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“Well?” Martha was impatient over the phone.
“I don’t know. It’s different now. We’re not kids anymore. We are seeing each other again next week.”
I had mixed feelings. Was it chemistry or nostalgia? I couldn’t wait to see him again. We met several times and something was growing between us. We wandered downtown a lot visiting museums, concerts, pictures.
We understood each other well except for one point: his job. When I had asked what he did for living he told me that he trained pilots at the army air force training center in Viterbo. He had looked proud. I was puzzled. I hated wars, armaments, casualties and so forth. Probably because of our past mutual attraction, I had taken it for granted that he would too.
One day, as we were sitting on a train, I said, “So you’re part of the army?”
“Yes, it’s my life.”
This last statement disturbed me. “Have you always loved it?”
“Well, I think so, yes... Why?” he seemed confused.
“But did anyone help you chose this career?” It was not curiosity. I was trying to understand why he was in the army.
“What do you mean? I just chose it.”
I remained silent and still.
“What’s up? Do you dislike the army? It is part of the state defence; it’s crucial, vital and necessary.” The emphasis he put in saying these words bothered me again.
“Do you really think it is? Why? Do we live our lives normally thanks to the army?”
“What if someone attacks us?”
“Who, Greg? Tell me the list of foreign states that are ready to attack our country!” I became uncomfortable in my seat.
“I don’t understand your attitude. We have to defend Europe. Our forces have to be up to NATO standards.”
“Do you understand words like peace, harmony, good relations with other countries?”
“That’s exactly what I said. I prepare my defence but I don’t have to use it.”
“Tell me about the huge amount of money spent on armaments. Can’t we use that money for something more useful? Can’t you see that families fail to make ends meet?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Why don’t you explain those ‘peacekeeping missions’ that are instead war operations? And tell me about the armaments sent to countries where there is a conflict, arming the most powerful party at the expense of the weaker ones.”
“You don’t understand. I don’t sell armaments.” By now, his gaze was hard and uneasy.
Now that the conversation had taken that direction, we didn’t know how to go back and we could touch the tension with our hands. It was as if we were being fried in a pan.
It was an important and delicate issue for both of us in a different way but it was undermining the reminiscence of our past. Here we were, looking at each other with a passion that did not resemble that of the old days as this one was livid, discoloured.
We stopped that argument after one and a half hours, stuttering a few more words, but knowing inside that it all most probably ended there. I was discomforted and shocked at the same time.
We had grown up differently and drifted apart. Sometimes you keep a sort of dream all your life without realizing that it must have expired a long time ago, that things change. The past united us while the present divided us. The magic was over. We had moved on, on our own terms.