A familiar voice came to her ears among the noises of pale suits, metal, concrete, electronic panels and practical wishes. But when she turned over on the platform, nobody seemed to go towards her. It had to be that echo from far away, from houses kept by the family stubbornness, singing prayers with the legs bowed in dusty tasks. But she was there and now, on that station full of people waiting for the next wagon, to go into the next door, sitting down and pretending not to see a dried old man who was not as fast, getting up in the next moment to leave the seat for the same old man who would probably be an idealization of the old wise men, of mental libraries or just of her grandfather, her childhood. She sat down again as soon as the interface station almost emptied the wagon. Around her the figures seemed heavy and she just paid attention to some thick lips chatting at her side, to someone’s breath browsing the newspaper, the day before yesterday’s paper, she noticed. Another perfume commercial on the other station, next to the appeal to an invisible charity, at the distance of a phone number. Little boy, someone sang to a close ear, take me away.
After following the agreed way, after meeting the people who now waited for her, she would be able to come back to the places which she had been obliged to leave. And she had left with the conviction that she would come back to the place she was designed to inhabit, on the edge of the women and on the margin of the men. At the end of the day, she could lean against the light, filtered by the blue cotton curtain with shells, she could write dreams of a remote future, she could rely on the table but not much, in order not to jeopardize the balance, not to spill the cup, not to hear the scolding of the mothers, the rough joking of the fathers. She could not come back, not yet, to the places of her origin.
Which origin? That had still to be checked. But she would try not to break that thread, because one day would surely come when she would need to wrap it up again, and then she would fly over the seas with hours of sickness, of sleep, of regression back to the worn pictures of her childhood. But nothing of that was present, nothing of that was urgent, now that the rows of passengers were getting closer again around her, in a humid and unknown breath. She hat to follow the agreed route, she hat to change the station and the line several times, she hat to look for a possibility to recognize those ones whom she searched, and who also searched her with an address in their hands, sent by the grandmothers and asking her to be the interpreter in the country where she already lived for so many years.
Meanwhile the time was passing, slow, very slow. How many were they, the men and women who waited for her, surely with some recognizable cloth or object, provided by the common great-grandparents? She had been asked to follow the underground tracks until she would meet those names, upon arrival in the country. About whom some newspapers wrote, but only few knew where they could be. Maybe at the ending of the tunnels, may be in the corridors of the labyrinth, maybe at the reception for urgent cases and brutal strokes, maybe just there, at one of the stations where worn clothes, coffee and cakes and temporary jobs were offered, where dark business matters were whispered. And she spoke the languages of those ones who came, of the country which still gave her shelter. And that fragile bridge of the throat and of the familiar sounds made her run the risk to be placed against the wall. But she could not but run that risk, though for moments she thought to be affected by delirium, and therefore she should return to the circle she had just left, to the warm walls where the others were celebrating.
Words, but she always gave in. And now what she wanted most was to return in space gave so that she would not have to regress in time. Return to the port of the table, of the well known voices. Not to have to search the uncertain signs, to make close smiles, to try a neutral point where the tongues would not remain caught in prejudice, would not get loose in obscenity. Where all the tasks would be as free as this one seemed to be. But for the moment she had no other choice than to get into the train and go through the tunnel, until someone would give her a sign from the outside, on a station along the line, no one had told her before which sign it would be, or no one knew which sign it would be when she got the message and the order to ring off immediately. The thread was at last nothing more than a trembling track, an indefinite hint and an uncertain agreement, until she would recognize without problem those ones with whom she had seated in ceremonies many years before, and those ceremonies seemed her to be much stranger than the noisy room which she had just left.
For a short time, she said to the table neighbours, to her companions. Save the seat for me. Don’t let my glass be taken away.
She knew by saying this that the skin was protecting her, so that they could not guess what she intensely desired when she got up, so badly that she threw down the glass with white wine, and the white wine disappeared quickly into the table wrinkles. The mask of a compromise, the phantom of a community which wanted to replace the sedimentation of familiar groups, she left all and suspected that it would be for good.
Now she had the feeling to be followed, she did not know by how many eyes because they were not together and perhaps did not cross. She looked without seeing the corridor until the limit of the bodies which passed by. She had to change the line and leave at the next station. If she would let more than two trains pass by at the interface station, maybe she could make out who was following her. Absurd. How could anyone have a motive to follow her, know for instance how many languages she spoke, or what made her run to meet the group?
Don’t be surprised if you see them all seating on the floor, someone had said to her, but she had not believe in what had seemed her to be a pure mockery.
She left the underground and climbed the stairs against a strong draught. She remembered that over the exit there was a square, that a new scene could wait for her, more sheltering that the one she was going to get involved with, a bench under the humid autumn sun, garden ways, other tables even if they were lonely, a store entrance, a casual meeting which could make her forget the purpose which had brought her. She put the hand into the pocket in order to check whether she still had the paper with the instructions, with some difficult words, with the contact names, with the password, disguised among some anodyne notes. She laughed suddenly among the people in a hurry, loaded with agendas, with harmless materials which justified the everyday races over the same places. If she could at least seat somewhere and think about the next steps. She felt she had asked her own will to fulfil that task, and her own will was now exceeding her, as an absurd responsibility, which did not fit at all to the natural forgetting of the world.
Why should she follow orders, knowing that nothing would happen to her if she did not do it and just go back to the surface which she had left? She looked once more at the green skins, the bags full of purchases. She remembered other times and spaces, tunics wore for the prayer. She heard the sweet languages crossing with the rough languages.
She plunged into the letters which were sitting on the bench in front of her, she swung on the fluid story told by them, a wink more, losing some minutes, sharing the most tired places. She could not go on with the temptations, deviations, desires of impossible forgetting in the hours, vanishing on the grey soil. She had to hold the thread, and then she could leave at last, speculate in the open air about the reasons which lead the historians to disorder the world with the interpretation of new facts and the archaeologists to complicate the roots with the reading of new fragments. After returning to the open air and to the company of the others at the table, she would be able to make gestures again, without measuring the signs she sent among all those strange languages.
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