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by Valentina Rizzi

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. This sentence is printed on the wing mirror of my three wheeler. I once discovered it by chance thanks to a photograph by Aldo Marinelli for La mia Ostia, the web page about the neighbourhood where I live. Recently I have noticed many people sticking street fragments while I drive my three-wheeler. It is hard to feel safe on this rickety vehicle. The books in the boot obstruct the sight behind me. Therefore I can only rely on the wing mirror to manoeuvre, to park, and to realize I have caused panic in the street driving at a cruise speed of about 40 kilometres per hour. I carry around stories as heavy as the dreams we keep inside us. There are no glasses on the car doors of Bibliolibrò, there are no barriers. It’s you and the street and you are completely at the mercy of anyone who passes by, be it for better or worse. Foreign street vendors are there waiting for you by the traffic lights, they stick their hands inside the vehicle, they ask questions about the odometer, they notice that the vehicle is similar to the tuc-tuc in their country and they seem to think your cab is a living room. Everytime you get into it, you always have a sensory experience. What I like most are the stories given to you as a present by all the people you meet. The apecar recalls wartime memories, stories of crates of cherries and clandestine incursions of supplies through occupied lands. The street is beyond the mirror. It reflects fragments of humanity passing by, anticipating your next encounter. The mirror becomes the centre of your universe even at night when you are waiting for the green light to finally cross the intersection and go back home after the Ostia Antica night market.
Overloaded with books and stands, extension cables and stall’s lights, there you are, waiting for your turn in front of the red light and looking around through the window. There is a brute reflected inside, with tattoos on his muscular biceps, an earring at his right lobe, his mouth buried in a bearded forest. The mirror makes you perceive a distance that doesn’t really exist. I can feel his foot pressing the accelerator, the stratospheric roar of his engine taking the measures before the start. “Wanna race?” he says to me with a challenging, threatening look. He is really big and I think I won’t be able to escape him in any way. The guy gives me an evil look. I am unbelievably slow for those who, like him, are used to high performances on the road. “Sorry, are you talking to me?” I could pretend nothing has ever taken place, but his weird township slang has aroused my curiosity. So after a while he repeats: “Wanna race?” Now I finally understand. Now I see he is making fun of me, and he is particularly amused by the fact that I look like a snare next to a cheetah. And well, this is how I actually feel: two minuscule antennas right in the middle of a forest. A big fat laugh runs wild on his face, undoing his tough expression and making him look like a giant child. Sitting in his convertible racing car, his arm out of the window, he gesticulates and laughs out loud as he goes on: “Where does this thing come from? Does it work?” Well, now it’s a bit overloaded, I think feeling uncomfortable, but I don’t have the time to answer. “Where are you from? What’s all that stuff?” Er… it’s hard to explain in a couple of seconds in front of the red light, I think feeling a bit lost, while my boyfriend drives closer and makes his headlights whirl ready to go into action. “Yes it works, but at a speed of 30 kilometres per hour. It’s full of books.” “Books? Ah ah ah, goodbye baby!”
The light is green now, the racing car speeds away and beyond the mirror I see the guy waving his arms – his way of greeting me. Who knows where you are going, with your tattoos, at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour, while here I chuck into gears and check the potholes. It’s been dark for a while and the street swallows us with its silence made of stars. Every now and then the rear-view mirror sends me back images of books that bounce in the back, or of booming custom-built cars that attempt to surpass me while I’m driving to Ostia. On the waterfront the movida is already raging, with its mixture of kiosks and bazaars, lights are turned on and people’s chattering overcome the noise of the cicadas. It starts to rain, we really didn’t need this. I turn at full speed, I almost turn over, people point at me amused, a last whirlpool and here we are. We raise the shutter and we have eventually arrived at the Bibliobox. The emergency room for books leafed through by young hardened pests. Today somebody has understood that books need to be caressed and not punched while more than one page got damaged in the process. How many books today? I count those that will increase the ranks of the library unity. This is the destiny of the books that have survived a close encounter with young pests. I wipe out the dampness seeping out of some of the covers and put them on the shelves, surrounded by a flood of children’s smiles: those gathered during the evening spent teaching them how to turn the pages, one by one, first of all tasting their texture. A last polish to Bibliolibrò and we’re done. “Are you ok baby?” asks my boyfriend, a little worried, as he arrives on his white motor-horse.
OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. The street is scary sometimes, but another adventure is waiting for me out there.