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Authors: Manuela Pigna

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Bonjour
,”
I begin, trying to at least sound indifferent, if I can’t manage nice.

Andrea
says hi, while the other two greeted me as soon as they arrived.

“What’s
good today?” Nic asks immediately.

“There’s
the tart that I made!” Comes out spontaneously. “Blueberry tart,” I add
proudly.

“I’ll
have it, I can’t not encourage the skills of a budding cook…” Says Nic.

“Me
too,” Andrea says immediately. I look at him for a moment. He’s never ordered
anything to eat since they started coming here. Anyway I don’t comment, I don’t
want to make him feel uncomfortable because of this novelty. And I know
everything about discomfort, for this reason I’m scrupulously careful.

“I
really want to try it too,” adds Linda.

I
chuckle, and after having taken their drinks order, I lean on the counter to
give Rosy the slip and yell towards the door of the kitchen, “Three slices have
already gone!”

I
hear Leo’s deep voice yelling back, “We’ll see!”

I
busy myself with another table in the meantime, two girls who come often and
who’ve already asked me for information about Nic and Andrea before. Today they
must be a little hesitant because of Linda’s presence.

When
I return with the orders, Linda asks me, “Can’t you sit with us two seconds?”

I
look around. Apart from Madame Barbieri who, when it’s my turn at the tables,
stays a little apart because she won’t give up the counter even if you weep in
Chinese, there are only the two girls I’ve already served.  “Ok,” I answer
sitting down beside Linda, then raising my voice adding, “But only two minutes
because Leo is a slave driver!”

I
hear the bass voice from the kitchen, “I heard you!”

I
smile to myself and then turn towards Linda. I can’t bring myself in any way to
meet Andrea’s gaze. I can’t do it. At least until he speaks to me I can avoid
it.

“It’s
really good,” Nic says right away – he’s attacking his slice of tart with a vengeance.
I turn around quickly, “Really?”

He
nods and with his mouth half full says, “I think I’ll have another.”

I
straighten up in my chair. “Really?” And for the first time, I realize that I
am truly happy. Making something to eat for others, and having them really
appreciate it, is almost as lovely and satisfying as eating yourself. I have to
remember that.

“It’s
true, it’s really good,” adds Linda, with her head bowed over her plate and her
fork in hand.

“Really?”
I repeat turning towards her, now desperate to find another word. She nods.
And, before I can stop myself, I turn towards him, because I want to see his
face while he eats my tart even more than I don’t want to see his sudden love
for Linda. But what I find is him watching me. I lower my eyes to his piece of
tart, half eaten, and then I look up, waiting for a comment, but he doesn’t say
anything. He lowers his head and continues to eat.

My
shoulders drop slightly, but I hope no-one notices.

“I’ll
have a second round,” says Nic raising his head. I jump up and take his empty
plate. “I’ll bring it right away!”

I
almost regret having cut up the whole tart and having made such small slices.
When I return with Nic’s second slice, Andrea passes me his empty plate. “Me
too.”

I
squint my eyes and look at Linda, who catches my look and laughing, hurries to
say, “No, it’s really good, but for me no.”

When
I return with Andrea’s seconds, I sit down again beside Linda, who is typing
something on her telephone. I lean over and read the draft for an sms:
I
confirm the Brad Pitt level.

I
chuckle, hoping to seem amused, but a vice tightens on my stomach, overfull of
muffin among other things. I hand her the telephone and, after a few seconds,
she types again:
But no-one is more handsome than Marco.

I
smile once again and, silently, give it back.

“We
should do something like this too, Andre,” says Nic, elbowing Andrea. “We’ll
tell each other secrets via sms…”

Andrea
observes us without commenting, while finishing the second slice.

“What
do you have to tell each other that we can’t hear?” Nic persists.

“Who
said that we had something to say?” Answers Linda smartly. “Maybe I was showing
her a photo…”

“Hmm…”

“Olly?”
Rosy calls me, with a touch of ill-disguised satisfaction. “Table six.”

I
turn to the two girls who are looking around, in search of me. “I have to go,”
I say standing up.

After
having served the girls again – who I try to push my tart to with great nonchalance
– the moment I’m behind the counter, Linda and the others get up from the
table. Nic waves, Linda says bye and makes a sign towards the telephone, as
though to say “later we’ll talk”, while Andrea takes two steps towards me but
is intercepted by Rosy. I wave to him and go to clean the empty tables.

Rosy
is doing what I told her to do, that is, asking him for his number herself. The
thing doesn’t affect me, anyway Andrea is practically Linda. Would I feel my
insides twist if Rosy asked for Linda’s number? Maybe I’d find it mildly
irritating, because Linda is mine in a certain sense, but it wouldn’t twist my
insides. It’s just that I’m cleaning this table with too much energy… The table
in question is that beside the two girls, who suddenly stop chatting. I lift my
head to understand the reason for this silence and find Andrea two centimeters
from my face. I do a mini-jump back. “Quit moving around so silently.”

“Why
the sad face?”

“I
thought you had gone…” And I look out of the cafè windows to see if Nic and
Linda are waiting for him, but they’ve already gone.

“Could
you manage to answer for a change?” He says with a tone that makes me turn immediately
towards him.

“I
don’t have a sad face.”

“What
do you mean. You lit up for an instant only for the moment of the tart,” says
Andrea putting his hands in his pockets. “Do I have to eat a third slice to see
you smile?”

I
smile automatically, but I quickly move towards the other table, a little
farther away from the girls, who with an effort return to chatting. I start to
clean it even though it’s already clean and he follows me. “What’s wrong?”

How
I’d like to answer with the truth, to answer that I’m hating myself right now,
mostly about the muffins, but also for what I feel, and what I felt two seconds
ago and what I’m still feeling now. How I’d like to ask him, “Did you give your
number to Rosy?”, “Will you go out with her?”, “Will you kiss her?”, “Will you
touch her?”, “Do you like Rosy? Or do you like Linda?
La marvelous
Linda…”

In
the real world I answer, “Nothing.”

Andrea
blows out, “You know what I’d like for once?”

I
lift my head from the table and he takes it as an invitation to continue, “I’d
like it if you’d answer my questions.”

“But
really nothing’s the matter.”

With
his hands still in his pockets he looks around for a moment. He moves those
transparent eyes from me and, allowing me to observe him longer while he is
distracted, I realize that he hasn’t shaved today because he has a light growth
of blond hair around his mouth and chin and cheeks… He takes a breath to speak
and then stops. He seems to be struggling with himself to say something. In the
end he looks at me again, because someone like Andrea is not a coward like me,
and says, “What were you eating before?”

My
eyes widen and I blush.

“Is
that why you’re angry? Why you’re sad?”

I
have trouble answering. “You s-saw me?”

“That
was not your breakfast you were eating, was it?” He continues as though I
hadn’t spoken.

I
shake my head and he nods.

“How
do you know about certain mental mechanisms?” I ask him, sincerely curious. I’m
also happy that he attributes my mood entirely to that.

“Maybe
one day,” he answers with a half-smile, “when you answer one of my three
thousand questions which have fallen on deaf ears, I’ll answer that one.”

I
smile, without insisting.  After all, I don’t have the right to.

He
looks at the floor for a second, then, again serious he tells me gently, “Don’t
let it bother you. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Continue as though you hadn’t
done anything wrong this morning. Ok?”

I
nod quickly, and he smiles. “See you later then?”

I
nod again and he smiles again. “See you.”

“See
you,” I reply, while he’s already leaving.

I
notice the two girls who, still at the table, follow him with their eyes as he
leaves the shop.

When
I near their table to go to the other part of the room, one of the two calls
me.

“Yes?”
I ask, coming right over, thinking that they wanted something to drink or eat.

“Is
that your boyfriend?” She asks me instead, making a gesture with her head to
the door that Andrea just left from.

I
laugh as an answer. “But seriously, does that seem possible to you?”

She
shakes her head and shrugs, without giving a real answer, maybe out of
politeness. I leave their table to go to Madame Barbieri, who has been watching
me for who knows how long, and in an infinitesimal way I feel a little better
after Andrea’s words.

 

8.

 

Today
is weighing day. While I walk towards Andrea’s car – he’s already out, standing
and reading some loose pages – I prepare myself psychologically. I hope it’s
gone well.

A
whole month has gone by since the last weighing and, in practice, I haven’t
done a real diet. That is, I haven’t done a diet at all but I have worked a
great deal from a psychological point of view, thanks to Andrea’s book. I have
done a lot of “exercises” but I’m still working. Even if today goes badly, I’m
satisfied. For the first time I feel the beginning of a profound change, not
exclusively corporeal. I’ve spent the month carefully listening to my stomach
and almost always contenting it and I’ve realized that majority of the time,
it’s my mind, in a certain sense, that wants to eat. I’ve discovered that I eat
because of negative emotions like stress, fear and anxiety, in order to calm
and console myself, but also because of positive emotions, to give myself a
prize after doing something well. In reality, any excuse is valid for eating.
I’ve learned to wait a minute before stuffing the first thing I find into my
mouth, because emotions are energy shields which pass on their own - they go
through us and it’s enough to give them the time, without anything tremendous
happening. Certainly it’s not always easy, sometimes I’ve made mistakes, I’ve
reacted in the usual way before realizing it, but right afterwards, I started
to listen to myself again. And, I have to say, listening so deeply to myself is
more difficult than any diet I’ve ever done in my life, but I feel like this is
the right path. Towards the end of the month I made some meals following
Andrea’s advice, but not many – I’ve just started that phase. Yes, I am
satisfied, but I don’t know what I’ll tell Andrea if I haven’t even dropped a
gram… I’m a little afraid of this...

“Hi,”
I say hesitating, as soon as I reach him.

He
looks up smiling and quickly puts the pages away. “Today we’ll weigh
ourselves.”

I
sigh. “I know.”

He
puts his hands on his hips. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid… You can tell just by
looking that you’ve lost weight!”

“Really?”
I think for a bit. “Well actually my pants are a little looser…”.

He
waves at me to join him by the trunk. “Don’t you ever weigh yourself at home?”

“No.
Only with you. What an honor, right?” I joke to lighten the tension.

Andrea
gets the scale, he places it in front of my feet as usual. He hasn’t shaved
today either and this slight beard makes him even more beautiful, if possible. I
sigh and get on.

Seventy-seven
and a half.

I
jerk my head up and see him, all smiles, looking at the display on the scale.
“I can’t believe it!” I almost shout. He lifts his head and laughs. He’s beside
me, as always, but this time, instead of bothering me, I’m happy about his
closeness. I turn on impulse and embrace him. “I’m so happy…” I whisper near
his ear.

He
stiffens for an instant, immobile, then I feel his arms encircle me, picking me
up off the scale and setting me down a second afterwards. I detach myself
immediately once my feet touch the ground. When I look at him I can’t seem to
apologize in any other way than by repeating, “I’m so happy!”

He
nods, but his smile isn’t as big as before. Maybe I’ve embarrassed him…

Unnerved,
I take a step back and point to the scale. “Your turn.”

He
steps on and I come closer again. “Eighty-one and a half!” I exclaim,
contented. “You’ve gone up,” I tell him happily.

He
laughs and scratches his neck. “Yeah, well… it’s not much, but… it’s fine.”

With
the scale back in the trunk we go towards the track, following a series of
movements and steps that are, by now, familiar.

“How
much do you have to be to do the Iron Man?” I ask him with a new exuberance and
energy in my voice.

He
puts his hands in his pockets, while we start walking to warm ourselves up
before starting to run. “Huh? No, I don’t have to be a specific weight to do
the Iron…”

“Oh…
So then why do you want to gain weight?”

He
looks at me just for a second before turning towards the waiting road and
scratches his neck again. “It’s because… I’m too thin.”

“What?”
I ask him in a loud voice.

He
shrugs.

“But
it’s not true! You’re fine as you are!” I can’t believe that he feels less than
perfect...

“Not
by too much, only a couple of kilos,” he says shaking his head.

“Andrea
please…” I catch up and pull his sleeve to make him turn towards me. “You’re
perfect as you are! What are you saying?” I say, incredulous, doing my best to
convince him with my expression and tone.

He
gazes at me for a moment before saying, “What would you tell me if I told you
that you are perfect as you are too?”

I
take back my hand, immediately on the defensive. “I’d tell you that you were
absurd, because I am objectively overweight, while you are objectively
perfect.”

He
shakes his head. “That’s not what I meant… And anyway you haven’t ever seen me
without any clothes.”

And
thank God!
 I think almost desperately.  Already as
it is it’s difficult to keep in mind that he’s practically Linda and out of my
league. If I had seen him without clothes it would be impossible.

That’s
not what I say. What I say is, “Andrea, according to the charts done by the
crème
de la crème
of science, I am overweight by at least twenty kilos, you,
still according to these charts, are perfect. What do you think a couple more
kilos will do?” I pause and then add, with a small note of disappointment in my
voice, “I didn’t think you were one of those people who gets obsessed with the
tiniest details…”

He
snaps around. “I’m not obsessed!” He answers with a certain heat. “I certainly
don’t make a sickness out of it, but, since I feel a little hollow here,” he
indicates his upper torso, mostly his pectorals, “and since you were beginning
a program… I thought I’d do one with you, in a certain sense, with my own
objective.”  After a second he adds, “But I can also not do it. I’m fine like
this too.”

At
this point I burst out laughing. “I’m fine”… one of his nicknames is the “Sun
God” and he says, “I’m fine”… this guy is crazy, poor thing.

“What
are you laughing about?”

I
shake my head. “Do me a favor, don’t do anything. You are not hollow at all,
you’re all muscle. You’re absolutely fine as you are, don’t create problems for
yourself where there are none,” I tell him seriously. “I thought there was a
sort of minimum weight for the Iron…” I add after a bit. “If I had known before
where your idea was coming from, I would have advised you against it, not
encouraged it!”

He
steals a glance at me, then bursts out laughing. “A minimum weight for the
Iron…” He shakes his head and laughs again. “I’ve never met anyone so ignorant
about sports in my life!”

“Hey!”
I say with a fake frown.

He
begins to run and I follow him.

“I
have to tell you something,” he says, all smiles.

“Another
thing?”

He
laughs softly, mysteriously. “Yes.”

“I
hope it’s more intelligent than the last thing you told me.”

He
laughs, then drops the bomb. “I’m in love.”

Oh
crap… I knew it…

I
look straight ahead, I can’t help swallowing – I hope he doesn’t notice – and I
can’t manage to look at him.

“I’m
smitten.”

Fine.
No, really fantastic.

“I’m
madly in love.”

Ok,
kill me with a knife, you’ll save time
.

Forget
“Andrea is practically Linda”… The mantra can be dumped.

“Aren’t
you going to ask me who?” He says vaguely impatient when he sees I won’t open
my mouth.

I
look at him and see him looking at me with a half-smile on his lips, his cheeks
a little red and his eyes of ice shining. “Well… frankly I don’t think I know
her…”

I
hope
I don’t know her…

“You
know her.”

Indeed
.
“Oh…”

“Well?
You’re not curious? You’re not going to ask me who?”

It
can only be Linda or Rosy. I don’t know which option would be worse. I don’t
want to do a guessing game. He can tell me himself since he’s dying to do so.
When they talk about the death of the heart… “With who?”

He
smiles and triumphantly announces, “With Lisbeth Salander.”

I
jerk around with my eyes popping and then burst out laughing. “You said you had
to do your thesis! That you didn’t have time to read!”

He
shakes his head. “In fact, I should have, but…”

“But
when did you get it?” I interrupt him.

He
makes a contrite face. “Almost immediately. And it was a mistake, but I was too
curious…” He shakes his head. “You’re good… Really good…” He observes me with a
sort of stupefied admiration. “How did you know that I’d like it? I can’t stop
myself… those books are like a drug… and luckily I got all three together, so
when one’s finished I go right to the next.”

“All
three together?” I ask dumbfounded. “You went to the bookstore and bought all
three at the same time?”

He
nods as though it is the most natural thing in the world. “You recommended I
read the trilogy, not one of the three.” Precise, as usual. Almost annoying in
his fastidiousness in everything he does. “When I saw how big they were, in
effect I thought you were a little crazy… But then I began the first…”

He
doesn’t finish the sentence. “I know.”

“You
know, the first is different from the other two,” he says while looking ahead,
staring with concentration at something he isn’t really seeing. “The other two
are more… cerebral, I’d say.”

I
open my mouth without closing it again. “But… you’ve already gone through all
three?”

“No,
I’ve just started the third.”

I
laugh.

“Don’t
recommend anything else until I graduate!”

I
laugh again.

“And
Lisbeth… Ah, Lisbeth…” He says with a dreamy air.

I
am seriously entertained. “I know, she had the same effect on me.”

He
turns to me. “Really? And Mikail?”

I
look at him as though I were offended. “Mikail? Naaahh! A middle-aged man - conceited
- who behaves like an eighteen year old boy in his relationships? He’s not my
type!” I say firmly.

“And
what is your type then?”

“Oh,
my type…” I pretend to think about it, but I’ve had the answer ready for almost
ten years. “My type is Mr. Darcy. The most perfect man ever created by the
human mind.”

Andrea
raises an eyebrow. “Is this another book? It hasn’t anything to do with the
Millenium
trilogy
…”

“No,
it’s another book.  It’s
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen.”

“I
told you no more books until I graduate!” He reprimands me, but with a smile on
his lips.

I
laugh. “But I’m not suggesting this one for you… It would be a stretch, for a
man.”

We
go on chatting like this until the end of the workout. At the moment of
stretching I throw myself on the ground, wrecked (also because today was the
first time I’ve run for fifteen minutes in a row) and I beg him, “Andrea… please,
don’t ruin my day, let me do my stretching from a distance…”

He
doesn’t comment. He remains in his place and talk as though I hadn’t opened my
mouth. “I was thinking that we could add a new sport, just to vary the workout
a little.

“Oh,”
I answer, nodding. “Ok. What?”

“Swimming.
It’s a really complete sport.”

Yeah,
great, you’ll never see me in a bathing suit.
 “Ok,
but I’ll go alone.”

He
regards me in silence before saying slowly, “But how are you going to go alone
when I’m supposed to teach you?”

“But
I know how to swim,” I answer as though it were the most obvious thing in the
world.

He
straightens up and stops. He stares at me in silence, suddenly serious.

I
straighten up in turn, holding his gaze.

“It
seems to me that you said…” He speaks in a slow, threatening voice, tipping his
head slightly, “the first day, that you didn’t know how to do anything… that
you had never done anything in your life…”

Calmly
I answer, “I lied.”

“You
lied,” he repeats, staring at me with those damned blue headlights.

I
nod.

He
remains with his mouth open for a second before saying, “Why?”

I
don’t answer.

Almost
immediately he rolls his eyes skyward and puffs, then sighs noisily, “You won’t
answer, right?”

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