I am no longer myself, I am this vague twilight
inhabited by conscientious white figures.
Those who were not there, those who had not yet returned and would not return could not see it, but the cold and the cats and the humidity of the night disappeared around sunrise, and there was the sound of banging shutters hitting the facades, and all the light coming inside the houses. A couple of rats scurried into the shadows.
There was hot milk and coffee, and fingers turning the transistor’ dials. You could hear the creep of a chair on the top floor and you would know it was someone getting as close as possible to the equipment in order not to lose a single word, and you could picture an old man paying attention to the voice, to any of the voices, with the hands closed and the eyes open, and then head down in a delicate agitation, breathing hard, until someone switched off the radio and the chair would crawl again to its place until the next newscast. Again the couple hundred eyes that slid along the pages of a newspaper, and again you fold and hide the newspaper, you discarded it in some magazine rack, you threw it in the fireplace to burn it later.
People came out of their houses into the streets, those who were not there did not see how a few men, the older, and women and children, occupied the town; going, coming, crossing each other; they did not see the way they walked in confusion or greeted each other, bought bread, went on errands, anything but stay in war, anything but talk about it or attend to its achievement, participate, even passively, in the war framework, because that that was happening outside was no subject to discuss. You would retain it in thoughts and keep silent; it was uncommunicated. No one alluded to the explosions in the distance, to the letters, to the front stations, to the newspapers in the bin. Though, of course, the feeling persisted, fear in an imprecise, inexact way, just as odours that refuse to leave once for all. Restless gazes and nervous hands and intervals of silence. It was there.
Sometimes, one of the women cried; you could see her sobbing in the landing, sitting on the stairs or leaning her head on her son’s. No one asked why. The others could almost always be found in the kitchen, baking, writing recipes, as if there were nothing more distant from the war to make a dish, create something, maintain order; you could then transform the pain of the battle into culinary matters; change the tanks, the wounded, the blood into bread graters, pans, seasoning, and again this word «bomb», in flour or egg, or yeast. In both cases it was about survival: they, their men, their brothers, their children, crawling on the ground with bullet buzzing over their heads; they, women, mothers and sisters, abandoned in the rooms, unaware of the savagery, waiting. Nothing further from death than a blueberry pie. The old men slept very little and kept silent, listening to the noises or looking at the other side of the town. When they didn’t, they played dominoes in the canteen, with lots of tobacco and lots of wine, among deaf words; they played in silence or with the murmur of coughs and old wounds.