Come on X! For god sake! We must leave now!
Put everything in your bag and let`s go!
X hastily put another pack of pencils and a few books into her back pack and ran away from the shop together with A and C, two boys she had met at school.
X was 10 years old when she moved home with her parents. This new neighbourhood was worse than ever: blocks of grey council houses everywhere and tiny, sad green areas with no trees. The roads were dirty, full of garbage and entire sets of broken furniture. Every now and then cars were burnt out and left at the edge of the sidewalks. There were more outcasts, more poor, uncultured people. The children were rascals; more rude, more wild, less intelligent, poorly clothed … Her parents, scared of the people around them, banned her from any outdoor activities. At least they tried to. X longed for the time she had spent with her grandma. Even though for a child this new area could have been a smaller version of the Bronx, X developed a huge curiosity for these new people that she saw when walking to buy cigarettes for her dad. Her parents seemed more absent then ever and her brother was increasingly busy with his even idiotic friends. Time was going fast and suddenly X wasn’t a baby anymore. She decided to explore this new world.
The most ironic thing of all – and also the favourite thing of X was the name of the road: Music Boulevard ! How can such a bad neighbourhood be named this extraordinary name? She really liked the sound of it.
Her first term at secondary school was about to start and the choice for her parents was way too easy to make. They didn’t feel that they needed to spend much time looking for the best school in town. They just sent her to the public school closest to their new home. It was a grey building with a tall red gate and an enormous willow tree at the main entrance. There was a small green piece of land around the perimeter of the school; everything totally made it look like an austere and intimidating institutionalised building. Inside though, there was the biggest mess you could imagine for a secondary school; with wild repressed children in small classrooms, teachers shouting in every corner, dust and garbage in the corridors, dozens of future criminals smoking in the toilets. The first day there is now the only one that X remembers.
X’s mum did her best that day to advise her about what she should wear for her first day at school. She had never cared too much, but she thought that that particular day was kind of important. X didn’t know what the school was like yet but she wasn’t particularly excited. Now she remembers the fear she felt whilst looking around at the children all divided into groups; chatting, laughing and shouting. She was the only one alone waiting for the bell to ring.
8.30 am: the sound of the bell was so loud that everyone in the road could have heard it. X imagined the people still sleeping in their bedrooms, inside the council houses in front of the school, swearing to God for they had been woken up by that deafening ring.
In that school something shocking happened every single day. Well, these things were shocking at least for the fragile teenage X. Somehow, luckily or unluckily, X forgot many things but someone she will never forget is G, a boy of her age who used to beat down the French teacher and who would slap every girl who didn’t let him touch her. She will never forget E, an extremely aggressive girl, older than X, who was already pregnant at the age of 16. She will never forget M, a fat bully girl who would punch all the younger girls who dared argue with her about boys. X tried her best to be a transparent ghost – quiet, silent, accommodating. She tried to operate in the same way that she did during primary school but now it was harder; children were more noisy, more curious, more evil, more arrogant, and unfortunately they were somehow attracted to X. The more she tried to avoid them, the more attention she got. Inevitably, no matter what she did the attention always ended in unfortunate events. Due to some fortune, she forgot most of these events. The sharp details faded into her memories but still nowadays she has recurring flashbacks of those days. Broken dreams became merged with sad realities; fragments of a broken adolescence lived out in those small toilets where lambs became wolves, and perhaps unconsciously, innocence faded away. Violence became the only daily and consistent reality, and ironically the safest feeling became fear. The only way to escape the violence was to accept it. Acceptance transformed the abuse into guilt, violence into a normality, because people are “normally” evil.
Meanwhile, X’s parents were just co-existing in the same house. They were a presence that was not particularly active except on Sundays, when X’s dad watched football matches and X’s mum called her to talk (often crying) in her big bed. X enjoyed the fresh smell of the clean cotton, flowery sheets in those summer days. Summer was her favourite season, mainly because there were no school classes to attend; no evil children from whom to protect herself. The best memories of X though, are all beside the sea. That infinite dark blue. Her parents had no money but her dad’s greatest passion was spend time in the sea. They would take little trips around the bay close to the town in which they lived. When X was 11 years old there was little time for trips, but still some weekends her dad was in the mood to show X the constant and powerful blue giant. Those were the best times spent with her dad. She felt so committed to the sea. She observed its vast mass changing while the sun light danced upon it, and the ships passed by.
We all came from the sea. – And it is a very interesting biological fact that every single human being holds in its veins the exact same percentage of salt in the blood that exists in the sea water. This is the reason why we have salt content in our blood and our tears are briny. When we go back to the sea – whether it is to fish, to sail or just to watch it, it is like going back to whence we came. Therefore we are all tied to this shapeless, tranquil, unrelenting and majestic blue mass.
A and C were the only two people who X might call something similar to friends. They were two dirty, poorly dressed and unattractive boys who lived 15 minutes walking distance from Music Boulevard. Their mums used to talk to each other from their windows. Chatting loudly so everybody could hear them from across the street. They were both fat, uncultured middle-aged women with dark eyes, dark hair and an army of children between them. X had counted 9 kids, but she didn’t know exactly who was from which family. The families were so interconnected that they merged into each other like one. But A and C were not brothers, they were just 2 really close friends. Friendship was another one of those strange concepts that X couldn’t understand at that time. Her mum had always said that Love and Friendship are momentary and the real ones are more rare, utopias than anything else. Being poor, A and C had to steal books, pencils and everything they needed for school. Often they even had to steal clothes and food. They stole from small shops and big shopping centers, trade malls, open local markets or wherever the occasion arose to steal something that could have been useful. As X became good friends with them, she started stealing with them too. In the beginning she didn’t steal much as she was scared of getting caught, but after a while she began to enjoy having finally pencils, good pens, good notebooks and a real diary just for herself. X’s mum never asked where these new things were from, until one day they were caught by a security guard disguised in casual clothes. Apparently guards were co-operating with the local police, studying their movements as they had become somehow very predictable. On the day which the police caught them they had many things in their backpacks including music cassettes, entire stocks of pencils and pens, books and clothes. A even had flower pot which was very expensive. Their parents were all called. X’s dad was extremely angry. Although finally his attention was caught by X, his reaction was demented and violent. Again X was forced to become estranged and move on. She will never forget the pain of being dragged out from her bed and punched, then kicked and finally left on the floor. She didn’t cry.
Meanwhile that summer, in another country, and another totally different scenario and environment – it was an ordinary hot day (for X at least) and a baby girl had just been born. Her parents were not really ready to have a child but she seemed so ‘pretty’. That tiny human being, helpless and vulnerable, didn’t know yet who she was going to be or which place in life she was going to have.