Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Coming back home - new pargraph


Ten years had passed.

I could have come back at other times before, however, I had decided not to, cause I knew my country and my city by heart and I hadn’t found any reason to go back.

My parents seemed to be very happy, they hoped I was going to stay for good, I really didn’t know what I was up to.

In fact, I didn’t figure out why I was back, I couldn’t find a single reason to be back, but I was there, for how long I didn’t know.

I made up my mind to visit all my old mates, the most brilliant ones first. So, I called my old pal Vit, I was sure he was enjoying a great career and an exciting life, even though I was pretty sure he was spending most of his time in his own city.

“Joe!!!!” he exclaimed very excited, “what the fuck are you doing here? You are not an Italian any more, are you? I mean, it was the last thing I could expect, meeting up with you again!”. I had no idea of what to say, so I did what I’d always done, I let him talk “Summarize for me your last ten years in the next couple of hours, that’s all I want to hear”.

He was still the same, the fact he was 32 instead of 22 didn’t make any difference at all, he succeeded in letting me get all his life in a hundred and twenty minutes. As I expected, he had been having a very interesting life, he’d run a couple of television broadcasts, he’d married a couple of lassies from who he had got divorced, he was a single again but...

“I met this girl a few days ago, she is fantastic, she might be the one....”.

“I remember hearing the same fucking bollocks all the time since you were nineteen, I can’t believe you any more. You’ve never been able to stay and be satisfied with just one girl, it’s your nature”.

He looked rather disappointed to hear that thing, the reason was he knew I was right.

“Why don’t you tell me what has happened to you over the last ten years. We had plans, remember? Then, suddenly, you left, all our plans got fucked up. Was it worth it?”

The real question was not if leaving had been worth it, the real question was why I was back, cause I was feeling the same way I felt the first time I’d come back to Italy after spending seven months in Sweden, during my Erasmus experience, at the age of twenty-three.

It was just horrible, feeling you don’t fit in your own country any more, being suffocated by your parents, your mates, the unknowns; everyone seems an enemy, someone who wants to fuck you up your arse, you don’t like anybody, you want to be on your own, because nobody is worth being in your own world which is composed by you and nobody else.

It was the same, just the same, twelve years later.

I was not that bad at communicating, anyway, I’ve never been able to let people, who are not used to living abroad for long periods, understand what is so good about it, what real freedom means and how impossible doing the same things in your own country is.

Very few people realized why I needed to travel all the time, I could never stay in the same place for more than three years, but, most importantly, I’d always had the necessity to live some thousand kilometres far from where I was born.

The real problem was the awareness, or maybe what I’ve always called the awareness; the awareness that I liked very few things in my country. I’ve suspected this since I was eleven, but I got the certainty the first time I lived abroad.

From that period on, my life has never been the same, my necessity to leave Italy has become stronger and, finally, inevitable.

The very funny thing was that when I was abroad I always defended my country from the critics of stupid twats, showing to be very proud of my origins, but then I was back and I couldn’t help thinking the fucking arseholes were right.

One of my greatest life achievements was that I was not an alcoholic, even though I had risked to cross the border line on more than one occasion.

I still liked to drink though, the only thing I could think about was having four litres of beer that night, I just needed the right mate.

It was 1.15 a.m., I was quite pissed while my mate Hector seemed to be about to throw up; “Life’s a bitch, isn’t it? It gives you the illusion that you can get what you really want, but in the end it never happens” I claimed, “The problem is, my friend, you’ve never known what you really want” he replied.

I’ve always wondered why we find the courage to say certain things only when we are pissed.

The day after I wanted to get in touch with an old pal I hadn’t met up with for seven years; “Can I speak to Mr Rasti?”, “Speaking” he said. “Hey bastard! It’s Jo, I’m back!”.

“Hey brother! I’m coming to Rome tomorrow, I’ll see you then!”.

We agreed to meet up in a pub I liked very much, it was very close to the centre and quite cheap; we were obviously going to get pissed the same way we used to do in Stockholm when we were twenty-three.

“So, you are a very important journalist, aren’t you?” I asked, “You know, all my life I liked to do something in the music field, I started as a journalist, and now, even though I still write articles, I organize rock concerts and stuff like that, I like it”.

“Don’t you regret the period in which we went to pick up girls in Swedish clubs, far away from all the crap of this bloody country?” I said.

It took him a few seconds to reply, “Of course, but you know the way I’ve always felt, leaving is losing”, “Then I’m a loser” I looked rather annoyed, “No, that’s the way I think, which doesn’t mean the ones who think differently are losers”.

“Are you happy with your life Frank?” I asked, “I’d say I’m satisfied, how about you? Are you happy Joe?”, “I used to be, now I’m neither happy nor satisfied”.

“Why are you back Joe?”.

“I guess because I had no reason to be abroad any more, I’ve always thought you can live abroad the best years of your life but then, you’d better come back home; I could have stayed out for a few more years, but it wouldn’t have made any difference”.

Actually, I’d always thought that way, but I was not so convinced any more. The truth is if you spend the best years of your life outside your country, getting used to all you detest again becomes very tricky.

The first day I’d come back from Sweden I was very low, but somehow I thought I could manage my return, things were going to change from what they had been before my departure; they had changed, in fact, they were much worse.

All the defects and drawbacks of my country seemed to have become much worse than I remembered, while the positive things seemed to have been based on illusions.

Nine days out of ten were a real disaster while one day seemed acceptable but nothing more than that, and absolutely incomparable with the average ones I used to have during my Erasmus season.

It was as if I’d had the opportunity to improve myself, my way of thinking, my approach to life and I’d become more open-minded, while my country fellas had stayed still; as if we’d lived in two different worlds, what seemed natural to me was unconceivable to them and vice versa.

I couldn’t stay there any more, so I did the only thing I could, I went back to Sweden and then I moved to London. A few months later I had to go back to Italy though, to finish University and get that bloody degree.

It took me 9 months, during which I did nothing but get pissed, go out for a few months with a sort of fuck buddy called Christine, meet up with the only friends I liked and party every now and then.

I also made some short trips, just to remind me why I had to leave my country as soon as I could.

The point is people get used to everything, if you get used to the best things in the world, they will look normal to you within a few months; unfortunately, the same thing happens with crappy things, you don’t notice how terrible they are if you come across them every day.

What happens next? You take for granted that every single country looks like yours and then you’re utterly fucked up. You find no reason to change, you look for the reasons to remain and, finally, you find them; basically they are your family and your girlfriend.

I was pretty lucky, I didn’t need to stay close to my family and I hardly ever met girls who seemed to be so interesting.

After having lived ten months on my own, living with my parents looked like a sort of conviction, I needed my own space and the possibility to do whatever I wanted.

As far as girls are concerned, there was one thing I detested in all of them, even though it was not their fault; they were Catholic, despite the fact they didn’t even know they were. They didn’t figure out that being Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean going to the church or avoiding sex, but it means how you relate to the rest of the world, it means being full of prejudices, with a very closed mind, unable to respect other cultures.

Everybody in Italy, not only girls, is a Catholic, aside from some of the ones who’ve lived in civilized countries for a long period; that’s what I couldn’t stand any more.

Why did I detest my own country?

Basically because of the lack of any rule of civil cohabitation, there was no respect for anything; it was not a matter of manners, it was a matter of mentality. There were two ways for every single person to get what they wanted: being incredibly talented or being a pimp. You had to know the ones in power if you wanted to make it, you had to ask them favours and, then, do the favours back. Your tongue was forced to lick several arses, fill up on crap and afterwards, maybe, you could get what you wanted.

I hated all that; I hated the ones who voted for the clown who was our prime minister; I despised the ones who voted against him, thinking, because of that, they were much better than the other ones. I hated to lose public competitions, arriving one or two places behind the winners who knew the members of the commissions, while I didn’t. I loathed to feel like a fucking kid, because everyone considered me like that, whereas both in Stockholm and in London I was seen as a man.

I wanted to live in a country based on meritocracy, Italy was the other way round.

All that was unbearable.

I was forced to stay in my native soil at least one more year, I had to do civil service that I was trying to skip; it was not that easy, cause I had to find a particular work contract and no firm seemed to be interested in a 25 year old newly graduated boy. Sometimes I lacked experience, some other times the degree in political science was considered the most useless in the world.

So, I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted to do, which was watching movies, reading books and getting pissed.

The most attractive activity was partying, and the only parties I appreciated were the ones organized by my former radio-mate Vit.

He was a sort of genius, at the age of twenty-two he got a degree in political science obtaining as his final mark the highest one (I got the same result when I was nearly twenty-five), he was already a journalist, an Italian teacher for immigrants and several other things.

He liked girls like nobody else in the world, maybe in a too obsessed way, but I’ve met very few girls who didn’t fancy him, even though he was neither handsome nor sexy.

He used to organize parties with a lot of people and a lot of booze, everybody wanted to be there, I was lucky, he considered me a sort of cornerstone that those parties couldn’t lack.

He didn’t understand why I was so unsatisfied with everything and he didn’t get why I never tried to achieve a single goal either, however he appreciated me the way I was and I didn’t ask anything more.

I was duly impressed when I listened to our old radio shows, cause I realized that three years later I still thought the same way, despite having come across several things by that time.

The very sad thing was I hardly ever enjoyed my spare time when Vit was not present, he seemed to be the only person who could beat the system from the inside, he didn’t even notice he was fucking it; he very often succeeded in making people behave the way he wanted, he could direct everybody but me.

He had this kind of magnetic force which worked with every single person and I don’t know why I had more or less the same power over him; maybe because there are very few people who have a strong personality, so, when you meet them you don’t know how to handle these people.

Vit was not the only one I knew who fucked the system; there was Frank too.

He was another crazy boy, but in a different way. He was a sort of extreme version of myself; what I really liked he liked it more. Had he not lived several hundreds kilometres far from me I guess we would have died very soon, maybe because of a car accident or because of over-drinking.

I was scared and fascinated by him at the same time, the reason was I couldn’t control him at all. I appreciated the crazy things he did but I would have never done them myself, they didn’t fit me; I didn’t know what my role was but I knew very well what it wasn’t.

I was also convinced, paradoxically, I had to be with someone who worked inside the system to get what I wanted; I hated the system of my country but I thought it had a sort of meaning, I was trying to figure out what it was.

The main difference between Frank and Vit was that the former was trying to destroy himself while the latter didn’t need to, and, most importantly, Frank was wasting his talent while Vit was exploiting it thoroughly.

I was neither destroying myself nor exploiting all my potential, I was just wasting time.

I didn’t know what I was good at, I just knew I was very bad at few things, however, I had no idea what job I’d have liked to do; I enjoyed the period during which I ran a radio show but I couldn’t do it any more, I didn’t fancy to be a journalist any more, I was looking for some sort of inspiration.

I needed to work, I needed to earn money, that was the only way I could skip civil service and leave as soon as possible.

I tried every possible way, finally I got a job; I started to work in a hotel as a receptionist, the same job I’d done on two occasions in England.

It was not that good, and not much fun either, but I had my goal ahead of me and I wanted to achieve it.

As I knew I had to spend no less than twelve months in my own city I was thinking about finding a girlfriend; I thought there was no risk involved, I knew what I really wanted.

There were a couple of lassies I’d met during some parties organized by Vit; one was called Monica, the other one Anna, they were quite interesting and pretty.

In the meantime, I had to pick who was going to be my mate in my future adventure outside my homeland, there were two options.

The choice could only be between two pals: Hector and Lory.

Hector was my lifelong mate, we had been class-mates at the high-school, we’d experienced loads of things together; he knew me inside out, I hardly ever pissed him off, which was amazing, cause it’s never been easy dealing with me.

Lory was the sort of guy anybody wants to be friends with, he was very tolerant, quite open-minded and very good at achieving purposes; moreover, we’d been flat-mates successfully in London already.

Both of them suited me, making up my mind was very hard.

Occasionally, I thought about bringing the two of them with me but I was not so convinced. I knew that three is the perfect number in people’s dreams, but, in reality, two is the number.

Three people don’t go anywhere, whereas two can get whatever they want.

My mind was freaking out, I couldn’t make that decision.

So, I realized I didn’t have to choose, that decision was going to be made by them.

I quit working very soon, I didn’t like it, it was different from what it had been in London, so, I gave up after a couple of months, my chances to skip civil service and earn money were lowering, but I didn’t give in.

I watched an Italian movie which really impressed me; it was the first time I saw a film which described my country in a perfect way. It was entitled “Ricordati di me” and it showed the typical Italian family in a very realistic perspective.

I suddenly remembered that my lifelong dream had always been to be an actor, a director or a scriptwriter; I was too old to become an actor, absolutely unfit to be a director, quite immature to write screenplays.

Despite all that, I was convinced I could have made a good movie if I had worked together with my most talented mates; I wanted to emulate Kevin Smith, who made “Clerks” with a budget of sixty thousand bucks.

I needed the help of four people: Vit, Hector, Frank and Vale.

Vale was a girl I’d met in Stockholm, she was a member of our big multicultural fellowship, which included people from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Finland, U.S.A., Canada and Mexico.

She lived in Bologna, was very fond of foreign cultures like me, graduated in Law and very good at getting what the essential was.

I knew we could have done a great job, an extremely impressive film with a very low budget; it was our chance, we missed it.

I tried to convince them all and I failed; they were too sceptic to believe we could have done it, they chose to consider it an unattainable goal.

Only Frank shared my point of view, but the two of us were not enough to carry out the project successfully, what a shame!

Looking on the bright side, I can say that it cancelled the only possibility for me to stay in my country, which was becoming a film-maker.

Time didn’t fly at all, I was counting the days, it seemed to be an endless period, my will to do things was simply non-existent.

Apart from a job, I needed to find some hobbies to spend my spare time, something different from watching movies, reading books, listening to old music tapes.

I turned so indolent I didn’t go to Paris to be with my Erasmus-mates, for our usual meeting;

the reason was I started to think that there was not point in being happy for a few days if you had to go back to your unsatisfactory life; it would have just made things harder.

I was convinced that I needed to lead a more regular life, where you can see a sort of meaning.

I think that a country suits you if you are satisfied by doing those things people of that country usually do; you cannot be happy in a country if you need to do extreme things to feel good, those things the average fellow doesn’t do.

It was my case; I drank more than in England or Sweden, even though there was no point in doing such a thing, considering that Italians drink very little.

I couldn’t help it, I needed to escape from reality, I didn’t want to see what surrounded me, there was no way I was going to change my mind about leaving.

The truth is your homeland is where you choose to live.

Lory got a degree in Economics and found himself in the same situation I was, willing to leave but convicted to wait by civil service, while Hector needed one more year to get a degree in Communication Science.

All of us had to wait, it looked like a sort of big brother where everybody wanted to leave the bloody house, looking for every possible solution.

The point was I wanted to earn money but I didn’t want to work, I felt the need to have plenty of time, so that I could always be ready to do anything I wanted.

Frank felt the same way too and one day, during a phone call, he told me a peculiar thing, “This morning something dawned at me while taking a shower. I’ve realized I’m not good enough at writing novels, which was the only way I could earn money and keep having plenty of time off, so, there’s just one solution left, which is becoming a cocaine dealer. I’m not interested in cocaine, there’s no risk for me of becoming a cocaine addict, so, I could make loads of money by selling that crap!”

He was obviously joking, even though his idea seemed to be the only solution.

“Are you sure you are not good enough at writing?”, I asked, “I like your style, although it’s a little bit too close to mine”.

“I’m afraid I overestimated myself, I hardly succeed in ending any story, and when it happens I never appreciate what I’ve written; I don’t think I’m cut out for writing”.

I knew what he meant, the same thing happened to me too; I was not sure I had a higher self esteem than his, but I was convinced I belonged to that category of people who are a little bit talented and who could have made it if there had been the proper structures.

I was persuaded that if I had lived in the States I’d have had many more chances to develop my talent, cause they had a better organization to find talents, the appropriate structures to let people express themselves; in my country, unless you knew someone, you had to do everything on your own, nobody wanted to invest in you, to take that risk.

I often wondered why nobody seemed to understand what was wrong in that, my country was harming itself, it didn’t exploit its resources at all, and instead, it was doing its best to waste them and let them go away.

Probably the truth was that several people knew that, but nobody could do anything to improve the situation, the system was too rigid to be changed.

When I watched old movies from the late 50’s or the early 60’s, I noticed people in those films saying the same things I was hearing in the new century about my country; details change, but the essence is always the same.

Years go by, but historic characteristics of countries don’t change, they stand still.

That was what I called the awareness, I knew things were not going to change, I knew what kind of life I would have led if I hadn’t moved, I was horrified.

A friend of mine called Chiara found me a job in a travel agency; they offered me what I needed.

My objective was earning enough to be able to afford to live abroad for a few months.

My plan was to go back to Sweden, do a cheap master, just to enjoy university life again, and find a job I could be interested in.

I started to feel better, being unemployed is very pleasant when you come back home late in the night, cause you can wake up quite late in the morning, but you feel absolutely useless to society.

Working makes you feel socially useful, the same kind of sensation girls feel when they pay their parts of the bills; it’s just an illusion, but it works.

I began to go out very seldom, to save that money I was going to need within a few months; it didn’t cost me that much, I mean, I didn’t suffer from that, I knew I was not missing anything very important.

It didn’t last that long, I was fired in a month, they told me the job didn’t suit me and they were right; I tried to do my best, but my lack of enthusiasm was so clear and my frustration for doing a job I didn’t consider important at all, convinced them to fire me before it was too late.

Once again I found myself on my own, without a job and any perspective of my short term future.

In the meantime, Lory one way or another decided that he was not going to be my mate in Sweden; in fact, during a phone call, he told me what his plan was, “I don’t think I will do a master abroad. I’d better try to get employed by one of the firms in my region which has branches abroad”.

“And why do you think they will pick you to be their man abroad?”, it seemed to me that he was giving in.

“Because nobody here is keen on leaving, and, moreover, nobody speaks anything more than his own dialect, so I won’t have much competition”.

He looked pretty persuasive; the point was I couldn’t do the same thing, cause the fucking firms in my region didn’t follow the same policy at all.

“You always complain about the narrow-mindedness of the ones who live in your region, but, in the end, there are some points in living there, I mean, my situation is much trickier”.

“Do you wanna trade?” he said, as usual.

He was sort of convinced that, even in Italy, it was better living in a big city than in a very small town like his; I was not so sure. Obviously, I would never be able to live in a town which wasn’t bigger than my neighbourhood, but the ones who live down there are convinced that living in a big city is exciting, which is not necessarily true; a lot of drawbacks and a few advantages, that’s it, same rules apply.

Lory had made his decision, Hector was going to be my flat-mate.

We were in completely different moods.

He was going to face his first long experience outside his homeland and that made him feel extremely excited and happy; the certainty of leaving made him improve his behaviour, and his results, in every field.

It was the other way round for me; being forced to live at least one more year in my homeland made me feel down and depressed, I didn’t find any motivation to do anything.

I was getting worse in almost every single thing I did, so, I needed to go for short trips (like going to Bologna, the best university city in Italy, and visit Vale) to recharge my batteries.

Every once in a while I had annoying discussions with my mother; they were unbearable, they used to be like that: “It’s impossible that nobody wants to employ me”.

“Don’t worry son, I’ll make a big effort to get you employed by my firm”.

“That’s very kind of you mommy, but there’s no need to make that effort, I will never work for your firm”.

“Why not?”

“Because I know what your objective is, you don’t want me to work there just one year, you’d like me to work there for good”.

“I wouldn’t look down on it, if I were you”.

“Let’s drop it”.

“Don’t tell me you’re still convinced to leave and work abroad”.

“Of course I am”.

“Haven’t you grown up at all?”.

“What the fuck does that mean?”.

“I thought you realized those plans are childish!”.

“What’s childish?”.

“Loads of people have similar thoughts, but, in the end, almost nobody leaves”.

“I’m among the few ones who leave”.

“But why can’t you live your life here?”.

“I simply can’t, I need to breathe, I need to be free, I need to be able to do whatever the fuck I want; in other words, I could never be happy here. I thought that the main goal of parents is to let their children be happy, for fuck sake!”.

“Of course it is. Ok, go wherever you like, if that’s what you want”, but she didn’t seem very convinced.

It was upsetting to notice that all the foreigners who live in Italy behave the same way Italians do, although it was inevitable. My behaviour in Italy was much different from what it was in Stockholm or in London, everyone gets used to the habits of the place where they live. Only when you spend enough time with foreigners you succeed in making them show certain attitudes of the country they are from, which they hide, cause they are useless in the country where they are living.

That’s why I quit trying to come across foreigners, which I had done since I had come back from Stockholm; there was no point in meeting up with people who didn’t behave the way they had done, the way I liked.

A clear example happened one night, when I came across a couple of Swedish lassies: they didn’t drink anything the whole night (which was absolutely unconceivable in Sweden), and when I was taking them home, one of them was very noisy, so, I told her “Please, don’t speak so loud, otherwise that cop will bother us”.

Her reply chilled the very marrow of my bones “Don’t worry, if he bothers us I’ll tell him that I’m Swedish and that I’ll go out with him pretty soon, so, he won’t do anything to us”.

All her Swedish innocence had been spoiled by staying a few months in my country.

I was pretty sure I was much more interesting abroad than at home, because I didn’t behave the same way; I couldn’t expect foreigners to act differently since I did the same.

There was something I didn’t like at all, Hector was becoming much more fond of booze than ever.

I knew that phase quite well, there are certain moments in which you feel the need of booze, cause, otherwise, everything seems pointless; you can avoid drinking for three days, but then you need to get pissed.

It had happened to me a couple of years earlier, but then I’d learned to drink only functionally. I never drank while eating, or when I didn’t plan to get pissed; I never ever drank for the sake of drinking, I did it just when I intended to get pissed.

I could manage that, it was not that hard for me, it seemed to be a little trickier for Hector, who lacked the training of being drunk five times a week as I had been in Sweden.

It looked unconceivable to him that I never had a glass of wine while having lunch.

“It’s our specialty!” he said.

“And what am I supposed to care?”.

“You’re not a hundred percent Italian if you don’t drink wine!”

“I don’t give a shite of being a hundred percent Italian!” I pointed out, “seventy percent is more than enough”.

A potentially interesting friend of Vit, called Caterina, was about to leave for London; I came across her in a club I used to go to quite often.

“Where are you going to stay?” I asked.

“In Camden, you know it?”.

“Yeah, I lived in London for a while, my mobile was robbed in Camden, however, it’s an interesting area. Why are you going to London? To learn English?”.

“Exactly, you know, a degree in literature is not so useful if you don’t speak English”.

“That’s right, but I think London is the worst place in the world to learn English, I’d suggest you go somewhere else, otherwise you’ll come across several Indians, Pakistanis, Italians, Spanish and every other week you can hope to meet up with some English”.

“Maybe you’re right, but, you know, I’ve been in London already and I like it; that’s why I’m going there”.

I couldn’t tell her what I was thinking, but it was sort of “Yeah, sure, you like the city, there are so many monuments down there, more than in Rome! The weather is good too! Who do you think I am? A fucking wanker? I like the city my arse! I know what you like! It’s the prospect of shagging whoever you want without being considered a slut! However, I don’t blame you, if I were a girl I would feel the same way and, probably, do the same thing. What a conviction, being a girl in Italy! Convicted by the fucking mentality of this ridiculous country not to be able to do what you’d like! You’re right, you have no alternative, go to London!”.

People, throughout history, have always needed justifications to do things: justifications for massacres, justifications for having sex, justifications for every single thing.

Caterina would never have been justified here to do what she was going to do there, that’s it, different rules apply.

One night I went to one party of my sister’s master-mates; I was very curious to draw conclusions from a typical Italian private party. It was pretty interesting, my conclusion was that while in Northern Europe people got pissed to justify their crazy actions, in my country they needed a private party to justify getting pissed.

It was a hundred times better to be in a private party than in a club, it cost much less, you could get pissed quickly and you were not the only drunk person in that area, as I used to be when I went to clubs in the central neighbourhoods; moreover, people are much less diffident during private parties, it’s much easier to approach a girl on such an occasion than in a night club.

Even during private parties, however, there was something that made me feel different from the rest of them; they seemed to be enjoying those moments very much, a lot more than I did.

The difference was that while for them being pissed was something unusual, an exception, for me it was kind of mandatory twice a week, so I didn’t notice a big difference; the real significant difference was not being the only pissed individual.

I didn’t need justifications to get drunk, I didn’t need a private party, I didn’t need to see that everybody else was pissed either; that was the difference between me and them.

One day I met Tolu; he was the real essence of what being a real disillusionment means.

That cunt had been a very funny guy in his teens; he’d been quite promising, entertaining and talented, although he was not reliable at all, in fact he ripped me off once.

In his twenties he was working in the bloody I.T. field and engaged to his (and my ex) lifelong friend Claudia; he did nothing but meet up with his old depressing friends to smoke loads of joints four days a week.

He was the personification of sadness.

The horrifying thing was he seemed to be satisfied with his life, that meant his self esteem was incredibly low.

“So, you’ve decided to screw up your life!” I said.

“That’s typical of you! Someone becomes a serious, stable person and you judge him a wanker” he replied.

“You know the way I think, a man is as good as his goals”.

“Yeah, but the difference is I’m satisfied with my life, you’re not”.

“That’s true, you’re satisfied now, but I’m pretty sure you won’t feel the same way when you get fed up with your job and Claudia”.

“I don’t think that will ever happen”.

“I hope so. The point is, you’re often bored and you wanna know why? Dull people are often bored. You weren’t dreary, but you’ve become dull because of your job and your friendships, and, most importantly, because of Claudia. All these things have made you monotonous and now you are one of the most uninteresting people I know. That doesn’t make you a bad person, I just think you’ve lost most of your potential”.

“What the fuck do you want me to do? I work nine hours a day, I get home tired, I don’t have time to jerk around like you! What else could I do instead of hanging out with my old mates and stuff like that?”.

I couldn’t suggest him anything cause I didn’t have any solution.

The point is the most awful thing that can happen to every single person is not being nasty, a motherfucker, a wanker, a criminal; it’s being meaningless, not interesting at all, not remarkable. Most people would prefer to spend one day in jail instead of being in a living room surrounded by loads of people, where nobody notices you and you don’t succeed in catching anybody’s attention because nothing you say sounds fascinating.

What really pissed me off were those discussions with graduated people who contributed to keep the level of my country’s mentality very low.

I was talking to a couple of my sister’s master-mates and one of them, called Rosy, asked me “What do you think of Monica? The dark haired one, not the blonde one”.

“Not bad” I answered.

“No, I mean, what kind of girl does she look like?”.

“She looks like one of those girls who wanna have fun”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t know, I can tell it by the expression on her face”.

And then the poor part of the discussion started, when the other girl called Maria said “Congratulations, you’re right. Maybe she likes to have too much fun”.

“What do you mean?” I was rather puzzled.

“You know that at one party she spent the night with one of her master-mates?”.

“What’s wrong with that?” I didn’t get the point.

“Nothing, but one month later, at another party, she spent a night with another guy!”

“Should I draw any conclusion?”

“Maybe you would if I told you that three weeks later she had another one night stand”.

“So what?” I asked.

“What do you mean what? She’s obviously a slut!” Maria drew the conclusion.

“Just because she slept with three different guys on three different occasions! I disagree,

everybody can do whatever they want” I was sort of preaching.

“Yeah, of course, but don’t you think.......” Rosy said.

“What should I think? I don’t think anything. Personally I detest these Catholic prejudices, they are so narrow-minded” I was trying to irritate them.

“I’m not Catholic!” Rosy said.

“Neither am I!” Maria added.

That was the point!

What could I have done to let them understand? To let all my country fellas understand?

Nothing! I could have spent all my life trying to convince them about what is a Catholic prejudice and what is not, nothing would have changed.

Even if I’d been the bloody Prime Minister I could have done nothing to change the situation. If I had governed for a hundred years maybe I could have obtained some results.

The point was I should have gone back to the sixteenth century and prevent the fucking Counter-Reformation from happening!

That had been the turning point which determined what countries were going to evolve and what were going to stay behind.

The consequences were still pretty clear at the beginning of the third millennium.

Italy had missed the great opportunity created by the Protestant Reform and all the crap that had been spread down there for four hundred and fifty years couldn’t have been changed that easily.

That’s why I found it ridiculous that those daft cows and bloody cunts got pretty upset when I called them Catholics; they were bound to die without knowing they had been Catholics throughout their entire lives.

The most ridiculous part of the day was when I went to the bloody gym.

It was like going to the stadium; I had quit cos I got fed up with watching people behave like animals and speak like troglodytes.

I knew that those people were not necessarily troglodytes, but they behaved like that; I was pretty sure it was the stadium that brought out the worst in them. It had partly happened to me as well. Then I realized that going to the fucking stadium meant having nothing else to do, so I started to do other things and criticize the wankers who went down there.

The same thing happened at the bloody gym; everyone, not only boys but especially boys, gave the worst of themselves, behaving like real boasters.

I couldn’t help listening to the fucking cunts’ speeches, they were so full of shit, they were not credible at all; all I could do was shake my head in disapproval but I never said anything cos there was no point in talking to blank minds like those.

It was very funny to guess what their life style was though; working very hard to earn money, spend that money by going to very expensive restaurants with some mates at the weekend and then go on vacation in some high-priced Sardinia town where they were compelled to spend the rest of their money by doing nothing special, just surviving.


Knowledge is power, same rules apply!

It was so sad thinking about their lives, I was relieved mine was not like theirs.

However, everything is as real as we make it. So, if they thought the greatest satisfaction in the world was eating in a very good restaurant or spending three hundred euros in a bloody Porto Cervo club, that was absolutely mandatory for them, and they needed to do it.

Necessity has always been the mother of invention. My necessity was saving money, therefore, I always turned down my gym-mates when they invited me out for dinner on the grounds that I couldn’t afford it as I didn’t work, instead of saying “What? Having dinner with boring people like you? Who do you think I am? A suicidal person? I am not!”.

Moreover, if I had gone out with them I would have felt banal, because when you don’t know why you are in a certain place, you look, and most importantly, you feel banal, which is a terrible sensation.

Female gym-mates were not that better; they thought being at the gym meant performing a kind of show. So, they tried to look like super-pussy lassies and that made them appear very awkward, but I seemed to be the only one who thought that way.

I used to think about one of the dramas of my country which was the lack of accommodation for university students.

Aside from the few ones who studied outside their native cities (who were no more than 20%), university students were basically forced to live all their lives with their parents until they went to live with their love partners who were likely to become their wives or husbands.

In essence, they were convicted to live like middle-aged people from the age of nineteen, the mentality was the same: restaurants and cinema were their most exciting options.

There were loads of people who were criticized and called “elderly”, but they were the natural result of the society they were living in.

In spite of that, I couldn’t help disliking them, because they gave up their youth, wasted the most important period we are given in our lives.

I called them “the fucking workers”, where workers didn’t criticize the fact that they worked, but that they had the “working mentality” in every field of their lives; they never did anything crazy and really funny because they found it illogical, and it couldn’t help being illogical in that “working mentality”.

“What have you got in your veins instead of blood? Goat’s milk?”, that’s what I thought of them and, sometimes, I told them without getting any significant reaction.

May 1st was the apotheosis of trash.

Loads of people drunk and stoned by 4 p.m.; what was obvious was their inadequacy to that condition.

I had to go to a public toilet and I was compelled to wait three quarters of an hour because the ones ahead of me in the queue didn’t know how to handle their drunkenness. They couldn’t stand still and I was quite annoyed by all that.

In the meantime Hector and Vit were talking to a friend of mine, Flot, and her friends; when I came back all her friends were gone.

Vit’s plan was to go all together to one of Flot’s friends, Virginia.

“Shall we go?” Vit said.

“Actually, I couldn’t give a fuck!” Hector replied.

I didn’t get it, I didn’t know why he replied the way he did, therefore I started to stare at him and so did Vit and Flo.

“I think I’m gonna go home. I promised my parents I’d have dinner with them”, Hector added.

We said goodbye to Flo and Vit, and we left.

“Why did you say such a thing?” I asked.

“Because certain things cannot be born!” he answered.

“What do you mean?”

“You were not there; while you were taking a piss that Virginia turned out to be a real asshole”.

“What did she do?”.

“It’s not what she did, it’s what she said!”.

“And what did she say?”.

“Nothing in particular, but it was all bullshit, idiotic things and I didn’t want to spend one more minute with her!”.

That was what I feared, my mate to become less tolerant than I was. I turned out to be a very bad teacher.


Finally Vit got me a job.

I became a reporter of a new local newspaper. I got the contract I needed and that was such a relief. The job seemed to be very interesting and stimulating, my colleagues were funny wankers, or at least they looked like that.

Unfortunately I used to have some rows with the head-reporter who wasn’t a bad person, but she was frustrated cos she hadn’t been fucking for more than two years, so, she had to channel her frustration and anger quarrelling for meaningless things.

The problem was I couldn’t stand the conversations I had with my colleagues, they said all banal things, very Italian things which sounded like nonsense to me.

“On Sunday I want to wake up very early to go to the sea” my colleague Mary said, “You should go too, you are so pale!”.

“I couldn’t care less about going to the sea if the truth be told” was my reply.

“Why?” she asked rather puzzled.

“I don’t see the point in that. I should wake up very early with a bloody hangover, then I should drive for more than one hour under the sun on a very moist day, sweat like a pig, lie on the sand for a few hours, and then go home very dizzy, quite annoyed for having done nothing exciting. That’s why I never do it”

“Yes but you’ll never get a tan!” she observed.

“And what am I supposed to care?”

“Everyone looks better when they get a tan!”

“Perhaps you’re right but I don’t give a shite of what people think! That’s my limit and my strength! What I do never depends on what other people think! When I do something like bye a mobby, a new pair of shoes, go to the see, and shit like that I do that because I really want to, not because other people might appreciate me to do these things!”.

Once again I was looked at as if I was a freak.

The thing was reciprocal. It seemed ridiculous to me that they bought all the latest fashion shit, like mobbies, shoes, sunglasses, trousers, T-shirts and stuff like that just to be accepted by the members of their society.


They got the same things I got, which was very close to nothing, with many more efforts.

My colleagues used to tease Vit quite often, just because he never spent time with them, in fact, he just did his job and left, without spending time with his work-mates cos he couldn’t care less. “Why should I spend time with them? Work is just work, my social life has nothing to do with my colleagues!” he used to say.

One day my work-mates thought they were going to have a good laugh. We were at the bar and the head-reporter announced “Guys, hurry up! I heard there’s Vit’s girlfriend at the office, I guess she’s ugly. Let’s go have a laugh!”.

They rushed back to the office, but they turned startled when they saw her. Vit had a very good-looking girlfriend and they were so closed-minded they couldn’t conceive it.

When Vit and his girlfriend left, one of my colleagues exclaimed “I really don’t understand how she picked him as a boyfriend!”.

I couldn’t stand it.

“You know why this country is ridiculous? It’s not because a guy like Vit has a girlfriend like her . It’s because you are shocked by that!” I said.

He didn’t understand and I was not surprised at all, the point is he couldn’t understand.

A few weeks later Vit handed in his resignation. I was astonished by that.

He resigned because of the head-reporter, three months later I was forced to resign because of my editor: he stopped paying the reporters after the first month and a half on the grounds that he didn’t have money and the newspaper was not doing any good because of distribution problems.

Everyone resigned, I did it later than anyone else because I had to wait until I was sure about skipping civil service.

My primary objective had been achieved but not the second.

I wanted to make enough money to pay at least six months of rent in Sweden, so that I could have had time to get a job.

My plan changed, I made up my mind to go to Ireland, the easiest country to get a job, work a few months down there, get the money I needed and then leave for Sweden.

The last months before leaving were the worst ones.

The certainty of leaving should have given me enough serenity to enjoy the last moments of my stay, but that didn’t happen.

I was just fed up with everything, I didn’t want to meet up with anyone and I didn’t feel like doing anything.

In the meantime Vit had started to live on his own.

He’d got a decent flat in a nice neighbourhood and paid the rent with the scholarship he got as a Phd student.

I was proud of him, but he soon realized it was not so great as he’d expected, for if no one else shares your own situation there’s no point in having a privilege. He could feel that but didn’t give in.

He was the personification of my country’s limits: he was a superb student, a brilliant person, he had a glamorous girlfriend, a great career ahead of him and still I couldn’t define him more than content, certainly not glad. He was afraid he could lose everything in a flash and he was right.

Getting those things was very tricky, but keeping them was incredibly hard.

I started an internship at the Associated Press, one of the most important press agencies in the world. My mother hoped that in those three months I could change my mind about leaving, she knew it was the last chance. I didn’t want to finish the internship, I just wanted to do a couple of months, so that I could improve my CV and then move to Dublin.

The internship turned out to be one of the less interesting experiences ever, boring, useless, and I was surrounded by dead people walking, it was one the closest experience to death I’d ever had; the other interns felt the same way too.

So, I didn’t finish the internship and I prepared everything to leave for Ireland, but my destination had changed, it was not Dublin any more but Cork.

I knew capitals have advantages and drawbacks, and most of the times the latter override the former, so I picked the 2nd city of Ireland.


I was right.

I found myself comfortable down there, I had a decent (even though not fun) job, I could make ends meet and save enough money to start a new project within a year.

I liked living in Cork, I had a sufficient number of friends and parties to enjoy my life, and not many worries.

As I expected Hector had the best period of his life, but was unable to control it staying on the same railtrack he had followed all his life.

I knew I was losing him but there was nothing I could do to let him exploit what he was experiencing without falling off the edge.

Same rules apply: if you lose the goal ahead of you the risk is to mistaken the end with the means, and then you don’t know what your objective is any more.

I was convinced I could manage on my own, the same way I had always done, but on the other hand I hoped I could have had a sort of back up to make things easier.

The truth was that my battle was not Hector’s.

I fought against my country on an ideological basis, he just disliked it for what he couldn’t get there.

Basically he was much more Italian than he could ever admit.

The point was the only ones who fully understood and shared my view were living in Italy: Frank and Lory.

But, as many things in life, what happened was not the logical consequence; only Hector was ready to follow me in the Irish campaign since he had less to lose than the other two.

We picked Cork City: the second city in Ireland, smaller than Dublin but easy to cover on foot.

Within a few weeks we both had a decent job, a good salary, our flat many friends and some girls to enjoy our spare time with; in no field we had the optimum but we had a little bit of everything that was exactly what we did not have in our homeland.

Our time in the green Ireland was much more fun than we expected, probably because our expectations were not that high.

In one year everything was consumed though; we knew all the people in Cork, we attended all the possible parties, every centimetre of the town was known by heart.

We were the bridge between two connections: the Italian and the Swedish.

That was misleading: the need of our Swedish acquaintances to know non Swedes was satisfied by our natural way of being social, something they will never be.

We were functional to them but we didn’t understand that (or we didn’t want to acknowledge), we chose to believe that there was a special feeling between us.

We would comprehend that some time later when it was too late to go back.

It appeared obvious that we couldn’t stay in Cork much longer than a year.

When we decided that Ireland couldn’t offer us much more than what it had already done we decided to take a chance to move: Hector to the US to do an internship in a prestigious place for a few months, and I back to Rome to prepare the next step.


Hanging out with the Swedish community, aside from some pleasant flings, led us to study their language in order to be prepared to move to Sweden.

Our silly conviction was that learning Swedish was going to increase our chances to have a better life there, to get a proper job and enter their culture.

That’s why we chose Göteborg instead of Stockholm.

The philosophy beyond this choice was partly the same as the Cork choice: a small city, easy to get used to, more friendly. But on the other hand the drawbacks were overwhelming: narrow minded people (as far as Swedish standards are concerned) and no way to get a job even the shittiest.

We invested a quite significant amount of time and money to learn the language: it didn’t work bad but not so well either.

The most disappointing thing was despite all our efforts our capacity to understand and enter the Swedish culture was exactly as when we didn’t speak Swedish at all!

There was not too much to realize: in Ireland they needed us, here they didn’t because they were at home they had their friends (in their “own way”) we were neither useful nor functional.

Nevertheless we managed to have a funny year especially thanks to our language course and a cafeteria called Språkkaffet which means the Language Café where we met the most interesting people by exchanging languages with one another.

Once again a year was enough to leave since we couldn’t work down there and our savings were almost over.

So I did exactly what I hadn’t planned to do: moving back to Stockholm.

Do you know the feeling when you are afraid of ruining the memories of the best time of your life by going back to the same place?

I knew from the beginning that living in a place were you used to be an Erasmus student can be very risky and spoil the image of that city.

But I had no choice; the only alternative would have been to move back to my native soil as I didn’t feel like staring all over again in a different country.

And that would sound like losing, referring to the opposite thought of Frank.

It didn’t take a genius to predict precisely what happened: Stockholm seemed different from when I was en exchange student down there

What was not so unambiguous was whether it depended on me or on itself.

It partly depended on me, since my mood was not the same as a few years earlier: I was not a member of the Erasmus world any more so, not being a party animal helps not to enjoy your life.

It also depended on the city itself: all my friends who had visited me there in the past noticed something different those days, more melancholic less joyful.

Nonetheless Stockholm was still my favourite city, I just needed some good influence from external factors to be back on track.

Everybody kept asking me if Stockholm was better or worse than Göteborg.

I used to answer the same way Sanna, a girl from Göteborg, explained the difference to me: how can you compare a place were people walk with another where people run?

She was right, the capitals are always more stressful and more interesting than the “other cities”, less friendly and more open minded.

The Swedes in Sweden are very strange; that is probably due to the historical non contact with the rest of Europe, so the continent didn’t influence that much the Swedish life stile.

Being in the economic centre of the nation made it quite simple to work.

After a couple of temporary jobs I was employed with a stable contract and I managed to get Hector employed there as well.

Basically we recreated the same situation we experienced in Ireland.

We had a honest job, a decent salary, we worked in the Italian team where our team mates shared the same problems and feelings we had.

But we were in a more evolved country with higher standards and objectives.

The life style at the beginning was not so different, we just didn’t drink so often as I did in Göteborg, Ireland, England, Stockholm (when I was Erasmus) because we had to work 5 days a week and Swedes are not Irish, they are not used to working when they are completely hung-over.

There was something we couldn’t actually catch, everything was better in Sweden than in Ireland: standards, flats, supermarkets, girls, public transportations but for some reason we were happier in Cork than in Stockholm.

Probably because we were demanding much more from Sweden since it was a more evolved country but still we were unsatisfied.

We had the somewhat crazy impression that Sweden was a great scam: the illusion to be in one of the most advanced countries in the world which hides the truth.

The country lacked something priceless: a soul.

If people could live without any need of strong feelings or warmth Sweden would be the best country in the world. For certain Swedes it is, those who have those needs decide to open up themselves and move abroad, at least for a while.

The funny thing was that when I was in Ireland I used to look at Irish people as something very distant from me but not so far away as the Swedes in Sweden.

That was simultaneously uncomfortable and fascinating.

It’s never been easy to connect with those who come from the country you are in when you live abroad, or at least that is what has always happened to me: when I was an exchange student most of my friends were other Erasmus students, In England I had no English friends and in Ireland only two Irish friends even though I used to hang out with loads of people.

Why is that?

It’s easier to associate with those who share the same issues as yours: other foreigners who have the same needs and that makes it simple to connect.

The consequence?

You and your friends create a micro society which is very different from the official one and they are parallel, they never meet.

You can bring members of the other into yours but you can never make them mix.

That’s not necessarily a drawback: all the aspects you don’t like about that country can be minimized in you micro world.

Besides, you know that those who move from the other to your world are the ones interested in your life style, the others can just fuck off.

The main issue is it doesn’t feel so real: it’s like the sort of protection you feel in Sweden, on the one hand that makes you feel safe, on the other it’s feel like being in a glass bell.

It’s like confrontations: skipping them can avoid unpleasant situations but the down side is it doesn’t make you feel so alive.

Sometimes I have the good teacher complex: I demand more from those who have potentials.

Sweden had potential, I don’t know how well exploited.

The country was more civilized than Ireland and England but it wasn't so based on meritocracy as the islands.

Being a kind of social democratic nation didn't help the develop of competition, a serious renovation of the system was out of question even with a right-handed government which was not much less conservative than the social democratic one.

I never understood if Swedes were aware of the advantages and drawbacks of their country, they knew what the aspects were but I didn’t know if they realized them fully..

I also didn’t get if they really suffered of their non social attitude (as I suspected) or they just couldn’t care less.

When I was in England I was pretty sure many English people were really proud of all their shit (but not the smart ones) so different from the rest of the continent but in Sweden it was harder to understand.

It looked like people were more committed and loyal to the country than to the other people, under the principle that being a good citizen was more important than being a good person, while my personal culture was the other way around.

Still I have to say we were given enough space to enjoy our lives, I couldn’t spare my criticism towards the country because it’s the human nature which leads us to pay more attention to the drawbacks than to the advantages.

Despite all Sweden was the best country I had ever lived in even though not exactly an ideal country.

Speaking of negative aspects the food was definitely not one of them: in the malls I could find everything I needed to cook almost exactly what I was used to eating in Rome.

The weather was not so terrible either, the summer was warm enough and the winter was not so cold as I was afraid of before experiencing it .

What was really depressing was the dark during winter time, when the light disappeared at 2.30 pm: those days were very miserable and hard.

However, the real downside was the lack of local friends.

I had many friends there but almost all of them were non Swedes, because it’s always easier to like whom you need.

Local acquaintances I had a lot, more than anywhere else: it was easy to get in touch with Swedes, almost impossible for a foreigner to turn an acquaintance into a decent friendship.

Still it was very cool to hang out, especially in the summer during week days.

You could meet up with your international friends on a Wednesday night and drink a few beers having a good time. Then when almost everybody left you might have been asked to join the few ones left to have a final drink at somebody’s place, but you turned that down because you felt cool enough to continue the night on my own.

So, it could happen that you decided to go a club called “The Baser” to dance rock & roll.

It could also happen that you were really enjoying yourself drinking the last beers dancing something like Hives, Clash and even Billy Idol.

And when you went out for a cigarette a girl approached you asking a “tändare” (lighter) starting a conversation you didn’t want to continue.

The girl was pretty but you told her you didn’t speak Swedish (and it hurt when it was not true but you had to say that) and then when she continued in English you told her there was your “girlfriend” waiting for you so you actually needed to leave.

Don’t take me as a poof (with all the due respect for my gay friends) it’s just that those days I didn’t want any confrontation during drunken moments but I couldn’t tell that girl “excuse me but I am a sort of narcissist boy so if we have this conversation tomorrow when you are sober and I am sober too you are more than welcome to ask me whatever you want, right now to you I am just one of the hundred wankers that are in this club so pick somebody else for you drunken openness”

The day after I might have regretted the decision of not giving her a chance but still I was who I was because of certain decisions and feelings, otherwise I would have been like anybody else, begging for a girl in a club.

The loss of ambition was probably the worst things: if the best someone could do was a monotonous job the whole week waiting for the weekend to get pissed maybe at a very good party, all that started to feel redundant and pointless.

It was the general atmosphere everyone could sense: nobody cared that much about improving their career as long as they had their certainties.

Ambitions in other fields were not much more developed.

Nothing was gonna change: the girls liked the system because they could always choose whatever they wanted.

Boys didn’t complain either because they always had a chance to be chosen by some pretty girl.

Time went by like that: one day I was sure I wanted to live there, the day after I would rather move ten thousand kilometres away.

I could hear the voice of the 57 year old man in Göteborg who once had told me “Don’t stay here, this is not a real democracy, here the state has already decided what your life will be like and you don’t even know that. This is not the US, this is not Berlin either: you are not the creator of your destiny in this country ”.

Sometimes I made an effort to send that voice away.


When I had a few days off I used to go to Italy on holydays. Being there in a different perspective changed the way I felt; basically I liked being on vacation there, I could really enjoy those days, especially because I knew I could go to Italy whenever I wanted and leave shortly.

There was not enough time to get pissed off only to enjoy the good things that still existed down there.

It also helped me think if I really wanted to stay in Sweden, it was easier to see the positives and negative sides of the country by not being in Stockholm.

One of the questions I was more and more often asking myself was “is it more unoriginal to live your whole life in your own neighbourhood (typical Italian) or live a semester in Australia with a long vacation in Thailand (typical Swedish)?”.

The difference was the typical Italian didn’t think to be original but to live the best possible life while the Swede thought to be very alternative by doing what every other compatriot did.

They were obviously both wrong even though neither would ever understand.

Exceptions are always the best.

The other question was about the rules: to be followed (Swedes) or to be ignored (Italians).

The ideal was always in between.

I’ve always thought that the unquestioned respect of “certain” rules leads to sad and disgusting life styles but the complete lack of any rule leads to something worse (think of Napoli for instance).

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