On the Frecciarossa from Rome to Florence (and onward to Milan), a family of four sits across the aisle from me. Italian, and, by a certain, predominant set of Italian standards, well-dressed. The mother is in a sweater of fuzzy pink wool, on the front of which has been appliquéd a pair of stars in rhinestone bagatelles, and the word “Love” (written out in a lavishly cursive script made up of shiny white pearls). Black jeans that have been distressed and then reassured with sprays of black sequins. Black velvet boots with black beaded bows on the toes. The father is in a brown wool sweater and the kind of jeans that are exactly as interesting and unusual as an Italian man’s jeans must be, but no more. They—especially the father—are deeply involved in reviewing fractions with the older of the two children, a girl of about eight (though I am terrible at guessing ages). She is hesitant, trying out words like numeratore and denominatore. The father leans forward across the tray table, mostly patient, occasionally exasperated. The mother, less invested, at least in this aspect of her daughter’s existence (as opposed, one would suspect, to something perhaps like the daughter’s sweater, which features an embroidered unicorn with tufts of fuzzy wool in candyfloss pink, blue, and lavender), leans back in the seat, massaging her temples, and chiming in occasionally, when it’s obvious enough to be safe, to say “Georgia, svegliati.” Towards the end, she shakes her head coyly at her husband, and confesses that “non ho capito niente nemmeno io...” Something must work though, because later when she comes back from a snack run to the dining car (she has been gone all of ten minutes) and sits down, her husband gets up, steps around the tray table (they are sitting across from each other), bends over her seat, and smooches her for a good forty seconds. Then he sits back down again.
It’s in those ten minutes (when the mother and little boy go off to get snacks), that the girl, apparently on a break from the hell of her fractions, uses a spare sheet of squared paper, left over from scratchwork, to write what she announces is a story. When finished, she reads it out to her father as he sits across from her. A story about a little girl “che va in giro per il mondo.” She is excited to read it, excited to present and share in the experience of something she has made, the way any human being is excited when she makes something she believes to be interesting. I hear snatches of the story. “Un giorno...” and “La mamma era noiosa...” and so on. It takes all of three minutes for her to read. When she finishes, the father says “bene,” without looking up from his smartphone. Inside of me, a hundred little girls are a little bit heartbroken. Every one of them knows how she feels.
[Frecciarossa 9558, Roma~Firenze]
[venerdì 01 dicembre 2017 ore 20:12:11] [¶]