The exasperated husband jumps out of bed, pretending to be thirsty in order to justify his need to talk on his feet, he grabs the plastic bottle, fills the glass, puts it down on the dresser still full, and shakes the bottle in the air like a stick:
‑ Don’t you get it? Are you stupid or what? The fact that your friend told you that he knows people who have prepared a terrorist attack is really serious. In my opinion this makes him a terrorist. A person who knows terrorists, what is he? A terrorist, that’s what he is.
‑ Now you’re exaggerating, Filippo. Maybe Amìr only says these things to give himself importance, to make an impression – She pauses for a few seconds, weighing the significance of the what they’re talking about. – No, no – he doesn’t really know any terrorists, he’s only saying that for effect.
‑ But for Christ’s sake, he can’t just go around saying things like that! Are you joking? And you’re an idiot to hang out with those creeps. You’re putting our family at risk.
– Oh, come on! you’re an idiot too if you don’t understand how these things go.
– Oh, really? Then you tell me how things go. Come on. Let’s hear.
– It’s the Americans themselves who are behind these attacks, including the one on the twin towers. They had to make people scared so they could carry on their project of conquest, of imperial expansion, of financing the military-industrial complex. Bin‑Laden and the others had always worked for them in the past. What makes you think they’re not still working for them? And then the strategy of preparing attacks against civilians to demonize the enemy, to place the blame on them and instigate public opinion against them is old-hat. Don’t you remember when the secret service and the right-wing – Gladio and the CIA – placed bombs here in Italy to explode in Piazza Fontana and the Bologna train station so as to stir up popular hatred against the left? The Americans have always been terrorists. Look what they did in Chile, in Cuba, all over the world. Only people who don’t want to see it don’t see it.
‑ And who told you this shit? Your friend Amìr?
‑ It’s not shit, Filippo. It’s the truth. You should listen to what people say more, instead of watching the tv news.
– And this is what people say?
– Yes, it is. Certain people, yes. For sure.
‑ Well then, Elena, you’ll have to choose between me, between your family, and these “certain people” you’re talking about. I can’t accept this. If you want to go on seeing them you’ll have to leave this house first. And I mean it.
‑ You know, you’re really over the top, Filippo. Cool it, ok?
The exasperated lover pulls the old Fiat over to the curb, turns on the emergency lights and shakes his head from side to side, glowering darkly, concentrated on finding the right words:
– But what have you done? You know perfectly well I’ve never known a terrorist in my life, I know nothing about that stuff.
‑ Of course I know, Amir. Of course, darling … but don’t you see? I was desperate. I didn’t know what to say any more, what stories to feed my husband ‑. It’s a thousand times better that he thinks I see you secretly because of your political ties…
‑ What ties are you talking about?
‑ Can I finish? Listen, it’s far better from him to think that than to find out about us.
‑ No, no, Elena… No… You don’t realize. These things are dangerous. You don’t just say these things. You don’t understand what times we’re living in. People like me are all under suspicion. We’re considered potential terrorists, and here you go saying things like this…
‑ Amir, listen. Who do you think my husband is going to talk to about what I said to him?
To the pharmaceutical representatives he screws whenever he can? to his patients? They’re all deaf, anyway. That’s why they go to see him. To his moron of a secretary? Listen, dear, there’s no risk involved. Trust me, it’s better this way. He worries about politics while we… Oh, what are you doing? You’re crying? Oh, love, what are you doing?
‑ You can’t do this to me… You’re out of your mind. I’m married, I have three children… Are you trying to ruin my life, Elena?
‑ What are you saying, darling? You’re scared, poor dear. Don’t worry.. Look at me. Come on, look at me. Promise you won’t worry? I want you to promise, ok? You promise?
‑ Sure, sure…
After trying in vain to call her husband, Elena put her mobile phone back into her purse and turned on the remote control. The automatic garage door slid up. She parked the van, got out, opened the trunk and started out taking packages of mineral water and setting them beside the garage walls. Then she heard the noise of a car coming slowly up the gravel path. The car stopped in front of her, with the engine running.
Still holding two six-bottle packages in each hand, she turned to see a light-blue car with two strangers hidden behind dark glasses in the front seat, and in the back seat her husband, Filippo, who was staring at her with a mortified expression. She put down the bottles and started walking towards the men, tilting her head to see them through the car window.
At the same time, on the other side of town Fatìma AI‑Hasan al Madani quickly stuffs everything they might need into two empty suitcases lying open on her bed, while two frightened little girls look on, together with a smaller boy who is trying to look confident and brave in front of the women. Meanwhile in the living-room the imam and one of his brothers are waiting impatiently to quit the house and go back to the mosque. Then, according to how things turned out, they would all decide what to do, who to leave the woman and the two girls with. The imam will take care of the little boy himself. He will live with other boys like him and will go to the Koranic school until someone can come and claim him.
Julio Monteiro Martins (born in Brazil in 1955 died in Italy in 2014). Honorary Fellow in Writing” at the University of Iowa in the United States, he taught creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont (1979-82), at the Oficina Literária Afrânio Coutinho, Rio de Janeiro (1982-91), at the Instituto Camões, Lisbona (1994) and at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (1995). Between 1996 and 2000 he held courses in several Tuscan cities. He was among the founders of the Brazilian Partito Verde and of the environmentalist movement “Os Verdes”. As a defender of human rights in Rio de Janeiro, he guaranteed the safety of the meninos de rua. In his country of origin he has published nine books, including short story collections, novels and essay, among which are Torpalium (Ática, São Paulo 1977), Sabe quem dançou? (Codecri, Rio 1978), A oeste de nada (Civilização Brasileira, Rio 1981) and O espaço imaginário (Anima, Rio 1987). In Italy he has published Il percorso dell’idea (petits poèmes en prose, with original photos by Enzo Cei, Vivaldi & Baldecchi, Pontedera 1998), as well as the short stories collections Racconti italiani (Besa, Lecce 2000), La passione del vuoto (Besa, Lecce 2003), L’amore scritto (Besa, Lecce 2007). and the novel madrelingua (Besa, Lecce 2005) . His story L’irruzione was included in the anthology Non siamo in vendita – Voci contro il regime (edited by Stefania Scateni and Beppe Sebaste, with a forward by Furio Colombo, Arcana Libri / L’Unità, Roma 2002). His poetry collection La grazia di casa mia was published by Rediviva in 2014 and many of his poems have been published in various literary journals, including the international three-monthly “Pagine” and the online magazine “El Ghibli”, as well as in the anthologies I confini del verso. Poesia della migrazione in italiano (Florence, Le Lettere 2006) and A New Map: the Poetry of Migrant Writers in Italy (Los Angeles, Green Integer 2006). He was the creator of the event “Scrivere Oltre le Mura”. He lived in Tuscany from the early 2000’s to 2014 where, besides teaching Portuguese and literary translation at the University of Pisa, where he directed and taught the Fiction Workshop in the Masters program of the Scuola Sagarana in Lucca, and was editor in chief of the online literary magazine, “Sagarana” . His posthumous publications in Italian include La macchina sognante (2015), and the novel L’ultima pelle (2019). Many of his poems have appeared in English translation by Helen Wickes and Don Stang in a number of US print and online journals.
Cover image: Artwork by Irene De Matteis.