Letter from Italy – II

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By LUAN REMIGIO*

Report by a Brazilian student in Lecce, in southern Italy, on local daily life during the coronavirus pandemic

“That longing hurts like a boat, which little by little describes an arc and avoids docking at the pier” (Chico Buarque, Pedaço de mim).

In the first account of my impressions of Covid-19 in Italy, posted on the website the earth is round I used the dialogue with my friend Alessandro Passarela to embody what I felt. I referred to him only by his first name because I thought he might be using his pain. I was a bit apprehensive about writing a story, I didn't know how my family would react, what they would think, things wouldn't be “okay” as I say in messages and video calls – I, fortunately, am fine, but the place and the people who live here do not, however it is impossible to escape this situation unscathed.

I did not imagine the relative proportion taken by the text. Once published, it does not belong to the person who wrote it. I don't master the way it reverberates in people, how they will digest it. Once the pain had discharged, she couldn't read it again without crying, especially the Bergamo story.

When publishing the text on his Facebook, Professor Ernani Chaves warned about its extent and necessity, even so, shortly after I received several messages of support, strength, which made me happy and emotional. The time difference made me lose time. Around two in the morning I got a call from my dad and we talked at length. To my surprise he had read and liked my account. Only two days later did I have the courage and talked to my mother, she said she was moved, but she knew I was fine. That night, still agitated, I had trouble sleeping and something worried me and prevented me from resting: what would be Alessandro's reaction if he read the text?

I slept little. The first thing I did when I opened my eyes was run my hand under the pillow in search of my cell phone. I took courage and sent a message to Alessandro explaining the situation, apologizing if it was invasive, and if I could read it, it would be important. I still thought about translating the part referring to him, but, before my suggestion, he said that he would read with the help of the translator. Alessandro studies medieval philosophy, knows Latin, English, has French as a second language, as he worked and lived in France for 4 years, dates a Venezuelan woman and dabbles in Spanish; I tried to teach some Portuguese words not worth mentioning. Knowledge of Latin languages ​​certainly helped to understand the text. His answer was as follows:

“Nice article!  
beautiful testimony  
use my story if it serves to convince people to stay home.  
it's a sad story   
painful for me  
for my family we also lost other close people  
I live near the church  
and yesterday the bells rang 3 times and I live in a village  
If you manage to convince any Brazilian to stay at home and protect themselves, you have done a great thing
for my family there is a lot of pain. But I don't lose the desire to laugh and joke.  

It helps.   
I suffer a lot  
and I'm not working on my research because I don't feel like it.  
At the moment I just hope that the sick people I know will recover  
I pray for them  
although I don't believe, I pray  
When this is over, let's Susanna, Myrth, you and I go eat a giant ice cream  
then I'll take you to Bergamo  
to eat grilled meat.  
Will be all right  
Let's talk  
and scream! 🙂  
I like you / I love you [ti voglio bene], I'm happy to have found you
[...]  
We will overcome”.

Messages were exchanged via WhatsApp and I took the liberty of posting them here. They arrived and he felt them as small doses of sincerity, affection, tenderness, untying the anguishing knot in his throat, relieved for not having hurt his friend; she wept as she remembered the story, this time more detailed by him. I also cried with happiness to see his approving reaction. We both have traits of being “outgoing” and we make fun of each other. Of course he does better, he can make the double meaning jokes with aplomb. He is a good friend and has always been patient in explaining things to me and the weight of words in Italian.

My relationship with Alessandro went beyond the short time we spent together. I noticed this inyou voglio bene” [I love you / I like you]. Not that those days weren't imprinted on me, but we heard about the “European coldness”; those words contradict her. Even though he's from the north, he's very affectionate. It's not just the northern climate that is cold, at least that's how Brazilians feel.

I was very well received when I started to attend the doctoral student room at Unisalento. One day, around 18:00 pm, Alessandro was getting ready to leave the room and asked me, interspersed with my answers, if he was going to stay, where he lived and how he was going. I replied that it wouldn't take long, I found my address, he said he'd be on his way and we left the room together. Usually he took the bus, however, that day we kept each other company. This was the first of a few. We left the Studium, went through Porta Napoli, walked towards the Duomo of Lecce, passing by the famous window, with bars in the shape of a flower (actually it looks like a penis and one of the stories says that the place was formerly a brothel and the “flower ” the sign, which angered the owners of the house who, taking advantage of the anecdote, wrote a book with the “true” story of the window to clear up the misunderstanding); then crossing Piazza Sant'Oronzo, one of the patron saints of the city, and one block ahead we turned right. At the end he continued on and I turned right once more, returning a few meters, the “effort” compensated by the company.

Knowing my sweet tooth, he usually persuaded me to go to “pasticcerias” and “gelaterias”, also an excuse to talk about life, the adversities faced and laugh, of course.

Alessandro left Lecce for Bergamo in early February, before the COVID-19 outbreak. On one of our last walks, he asked me “you stain?” [will you miss me?/will you miss me?]. Surprised, I replied, “dai, sure che me mancherai[of course I will miss you], still feeling the impact of the question. We talked about how he understood that phrase, those words: it wasn't just lack, absence, distance, nostalgia, it was longing. The word expresses something more than “lack” [mancanza; limp, missing], is longing; longing is longing; word to translate an untranslatable feeling; don't say it, feel it.

I hope I have helped Alessandro to bear the distance from family and friends during the time he was here in Lecce. On my part it would be fair retribution. Such experiences are important and were engraved in me. I was adrift and Alessandro was one of the ports where I could dock in the middle of the raging sea.

Yes, I miss you. Missing a time that doesn't come back, a life that doesn't return. Missing being able to make choices.

Italy is not homogeneous, much less Europe.

*Luan Remigio He is a professor at Seduc-PA, a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Unifesp and an exchange student at the Universidad del Salento, Lecce, Italy.

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