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casi umani

I am a Coach and I help others to feel good.
But the others do not help me.
For some time, I have begun not to stand them anymore. And then there is the article to be delivered on Wednesday and I am drained: me and my mania to serve, not even if I were Mother Teresa.

And today I am on holiday. I have my notes and lay down in the shade on the lawn front of my accommodation, a rural village along Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast. The article in a little while, now 45 minutes of oxygen break. This moment seems perfect for me: I contemplate without the clean sky aimlessly and I enjoy the contrast with the green; I breathe in the aroma of the cut grass: solitude and peace.

It is two in the afternoon and I have concentrated every trace of attention on applying blue nail polish on the nail of the right index finger. In front of where I lay on my stomach there is fork in a gravel path along which there is a big wooden sign in the grass on which is written “Health path”: at the side there is an inclined bench, this too is of reddish wood.

My gaze wonders wonderfully between the nail and the grass when it is abruptly interrupted by the fuchsia nylon shorts of a woman in her forties. Fuchsia is ugly, it is a colour that disgusts me. And, among other things, it tends towards red, so it hinders rest: in other words, a terrible intrusion in this moment, but so be it. The chick takes the bench in a leap and begins puffing rhythmically under the sun as she starts bending rhythmically her uncovered abdominals. I count 20 puffs and then silence, she does not feel the physical strain, she looks at me looking for a foothold to occupy a space with me in the empty seconds between one series and another.

She peeks at the notes “You’re involved in coaching?”
I nod.
“What do you do exactly?” She starts bending again.
I think of how I can get out of this without moving and in the meantime, I hear my voice answer automatically “I am not what I do. I accompany people and they are the ones who achieve the changes they want or need”.
Another break in the gymnastics and there is no truce: “If they are the ones that do, then a coach is useless. Is this what you’re saying?”
I would like to run away but leaning on the grass would ruin the fresh nail polish and anyway I hate leaving work half done and at the moment I still have seven fingers to do. I must answer, and the least exhausting way is a nice set piece: “The coach supplies a place suitable for making passages”
In moments such as these I really would like to be a fruit seller, a doctor or a tailor. In any case, something where my job is so obvious that any query would be superfluous as to place the pest in serious embarrassment for the useless questions. In fact, so much as to make even the article useless. I get very angry at this petulant interviewer. “Yes” Movement, streets, roads! They are passages of growth! Learning, choices, positive changes, aren’t they?” Without wanting to I raised my voice and I could not hold in all the angry gesture, so I knock over the nail polish that now flows on the grass tracing a thin blue artery.

My persecutor finishes her fourth series. She was not yet satisfied; she gets down from the bench and invades the space near me. “Interesting” she says, “And which passage would you like?”
In my mind I see my transformation into a cruel assassin or a steam roller, but I feel guilty. A harmless hare? Impossible and in any case, I cannot tell her. I give up the fight, I say an enigmatic “Who knows...” with a painful smile.

I am finishing the picture on the left index finger and my sporting butcher makes a decisive move, maybe out of curiosity for my ambiguous reply or, more likely, she has sensed my impotence and wishes to bring her sadistic game to its apotheosis. She leans on the grass, looks at me as though waiting but says nothing. Oh God, now what?
I find myself dealing with the silence, unarmed, as though facing a skilled negotiator that forces you to make the first move. I weigh up the possibilities: I have no desire to get up. Resist” Fill in the void?
She seems moved by pity and comes to my aid: “Very tired eh...” Is she talking about herself” Oh God, help, is she talking about herself...Or talking about me? Desperately I throw myself into this option and the surrender comes, I say:
“Yes! I’m exhausted”.

She must be surprised by the sudden revelation because she looks down at the forbidden breast, the sweat flowing down the collar of the undershirt, this too fuchsia and turns to me between the hopeful and fearful: “What do you say, could it be the heat?”
Suddenly I see her, I see: two unlucky women full of expectations of a refreshing holiday, she bustling with her fancy toning and me hoping that a good idea comes to me to finish the damn article. We are two human beings.

And I start laughing. I can still stop myself and maintain the demeanour only for my companion in misadventure to catch my eye and she seems to have the same thought because she holds in her laugh as well. It escapes us: we explode into laughter that we can no longer control because the lack of discipline feeds it and grows from her to me, from me to her, and the more we try the more we laugh. The first notes are convulsed and then rhythmic and finally tears and music that resounds free of all that there is. Even with us.

I have reapplied the nail polish, sat down cross legged and I hear myself say: “It’s that I have to finish an article and there is always someone in the way and I cannot find my concentration”.

Maybe she understands: “Such as... someone like me! Excuse me, I’ll leave you in peace”
“Oh come on, I am applying nail polish, I’m the one distracting me”.
“And what would help you?”
“If only I knew! It never comes out the way I want, there’s always something wrong”.
Now I am a stream in full flow:
“It’s as if I ‘m in a closed room and I can’t see the door”.
“I understand. And how many doors are there?”
One, certainly one! The right one, yes? And then, how many doors do you want in a room? But this question creeps inside me and for some reason I give some space to the possibility:
“I don’t know?!” is the illuminating reply.

I ignore my interlocutor and lay on my back, right arm at the back of my head, and the right arm pleasantly stretched along my chest as I do in bed when I wake up. And then I see it. My friend must have understood she’s no longer useful because she is still, one with the blades of grass and now I’m doing everything on my own.
I’m looking at the spectacular pine tree that shades me. It starts with an unrepeatable trunk but halfway up it forks and forks again and then once more. Yes, because each branch is not enough and gathers other branches and together they become not one but many, very many possible ways. Beautiful, ugly, right, wrong, perfect, imperfect? What does it matter? But I watch in ecstasy branches, buds and green needles and pinecones and I immerse myself in the taste of the perfumed resin.

“What marvellous strength this tree has,” I say.
“Yes,” says someone who lies next to me, “a great growth”.

by Laura Ravanetti