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Home and elsewhere

by Valentina Rizzi

It is a day of lashing rain the one in which I load my three-wheels on a car transporter for its first mission. I am two metres above the ground, clinging to two metal guide rails while the third and wooden one is hanging in the void. At a certain point I wonder what I am  doing up here with the rain that slaps me in the face and a man that screams something unintelligible. “C’mon, almost done, miss, c’mon!”. “Here, here, a little ahead, okay!”. We have made it. While I am getting out of what seems to be a huge Noah’s ark, I draw closer to my Panda overloaded with packages. A last look at Bibliolibrò. I heave a sigh and go straight down the motorway with the usual books that bob up and down and my heart that pounds. Alone. After a three-hour journey, I find the car transporter again. I am a guest of the Festival of Wandering in Piedimonte Matese. I start to equip Biblio, I embellish it with corks, pegs, illustrations, I decorate its back with books and I feel I’m at home again. It has stopped raining now. Bibliolibrò is at the foot of a long and narrow staircase that creates a magnificent game of perspective. Ancient façades and wall-paintings come to light and I find myself in the middle of a huge crèche. Here parents are the first that draw near to buy. Here everybody knows each other. There is a deep bond between people and what strikes me is that nobody is in a hurry. Only voices in the streets. We talk, passers-by stop and ask where I am from, other people pay me compliments, two dogs curl up close to Biblio’s door and leafing through the books becomes a ritual. Maybe in this huge crèche books are still objects of worship, worthy of attention. Here all is ritual and sacredness and the passing of time is marked in a very different way from the metropolis where I live. Mothers come close, leaving their children to play. They are the first to choose. Then come the children, that become serious and politely draw near to their parents. They listen to them in silence, if they wore a hat they would take it off to show respect, as people do inside a church. Invited to make their choice, children feel disoriented and look at the adults. They are ashamed to tell what they like. They are all afraid of disappointing their parents, that encourage them to express their opinion instead. All this is so different from what normally happens in Rome. Just the day before, during a running event at the Stadium of the Baths of Caracalla I find myself in front of a gang of children of some of the athletes. Around eight years old. One of them, the group’s undisputed leader, his hair parting on one side, starts to calculate with his mates. “Is there anything for two euros?” “No, today there is nothing for two euros. Books have a cost, don’t you know? They require the work of many people. If a book costs two euros it means that it has required little work, otherwise you don’t find anything. On the back cover you discover if it is worth every penny”. “Freccia d’oro (Lapis), is 5.80 Euros the final price?” Well, if you don’t have 80 cents I can turn a blind eye. “Five euros, five euros… It is my monthly pocket money… I should renounce the trading cards… If I spend all my money here what shall I do for the rest of the month?” The gang leader moves away giggling with his henchmen, then he comes back alone and goes on reasoning. He has brought some coins with him, all that is left of his pocket money after an ice cream. I feel tempted to give him the Freccia d’oro for free, but it is not fair, I think. He should learn the value of things, the value of a book. “If you write down title, author and publisher, you will be able to order it at another bookshop when you’ll have enough money. Maybe a money box would be of use.” Independence and conditioning, Rome/Caserta… home and elsewhere… I wander on my three-wheels deep in thought in search for the next square when my mobile rings and I find my man again. “Are you OK? When are you coming back?”