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The man on the cupboard

We were sitting on top of the steps. I was playing my guitar and she watched me, smiling. A tuft of hair touched her lips and she pushed it back behind her ear.

We had just arrived in a little Sicilian village, one of those hamlets tucked between the mountains not far from the coast. During the frosty winter nights the streets are shrouded by the fog and the dim light from the eighteenth century street lamps seems to fluctuate; in summer the muggy heat forces the women to sit in their yards on old wicker chairs, enjoying the moist wind that comes from the sea and has a faint smell of salt.

I was totally crazy about her but I didn’t have the guts to tell her, afraid that it would drive away the spontaneity that had silently sprung up between us.

It started to rain and we took cover under a balcony decorated with angels, which was so narrow that we were quickly soaked from head to toe. While we stood there, wet and embracing to fend away the cold, the noise of the rainfall was interrupted by the sweet voice of an old lady. Seeing us caught in the storm, she invited us in.

She was speaking in a nearly impenetrable dialect, but her elegant and rhythmic tones gave me the impression that I could understand her. The wrinkles on her face told stories of long forgotten years and her small eyes were sky blue. Outside the wind stopped banging the window shutters and a rainbow rose up above the dome of the church that overlooked the village.

Donna Concetta was very hospitable. As with all Sicilian women, the first thing she did was make some coffee to warm us up. She also lent us some old clothes and put ours out to dry. The old shirt she gave me had a pleasant smell. I asked if it belonged to her husband, pointing to the man I saw in one of the photos placed neatly on the cupboard in the small living room.

She nodded sadly, lowering her eyes and holding back tears. He wasn’t actually her husband. He was the man she has loved before the war and who death had stolen away from her embrace. The worst pain for her wasn’t his death, raw and violent as only death can be, but the regret of not having declared her love. Loneliness is a cruel companion, forever reminding you of the way things could have been.

We left her pretty little house, glad to have met someone that will stay in our hearts. We strolled along for a while and then I stopped and watched her walk ahead — I was thinking of what Donna Concetta had just told us. She turned around and smiled. I held her in my arms and kissed her.

Because I had always been waiting for her

Because I wanted to spend my life with her.

Because I didn’t want to be yet another man, in a photo, on a cupboard.  


Artwork credit: 
陈曦, Beijing Film Academy

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Flash Europa 28 is organised and run in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to China, the embassies of each of the 28 EU member states, The Bookworm, Literature Across Frontiers, and social media platforms in China.