We’ve been trudging along on the hot sand for what seems like an hour to me; she elderly, heavy and overdressed, disheveled and with toenails as long as claws, sunk into a pair of flowered tennis shoes for no reason in the world.
I can’t believe the thatched umbrellas are so far away. She begins to protest, at first weakly, then despondent at the injustice she is suffering.
And she demands to walk on the shore, on this island of unmanageable waves, and the evidence that shoes and pants will get soaked has the same effect on her as it would have on a two-year-old. I convince myself that this is for the best, that at least if she gets wet she won’t have a heart attack on the beach. I foolishly choose between two evils and instead I should give in, stop and wait. All things I haven’t yet had time to learn how to do.
A lady looks at her apprehensively and asks if she wants to sit down and rest; she offers her deck chair. I used to see her annoyed by the intrusiveness of people. Now instead she nods but keeps walking, limping in the strange way of someone whose leg bones are bowed, and I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. For I knew from childhood that she would never stand the passage of time. Too sensitive, too indignant, too fearful, too fond of justice as an absolute value.
A very fragile glass overflowing fiery life, marching heedless of the fact that it only takes a breath to shatter it. My father, when he was still a man she admired, promised her a rose a day and gave her a gold medallion that she always wore around her neck, even when we children only saw him on Sundays, at lunch at Pagliarella, or taking a long walk to get to Grandma’s.
We would buzz every building and run away laughing, and he was not the prominent lawyer everyone knew. He was a man who still believed that it was enough to love and be loved back to be happy, and he wasn’t. And she was so young and invisible to the noble family of the adulterous scion. How had he dared. He was so handsome and macabre and smiling. And she said three was the perfect number, holding us two at a time in the doorway of the house where he did not live. His footsteps on the stairs, from behind the wooden door.
And I had seen her every day swallowing this indigestible morsel of not being able to control her life, and never giving up, and becoming more and more anxious and incredulous and then angry and eventually resigned. I saw clearly the inevitability of her fate and was terrified by it. And she was too stubborn and motherly to listen to a little girl, and I too hurt by their lies, too busy slicing off my paw to escape the trap.
And here she is now, with the astonished eyes of a child, like a blind train running at a hundred miles an hour against a wall, and all I can do is bow to her fate, respect what she is, love her without reservation and bleed profusely, and finally we have arrived at the straw umbrellas, I sit her down and take off her shoes, and she sees my brothers and begins to laugh without being able to stop, sobbing, with tears in her eyes, for an interminable time.
Loving her is devastating, unbearable, an abyss of tenderness and maternal sense that a daughter should not have for a mother, it’s not healthy, it’s not right, and at the same time it’s impossible to restrain the rush of what I feel for her, so enormous that I can’t contain it, so strong that it would have killed me if I had stayed beside her. That is why he did not want to talk to her just before he left this earth. Because she was God.