Neighbours

 It’s a rainy day, of that kind of thunderous rain that digs your cheeks when, needlessly, you seek with the nose a cheekbone of sun. It’s a day, this one, in which the rain seems not to find peace, and it collects inside the hands’ baskets of beggars and spreads over the din of roundabouts, when the road is a long canvas punctured by irregular splinters of sky, disturbed by gargling traffic and tires and nervous girls with wet skirts on the sidewalks. I observe the rain while the street narrows at the foot of a kilometric residential facade beyond which there exists nothing, a one-dimensional militarised front that declares us Cold War, littered with windows fragmenting the mirror image of the opposite trench, that which, pigeonholed, also contains my bust. I can see the two brick armies of Elmbank Street swallowing each other, getting closer every day, high and as stocky as fat gendarmes, and if from our condominium I were to stretch my arm out, perhaps today I would even be able to touch Mrs Rogers’ venous hand, the spoon perpetually aimlessly floating on the odorous soups made of legumes and days left hanging from Mrs Rogers’ dusty calendars, on her slow and parkinsonian dinners, Mrs Rogers with her turquoise dresses which perhaps are collections of silk pajamas and the rusty and white hair, the rusty and white wrinkles, the stare vitreous and insistent and incredibly white.

The rain paws and bounces off the roof of a mail lorry parked at the mouth of Elmbank Street, stationed diametrically like a tiny armed strategy; the rain paws the same way falling like a charge of galloping black cavalries, like a precipitation from the clouds of silent and damned souls, whose muddy reflection still nictates on Beresford Hotel’s shiny sign. To my right, and to Mrs Rogers’ left, an ellipse of perpetual gigantic buildings installed on the sun tightens like a perfect denture, in a dam that suddenly concludes the sad course of the afternoon rivers of bodyworks, forcing cars to retrace their defeated steps. A dead end against which is extinguished inexplicably, like a candle in a snuffer, the one and only centre line, the one we have claimed as ours, the one for whose conquest our centenarians armies have been battling since undatable times. And we the dowels of a Chinese wall, the spongy teeth of a massive coral reef, we equal and opposite in surrounding the long pool of bodies sleeping like tired waves at our concrete feet. I see it rising slowly, the high tide, of overflown puddles, of algae coming from a nothingness located far below this one, of figures lulled by the water in the tin lifejackets of the cars, as glittering breastplates abandoned on a battlefield.

I sense once again Mrs Rogers’ stern gaze leaning on my eyelashes, in search for a shot of commencement, a cry of retreat, in search for something inside of me, for any smoke signal from the rear of my pupils, but her hands are not resting vegetable bowls always too hot to be tasted, today, not even in one of her eyes is reflected the Aztec splendour of the wild fish, of the sea stars that tickle our belts, of the jellies that carry on the back the weight of our war.

I can already spot over my head the ghost stomachs of the lead vessels that ply the oceans of the sky; and today, Mrs Rogers, I would have sought in you the friendly complicity of who needs someone else’s ears to endure the mute pain of the grenades with, the menacing heavy floating of the sharks by the pale eyes, the restless somersaults of barracudas’ shoals, in their unconscious wait for the descent of darkness over the seabed; the turbid elegance of eels, the thrushes by the transparent colours—marine spectra, the squids with paper helmets whose movements remind terribly of the ancient grace of your silks. I wonder, Mrs Rogers, whether in your pale eyes, in the blackness of your window might be hiding the deepest point of the abyss, if your absence is synonymous with desertion, whether once and for all you have decided to throw all hostilities in the black hole, to stop counting the days and the dreadful sounds of the square lights which, one by one, dejected, switch off every night into the silence of the world. I like to imagine you now, Mrs, lying in a peace of January mornings, your weapons deposed inside the dunes of that desert that covers everything that does not exist beyond this war belt. Perhaps you will get up forgetful of the rain swirling a thousand leagues above our aquarium, you will brush aside the curtains with a smile of wet pearls that see the light for the first time, you will look down on the desert and it will not be to push yourself beyond, Mrs Rogers, there will be a sun as stealthy and blinding as January and you will be thoughtless and forgetful of the rain and at the same time extraordinarily guilty. The blue dawn has just arisen on the front and there is another day to survive in the trenches, there are one last battle and a window, Mrs Rogers, only awaiting to be hatched. It would be enough to allow the water to flow into your kitchen to drain the daily absurdity of our lives. There is an endless final soup, first lines of teeth, there are lips of benevolent sharks that examine each other from afar, imbued with a curiosity and gladness shared by winners and losers—those that follow the armistice—to be shown to the enemy, Mrs: there are too many loose ends to tie up before we are allowed to go home.

A sweet smell of overcooked vegetables pervades the camp and I understand—that even the best warriors show up late. And I’m sure that today, too, the rain will eventually stop.

Phee

About Federica Giardino

Federica Giardino is a 23-year-old writer, ink sketcher and full-time words juggler living in Glasgow. She was born in Italy and has a background in Classical Studies comprising Latin and ancient Greek. She currently studies Architecture and works in a pocket-sized library, dreaming of a career in professional coffee drinking and publishing.

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