Marzia, from Mars
We have to go back to 1963 and zoom in on the ‘crime scene:’ southern Europe, Mediterranean Sea, Italy. On the west of the Italian peninsula, under the French Corsica Island you can find a bigger island, Sardinia. It is hidden, always under or beside, and not famous because we were not able to develop mafia in our past. We were too individualist, what a pity, and thus we renounced the spotlights and the benefits of the international criminal stage.
Now focus on the central area of Sardinia, on the most internal and secluded region, Barbagia, which is a land forgotten by the gods (starting from the Phoenician gods, then Roman and going on with the modern ones, the tourists) and cursed with mountains and gorges and remoteness. The chief town of this area is Nugoro, a place with a brave history, a disastrous present and a certain future as a ghost village.
The main street of Nugoro was Corso Garibaldi, so that we could each day remember the country, Italy, that eradicated our own, and praise the vain hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, the freemason so war-loving that he trusted the Italian king and his band of greedy predators instead of leading the colonized regions in a fair independence war.
One day, in the upper part of Corso Garibaldi an unexpected shop called Il Subacqueo, or The Scuba Diver, an underwater sports shop was opened. A big picture in the side window showed a blonde scuba diver with pink shorts, baby blue breathing apparatus, and green phosphorescent fins. He was looking at a gigantic grouper, a serious and surprised fish, underwater, of course. On a white board stuck on the door it was written: “Whether you are taking scuba diving lesson or you are a skilled diver, we have everything for you, an endless array of scuba diving equipment: dive gear, air fill, snorkelling and swim gear.”
When they inaugurated the shop, the Nugoro people read that script with great attention as if it was a Delphic oracle’s sentence, and tried to understand to which of the two categories each one of them belonged, so to have the right behaviour once in the store: to the first one, the category of ‘novice diver,’ or the second one, of ‘old salt’ expert? You need to know that in those times only a few Nugoro people had seen the sea in person, probably less than ten per cent of the entire population. Of those lucky men, considered as if they were Odysseus’s new followers, about ten per cent was able to swim, maybe, so over all only one per cent of the Barbagia population was to some extent familiar with the sea. Only a handful of those elitist people had swimming trunks. And maybe two or three people in total had snorkelled at least once in their life.
On mid-August, a few groups of young lads used to organize a trip to the seaside for a swim, and to play at the mercy of the waves with a big tractor-tyre wearing white classic underpants. The mortality rate of those groups of enlightened forerunners was high: you can’t stop progress but you have to pay for it. Generally, as they used to drink wine and to eat watermelon before the swim (the common belief was that combination was very light on the stomach) and since they were unable to swim, one or sometimes two young boys drowned each trip, and this statistics increased the natural diffidence against those mistrustful and unpredictable salt waves.
A due digression about the colours: the underpants were white like the Sunday best shirts used only for weddings and funerals. The rest of the clothes of the population were grey or black. Corso Garibaldi was a swarm of dark people. So you can imagine the great impression such picture shown outside the shop transmitted to the onlookers. Pink shorts, and baby blue breathing apparatus, and green fins? Just to look at a grouper? Okay, the boy was blonde, so he surely came from some strange planet off the Ptolemaic solar system, but what was the hidden message that they were channelling to the town through that picture? That in the future to be a balente, a man of value, well-respected, you would have to deal with sea and fish instead of carabinieri and police? Was that a prediction of an imminent new Flood? And who was supposed ‘to be already taking diving lessons’ in town? Was that abnormal, hidden deviation from our traditions possible?
The devastating inauguration of Il Subacqueo lit a spotlight on the shop owners’ daughter, otherwise anonymous and not worthy of attention. Her name was Marzia and she wore glasses. She was fifteen and an only child, and had a quarterback body, pale skin, her fair hair shaped into a bob, and an attentive glance.
Her father was an ex commando scuba of the Military Navy, from the far village of Siniscola, short and stocky like her daughter, silent and introvert. Her mother was a Valkyrie from Rostock, a city near the North Sea. He was held prisoner at the end of the Second World War in Germany, where they met. She was Junoesque and blonde, volumetric and bossy, fond of sea, sun, beaches, and everything connected with nature and sport. The scuba of the big picture was her brother, at the time a famous homosexual from Hamburg.
Marzia was indubitably the strongest girl in the entire high school. To cut a long story short, Sandro, one of my classmates, who, oddly enough, would have married Marzia a few years later, told our circle of friends that she was able to swim from the pier of Orosei to the harbour of Dorgali, to catch fish with her hands waiting for hours for them at the bottom of the sea, and to hijack a fishing boat slapping the entire crew, to return to the coast. I was sixteen and not so much interested in those easy jokes, but rather in the fact that Marzia was an only child (a rare event) and her parents ran a shop, and so they were busy all day. Since the lack of ‘love places’ was a real curse for the youngsters of Nugoro and I was sex-obsessed, the availability of her house would have opened a concrete possibility in the path to the first, long-dreamt intercourse.
I began to court her and soon we became close friends – she was not a beauty, I have to say.
After long preliminaries on which I don’t want to insist (just in the end I was afraid and cautious, she impatient and in a certain way amazed by my indecision), one day she grabbed me with a complicated and very Japanese move, and forced me to have sex. We lost our virginity in a torpid winter afternoon, the same day I discovered that her mother would beat her father.
Actually, her parents returned home unexpectedly early that evening, discussing in a very violent manner. Suddenly I heard dull blows coming from the stairs. I thought he was beating his wife. I was wrong. Her mother was kicking and punching him like a Fury, yelling in German as if she was the reincarnation of Adolf. Marzia locked the door to our room and, in silence, demanded a third round of sex, strangely spirited – I did not understand at the time that she was so excited because of her mother’s shouts and kicks. And I never thought, my fault, over her name, Marzia, which is the female version of Mars, the god of war.
It is fair to describe our love as a gym-like activity, headed by Marzia, of course; a sort of uninterrupted match that lasted until a certain day of June. It was afternoon again and we were in her room, yes, the crime scene, alone, when she challenged me to an arm-wrestling match. At stake was another sex session.
We sat opposite each other with our elbows resting on her table, completely naked except for her glasses. We clasped each other’s hands, and tried to force each other’s arm down onto the table. I was a Nugoro boy, sure about my strength: what could be the deal? I was taller than her, more robust and in shape, I thought. She was energetic and dynamic and elastic. But she was only a girl, after all…
I banged into a wall.
I tried with all my strength and then with all my desperation to push her woody arm, in vain. At a certain moment, she reacted like a tiger and destroyed my defence and my self-confidence with a blow of her paw. I cried when my arm bent unnaturally, but the pain was not the worst result, I have to confess. From that moment I became impotent, no other cruel adjective can better describe my mental and, it is difficult to admit it, physical status, and so we decided to stop our useless relationship. Gossip spread like lava in the chauvinistic and sexist world that Nugoro was, marking me like a traitor of the men’s category.
It took eight horrible months before I regained my confidence and my virility thanks to a professional, mature woman of twenty-nine.
You might ask: what about Sandro, Marzia’s husband? He was a human wreck, a relic when he died, still young. I do not know what was behind their marriage, but I can imagine a series of decisions taken after arm-wrestling matches or under threat of new physical trials, poor man.
P.s. This is another fiction/non-fiction short story, of course.