The Patient Nightmare

There are two words with the same meaning, the English un-ex-pect-ed-ly and in-as-pet-ta-ta-men-te in Italian, that I can’t say light-heartedly. I need to pause. I need awareness and concentration so my mouth can perform all the required movements necessary to produce that sound. They both never introduce positive news to me. I don’t think I’ve written them or uttered them often for the first sixty-seven years of my life. But unexpectedly, they have been predominantly present, in both languages, for the past two years. I thought maybe it’s my fault if facts find me unprepared in this time of my life. I have a natural propensity to be distracted and a dreamer, and it isn’t getting better with ageing.

I did not yet know this word at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That’s when I learnt that if Russia and the USA fought, a bomb would have destroyed everything, absolutely everything there was on this earth. This thought nested in my memory and came back now and then to plague me as a little girl, fortunately not often and only at night.

It was a discreet nightmare that didn’t, however, leave me even when a bit older I protested in the streets of Rome, like many other young people around the world. Later in Italy, we were named ‘La Meglio Gioventù’ after the movie that depicted the story of my generation. History has filed us, and I like to remember that we did fight for a better world and paid the price. 

The nightmare was still so silent that I thought it had left me forever; it didn’t show up even when we were all celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall that had kept the two Empires apart so that they wouldn’t fight. But the world had changed. It was all over. Done! My nightmare had no reason to go on existing.

and the bombing went on

That didn’t mean bombs stopped falling. The bombing went on all too often. Far away, but also near home, as on the other shore of the narrow stretch of our sea. But the future was smiling, and smiles keep nightmares away.

With all its ominous auspices, not even the New Millennium dislodged the scary dream from its nest. Patiently it stayed in the shelter and waited. I must say I think it deserves some admiration for never having given in to the temptation to reappear in the many occasions offered by my life span.

And then one morning, while I was making breakfast, there it was: my nightmare was on television. Out of its nest, at dawn, showing with the first sunlight all its ferocity. I felt again like that far away in time eight-year-old little girl, and I started crying, but nobody was there to comfort me this time.

Thursday, 24th February 2022.

© Photo copyright Patrizia Verrecchia. All rights reserved.

Foto di Matti da Pexels

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