Bearable Lightness

Barbara Gramegna
Bearable Lightness
The boss had told us at a meeting which was tense and to the point.
“You will have heard...ahem, times being what they are...ahem...we are facing challenging times...”, and so on.
Communication had never been Barzetti’s strong suit, but we considered him to be an honest man, with sound principles.
Turns out we were wrong about this as well.
The meeting with all of us, him and two other men we didn’t know, lasted little more than an hour.
The agenda said “Reorganisation”, a word, neutral in itself, which, translated into business jargon means more or less “things aren’t going very well, we have to screw over somebody, today you’ll find out who and how it will affect you.”
After he had stammered out some hackneyed phrases, Barzetti gave the floor to the new Dayaks who, however, in contrast to the terrible headhunters of Borneo, instead of headdresses and grass skirts, were wearing Ermengildo Zegna suits.
I, Govetti, Bruschi and Florio were the first to go, under the axe of the “pullers of the rug from under the feet”, of the “agents of slow, but certain, death”, the freelancers who make cuts but are not hairdressers.
When the two, in turns, began to talk, Bruschi, whose son is permanently behind with his university exams, was doodling furiously on the sheet of paper in front of her.
Govetti, who has two families to support, was continuing to torment his smartphone, as he always used to when his wife, with good reason, gave him the third degree over his trips to Thailand where a magnificent forty year old woman has for the last seven years been included in his monthly outgoings for the purpose of raising Ten, the result of a rather turbulent transfer to Samui.
Florio and I were looking at each other every now and then, and from time to time I typed out under the table a message to him on WhatsApp: “ Flory they’ve screwed us over!”
“I’m gonna hang myself”.
For Florio almost nothing in his life had ever gone well except for that job, which he had obtained thanks to belated studying and a little of the desire to succeed that he had never had in the years of his youth. Some years ago he had finally come to terms with his sexual orientation, something, although it had been a load off his mind on the one hand, continued to create a host of problems for him, not least the financial one of his family and his parallel life with Antonio.
In short, in an hour, without any prior warning, after months of shady and furtive work, our future was about to reveal itself in its various shades of brown.
That time seemed to everyone longer than the mere 60 meagre minutes that they had taken because, apart from the key words which there were to be gleaned – absorption, unloading, reorganisation-, we were all by now disconnected, blocking out completely the sound of the scene in which we were obliged to be dumbfounded participants.
The two “Dayaks” moved with calibrated gestures and displayed the plans which, thanks to “pleasing” inputs and outputs and animations, made our “professional death” seem nothing more than a pleasant slide show, which they had, no doubt, touched up on the metro, searching for the most appropriate colour for the columns of the bar charts.
Each of us was going over in his or her mind the years spent in the company, the myriad birthday parties on the tenth floor, all equally false, but which appeared on each occasion wholly sincere, the awkward communications from Barzetti about the Christmas festivities, where he indulged in pictures of candles and snow crystals, the copyright free ones, where the scene in Sapporo is indistinguishable from Calcutta, where there is often so much snow!

We had just learnt that “our” firm was going to surrender to the German colossus, just for a change.
For me, who had racked up “only” 25 years with them, now that I am 55, what you might call an infamous age, at which you understand what is important but could kill yourself at the thought that for other people nothing matters any more. And yet of all the words that they had rattled off in that hour and of those three concepts, which appeared to me like so many neon signs which intermittently lit up before my eyes amidst the darkness of a death sentence, one stood out for me as brighter and more dazzling than the others:

While I had never given much thought to the words “absorption” and “reorganisation”, “unloading” was a word that I had up to now always associated with a positive liberation from pressures and burdens, like the outing of Florio in fact.
Now, however, for the first time, I had heard in this beautiful sound, the way the ‘l’ rolled off the tongue and the light, open sound of the vowels – it seemed to embody my 55 years and 60 kilos - dead weight that the world was looking to dispose of.
After the eulogy of slowness, from slow-food to slow-life, the time has come to celebrate this unloading, this lightness, which thins out, which makes us fly, without familial burdens for example, perhaps thanks to a divorce blitz; that which requires a life of lightness in order to become pleasing sylphs; that which sends us into orbit stripped of earth’s gravity, the innate burden of we terrestrial beings.
One longs for bearable lightness, the rarefaction of problems, advocating that lightness does not signify superficiality, but simply not giving excessive weight to things, elevating one, passing from the minimal to the essential, until one reaches the ethereal: pure spirit. For once, however, I would have preferred that weight was given, to my 55 years, to my 60 kilos, to my life, to that of Florio, Govetti and Bruschi, because for us now this “lightness” is not at all bearable.

Translated from Italian by Rosanna Forte
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