My First Encounter with the Unknown: A Disaster Account

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In the summer of 1975, my family and I went on holiday to Moneglia, a little town on the Ligurian coast, we lodged in a little boardinghouse which provided us full board: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also beds in addition for the night. We had also booked a beach umbrella and deckchairs in a bathing establishment. Together with us came also two friends of my mother’s, Anna and Graziella, and the latter will have an important role in my mishap.

We had planned to stay over there for a fortnight, and so we did. On the first day we went to the seashore, while I was coming out of the bathing building and was stepping on the beach in order to reach our assigned place, my eyes fell on a vision coming off the waves, blue eyes and wet chestnut hair, quite shaped for her age, so my simple glance turned into a rapid stare. Instantly, I decided that I would spend all my time at the beach looking at her, without her knowledge, because the thought of actually speaking to her never crossed my mind, and spend all my time away from the beach thinking of her.

So, that I did, because I really am a straightforward person and always keep my word.
Days went by, the holiday end was approaching and the day before the last, even now I can’t understand why, I opened my heart to my mother about my feelings. What I didn’t expect was that she’d tell what I said to her friends. On the afternoon of the last day, while I was sitting on the deckchair reading, I heard Graziella calling my name, I took my eyes off the book I was reading and saw her holding the girl’s hand, saying, “look who wants to meet you, her name’s Cristina,” my heart stopped beating. I have always read this expression but I thought it was a figurative way of saying not that that could actually happen, more over, my mind went blank, it didn’t take long, and I’ve never had a huge one.

What I did was, stood up, and started running for my life. In Moneglia , between the seashore and the town there’s a raised old railway route, so you’ve got to go through little tunnels to reach the country from the beach or the other way round, to reach the beach from the town, but there’s one that is blocked and I, in my wild run, entered that one. “What shall I do now?” I thought. I stuck my head out the tunnel and saw Graziella and Cristina staring at the place where I had disappeared, a little puzzled I dare say, who wouldn’t have been?

I sat on my haunches straining my brain to find a way that could lead off my plight, but there were none, I was doomed and I knew it. So tail between legs, I slowly, really slowly, never knew how slowly one can walk until that day, I went back over to them and accepted my fate. We exchanged a few words, the usual stuff, age, school (I was about to switch from thirteenth grade to high school), address, and promises to write to each other in the following winter.

Once back home, I spent the following weeks in trance, I used to stop all of sudden, whatever I was doing and wherever I was, and start smiling like an idiot and thinking of her. As promised, we wrote to each other for the whole winter and spring, and when the summer once again arrived, like a famous Italian song says, we found each other at the same beach and at the same sea. She was with a friend of hers, Monica, I already knew she would come because Cristina had written this to me, she introduced her to me and we went swimming. At one point while we were just bathing in the shallow, I told her, “I brought you a gift, a book title is The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud. For a little while everything went still, I couldn’t get what was wrong, and why the two girls kept staring at each other and at me alternatively, so I carried on saying, “you wrote to me you would like to be a psychologist when you are grown up, last winter I saw my older brother reading this book so I thought it was perfect for you”

“Yes . . .”, said her,”… but right now  . . .  you know  . . .  we’re on holiday and bricks and the like, you know . . .  I really appreciate the thought , I really do , but . . . ” I got it , and swam away, forgetting we were in the shallow, not a great move, sands and sharpened stones can be painful when you don’t put the right quantity of water between you and them.

It was not a good holiday, Cristina had a lot of friends, I tried to go out with them a couple of evenings, but socializing has never been my best skill, if I have one, so I quit and came back to my novels. But all the same we kept writing to each other also the following winter, and once she wrote one thing I ‘m rather proud of, so I’m quoting it, she wrote, “I can’t understand how you can be so brilliant, shrewd and sarcastic when you write and so shy and silent in person.”
Not that much, but I settle for little, you know.



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