The First Day of Autumn on Earth
(an excerpt)

Translated from Italian by Julia Conrad

There is a certain spot, here in Rapallo, near the castle, where you will find the shop I live in—the shop is filled with Cristina’s movements, her undressing me and dressing me, endless measuring gestures amid the clutter. On my head Cristina tries hats with noble brims. They puff across my wooden skin, add meaning to my featureless face.

The relationship between me and things is not born from contact chosen on my part because nothing in my body responds to my will to move—this puts a clear distance between me and what things are. This is my existence.

I often delude myself that the communication between me and a human will become true the moment I am put in a different position from the moment before; a human like Cri’, but then again Cri’ loves Stefano—I believe there is meaning behind being forced into the posture of someone waiting for the bus, this effort in my life as her mannequin: the meaning found by someone who knows that movement is all on the other side, in the infinite space beyond the shop window.

I know that infinite space exists out there. I understand this thanks to a single consideration: that every day, hour after hour, I see countless men and women and children walking. Their number tends towards infinity, but it is well known that the sum of bodies does not translate to a finite space—at least, not human bodies.

They scare me, the men—I know each goes about his way wearing his own mask like an animal: Cristina wears the mask of a titmouse: her blue feathers, her beak a little stone. But her, no. She doesn’t scare me.

I rather fell in love with Cri’—like the love between a mole and a bat, the sympathy that binds the different. Sometimes I want to declare my feeling to her, but I don’t really know how she lives—I love her as an object. Like now, I observe her training in the gymnasium of misunderstandings—there is a certain spot on a tile, and all of Cristina’s instinct grows from it, the instinct to restrain herself from turning her face to Stefano. I observe that Cristina pretends to ignore what she most desires, but I don’t understand why.

Someone approaches the window, someone approaches the front door—Cristina and Stefano separate slightly from one another so as to edge near again if this someone does not enter. There is this torpedo-like movement that Stefano’s words make. They fill the space, they go through Cristina’s body causing her to slightly spasm—they ask her for hope, but it’s already broken, broken.

Stefano has words about Agnes, about the pain those dead things make in her belly—Cristina rests a hand on her breast. All the movement bangs against the walls, but nothing is moving. I close my eyes even though I don’t have them—I imagine running on the waterfront, training myself for the war of those who know movement: to demand the life of at least one enemy, take off my dendromorph mask. To plunge my wooden hands into the sea, to feel my veins swelling, know my skin assaulted by salt, to fear the fate of the tree: to be burned to the roots—to release the octopus of life.

When I open my eyes again, Stefano raises his voice a little, then shuts a burst of nerves, strikes the checkout counter with his palm—but if Cristina seeks him in caress he will be unable to withhold his chest. Then her voice is lost to nothingness —perhaps not even heard. Cri’ was upset when Ste’ told her that the house also belongs to Cordano and Recaldo, that he and Agnes cannot get anything out of it, not even a penny—and if I was able to figure it out, that Cri’ was upset, then imagine Ste’. It was the only thing he said and then he fell silent.

There is this all-too-human ability to replicate the movement of a spring to infinity: move closer to be hurt, move away when you feel desire, move closer to be hurt, move away when you feel desire. This world really must be walkable to infinity.

I know the movement of Cristina’s hands. I know their care running down the path of a button on a shirt—it’s like this every time: after speaking with Stefano, her fingers lose their instincts. They follow the will to perform an action and that only, as if Cristina felt the need to regain possession of a rationality that was escaping her.

When he is gone, I understand that she’d like to follow his steps past the shop window, I know this from the fact that she doesn’t even look at him—there is a certain spot, in the hollow of my wooden armpit, behind which all my love for Cristina gathers. This love often spreads down to my heart, even though I have no heart. It hurts like screws, as if caused by a fire—the kind that no longer knows where to direct its hatred so it burns down the entire hill.


Published by arrangement with Elastica Literary Agency, Bologna.