wine. They sit nearby, drink and smoke. The smell of smoke reaches Ambra. The younger homeless person lies down on a concrete bench, he leans his head on his backpack and half-closes his eyes.
Ambra gets up, still talking on the mobile. The man stares at her. Ambra has a red bag with three big colored circles. He takes a few photos, but she doesn’t notice anything. The smell of smoke and wine, the stink of sweat. The man is motionless in the middle of the square, he’s holding the bag with the paper cups tight between his legs. The peach is still there, motionless.