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Gypsy moon

by Valentina Rizzi

A netting structure on the horizon, my suburbs. Here I am, on the wallfront, the most asphalted seafront in Italy. On the edge: between sky and sea, day and night, library and bookshop. It is half past seven, I start tidying the second-hand books that didn’t go on loan, I have to close the library to open the bookshop. Maurizio of Ostia book-crossing is here with me. Suddenly a handful of hotheaded dark-skinned boys comes up to my three-wheeler. They are hungry for paper, books, life. “I was here first, leave me alone, here it is, what is it, books, what are they, books, come on!” The gang attacks us. Back from the seaside, we find a troop of dark-skinned street urchins waiting for us. They speak a half Roman half Romanian dialect and surround Bibliolibrò putting their hands everywhere. Maurizio draws back, a little frightened, and I look at them as they pass books from hand to hand and ask how much they cost. I tell them that they can take the books for free and bring them back the following day or another day. All at once their guide, an Italian woman in her forties, intervenes. “No, they won’t come back, they are passing through, they are spending only one day at the seaside. They come from the Roma camp.” Then she turns to them, visibly exhausted. “Come on, leave the van alone, let’s go away, we can’t take the books if we don’t return them.” I am the only one who is listening to their hunger for knowledge, afraid of losing all those books and at the same time of freeing them. Their eyes are still rolling in front of me, their silver laughs, their comments, that mocking and seemingly suspicious expression and the air is filled with their voices. “There, I take this one!” One of the eldest, almost 12 years old, has chosen a volume of two hundred pages and is leafing through it voraciously as if life flowed too fast. “Nice, finished!” “Already?” “I am a genius! Nice, nice I enjoyed it, I have read it all in ten seconds !” “Really? Bravo, and what is it about?” “Well, I don’t remember, don’t know…” he says twirling it between his skinny sunburnt arms, trying to grab some sentence on the back cover to rehabilitate himself while he is kidding with his friends. I keep on saying that here and now they are allowed to look at the books and leaf through them for all the time they want, even if they don’t carry anything home. I wonder what their homes look like. And their fairy tales? I already see myself with Biblio inside the Roma camp, exchanging tales and legends in the middle of a big circle. Voices come in succession, faces so different and yet so similar to those of the children that have listened to my stories so far. They seem to be interested in grabbing as more books as possible, they compete with each other. To give one book to each of them, to restrict the loan? Maurizio and I wonder, afraid that they may run off with the books and leave us unsupplied for the rest of the month. They do not seem to have the least intention to leave. They choose books by weighing them, raise them amused, compete for the most impressive ones. Almost nobody pauses to open them. So the books wildly and frantically wheel from hand to hand, some fall to the ground, some slip between the seats. The polite silence of the early afternoon is replaced by the coarse uproar of the last hour. “And what is it?” says the eldest boy as he takes a book for early childhood in the shape of a lollipop. “It is a small book for small children, a few and very thick pages.” “Good for me!” he says with a devious attitude hinting at the big book that he couldn’t read in its entirety. Then he goes on: “This one I can really read in ten seconds!” Everybody laughs, even Bibliolibrò. Somebody starts leafing through, somebody caresses the edges of a circular cover, hands slow down, eyes dwells on the printed paper, on pictures. “What’s there? Come and have a look… ”. Hands lap, chase each other, tickle the belly of my three-wheeler that is not afraid any more. The merry caravan gets going empty-handed, as advised by the woman who is the only one to be in a hurry. Maybe she wants to protect them, from prejudices, from their own voraciousness, from a world that is still largely unknown to them. Now that also Maurizio has left, I am alone as I tidy the books, the full box. Evening has already fallen. I look at the silent horizon and think. I think that I miss them already: their voices, their energy and their hunger, for life and novelty. I will go and look for them, the books ask me to do so. Packed in that funny carton, they are looking at me and seem to have the same desire for life and novelty. A fiery and gypsy moon is sharply smiling at me. Somebody brushes my cheek taking me by the hand and putting a sandwich in the other. “It’s dinner time!” It’s my boyfriend coming back from the deli. He strokes my head and whispers: “What were you thinking about?” The next journey…