Gabriele Chiapparini
It had reached that point in the day when Raffaele was forced to untie the knots that secured the curtains of the rooms facing west. The sun was now positioned directly in front of the house, and, before long, it would begin to set, flooding the kitchen ceiling with light, where he was currently washing up the last of the dinner things. The light, refracted by the glasses, created little rainbow fragments on his skin. Raffaele had only managed to buy this place a few years ago, and it had been just a few months since it was completely habitable. He had searched for ages for a house in exactly this position. A house which faced east, south and west. Situated high enough to be able to enjoy, for a few minutes each day, the sun on the ceiling of the west-facing rooms. Secluded enough but with a residential hub just a few kilometres away. Barely 20 metres from some trees, sufficient in number to be called a wood but not so many as to spoil the view and burden the soul. That’s why, when he found this place, he had scarcely given second thought to the fact that it was a ruin, nor did it bother him that the repairs to be done seemed infinite. He sought to close the deal as quickly as possible and threw himself wholeheartedly into the business of restoration: first as an architect, which was his profession, and then, after he had retired, as a labourer.

Up until now he had always lived in the city, and as a boy he had thrived on all that buzz and excitement, as an adult he had used it to his advantage, and eventually simply tolerated it. In the end it had consumed him. In those last years he had come to see his apartment as temporary arrangement, though he had lived there most of his life: first after just setting up the studio, then with Sofia and then with the children, until gradually he found himself alone once again. It had been in that period that he had taken, with increasing frequency, to driving out in search of this house. At that point it was more a vision, a sensation than anything concrete. From dawn till dusk he would comb the kilometres of mountains surrounding the city, stopping only when the darkness forced to return home. Night was drawing in when he first saw the ruin. It suddenly emerged from behind a bend in the road, a black silhouette on the cerulean sky. He hadn’t been quite certain where he was and the next day he feared he might not find it again. Now, as he rinsed the foam from his hands, he felt that he was exactly where he wanted to be. He dried them with the dish cloth that he kept next to the sink, went to get his shoes and, with some difficulty, put them on. He took his puffer jacket and pulled the zipper up half way. He peered out of the window. It was almost time. He set the teapot on the stove, went out and headed for the vegetable patch. He was aware of how pointless this last turn about the vegetable patch was, the one he took every day before sunset. It is not so that everything which is indispensable must also be useful, he thought. Checking that everything had been done and all was in order. Seeing all the work that had been completed that day, taking a mental note of the results. It was gratifying. It did him good. The lavender planted the year before was now attracting lots of pollinators and as a result vegetable garden was looking increasingly alive, functioning, like a little eco-system all of its own. He approached it. He took some flowers between his fingers and sniffed them. He admired the soil he had turned over that day. It was still soaking up the droplets of rain that had fallen in the afternoon. He could feel the sun on the back of his neck, hot and delicate as only the sun at that hour could be. His face, however, which was in the shade, felt as though it were being stung by the crisp, biting mountain air. He turned and made his way slowly towards the house, went in, poured the tea and then hurried out again. He took the chair that was next to the entrance, propped up against the side of the house, and crossed the meadow towards the sun. He walked for a dozen metres or so, then he stopped, set down the chair and, bending his knees, slowly lowered himself into it. Just in time to watch as the earth swallowed up the first scrap of light. He closed his eyes and tried as he did every evening to commit the sensation to memory, to own it, just in case he might one day find it impossible to relive it. He wanted to remember it and to remember it well. Not just that. He wanted to be conscious, as aware as possible of how he was living, through his skin and through his being, in that moment. His eyes were closed. He watched the fiery red behind his eyelids as it grew gradually fainter. For the spring, he thought, it was still quite nippy. When he opened his eyes again the last patch of light was still there, though within a few seconds it would disappear behind the horizon. He stayed to feel how, slowly but surely, the temperature began to drop. The shapes which surrounded him, shadowless now, had become lost some of their substance. It was that period, that strange limbo of light and weather, which is neither day, nor night, and which in cinema he had heard called the “golden hour” (and he couldn’t help but agree). The scent of moss and the still-damp bark of the trees filled his nostrils. He brought the cup to his lips, inhaled before taking his first sip. He waited a few minutes for the owl to start up its song. Every night Raffaele, flushed with excitement, would answer. And every night the owl would reply to him in turn and so it would continue until Raffaele decided enough was enough, and, at peace, would make his way towards the house.

Translation by Rosanna Forte
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