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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 22 page 13


Martha is a good friend. She is in her early forties. I met her seven years ago because of our common passion, cats. Her special gift is that she listens when other people speak. Martha pays attention; she also makes you feel relaxed as she is not in competition.

After leaving Martha, I was distracted all day. I could smell the flavours of the past and had different images in my eyes. I remembered when at times the teachers found Greg and me hugging on the floor of the school hall, laughing happily.

Greg’s mother, a tall dark woman with a grim face, taught at our school and looked embarrassed. She used to get her son back and we had to go sit in class till recess was over. Ours was only childlike tenderness; there was never any sexual contact.

One of the best memories I have concerns an early June school trip to the Swiss Miniatur, the miniature village in Melide on Lake Lugano. Living in Como, in northern Italy, we could reach Melide directly by train in more or less an hour. I remember that we stopped in Lugano and were taken on a pleasant tour on the ferry. While we queued to get on the bateau, we could smell a scent of jasmine, which was overwhelming. We enjoyed the fresh air during the trip, while the sun was warm and welcome after a cold winter. I loved the little ducks near the harbour and the elegant swans. We were all excited about this sightseeing tour. The mountains were beautiful, and the lake with its shiny green waters.

“Mountains. What do you think there is behind them?” I thought there must be something.

“Hum, I guess toffee toys and chocolate houses and lots of children like us,” he said.

“Ha ha, you’re crazy about chocolate.”

We both laughed.

The gentle movement of the ferry rocked us. The sun painted smiles on the waves. We were approaching the tiny harbour of Melide. A blackbird was singing loudly. He was cute and his sharp sound was dazzling to listen to. From there we walked all the way to the Swiss Miniatur site. By then the sun was already roasting our brains.

At the miniature town, I was fascinated by the whole overview of the country, the scale-model buildings, the small boats sailing along the lakes, the train moving on its little tracks and the cars on their tiny highway, and all those real miniature plants spread about the grounds.

When we went up to Solothurn, to the Museum of the Old Arsenal, I noticed that Greg was particularly attentive to our teacher’s explanation of the exhibits and I thought that as usual men are attracted to armaments and the like, even in their childhood.

The school year ended and summer vacations approached. As Greg and I lived in different towns, we had no chance to meet over the holidays. But when our second year started, we perceived that our solid friendship was unchanged.

Sometimes teachers separated males and females and we had to queue in two different rows. Therefore, it was not possible to hold hands. Greg and I would wave and smile at each other. They did not let us sit together. However, nothing seemed to cast a shadow over our liaison that overcame every barrier. We would find shelter on our own fantastic planet.

But there was something we didn’t know, something against which our magic power would prove inadequate. One day Greg was asked to leave our class. We looked at each other, dismayed.

“Why?” I asked my teacher.

Back then, nobody cared to tell me the reason. But I learned later the reason behind Greg’s removal. His mother, as I said, taught at our elementary school, but she lived in Lecco so she asked to be assigned there and took her son with her. It was a decision inflicted on us because a child does not have the power to change adults’ choices and can only feel miserable and dream of a less insensitive world.