Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who are you married to? 23/02/10

This morning on my way out of the library I was waylaid by the nosey woman at reception. I knew that sooner or later one of them would have to interrogate me – it would be too much for their inquisitive minds to let me pass by several days a week without even knowing where I come from and who my husband is. They have absolutely nothing to do in this beautiful old palazzo comunale where the library is; I often wonder if their work is voluntary, as they could not afford to pay ten people to do nothing. At least I hope that is not what our endless taxes go on. That said, there were 4 traffic wardens (called, importantly in Italian, Polizia Municipale) dealing with deviated traffic at the crossroads at Piazza Roma today – where in most countries you would see one person. But that’s Italy. Two were in conversation, one was smoking a cigarette, and the other was actually directing the traffic.

Anyway, the nosey lady gets straight to the point. What are you doing here? – It’s pretty obvious, I’m consulting the books in the library. Do you live here or are you just passing though? Should have said just passing through and made a quick getaway. Where do you live? Who is your husband? I know your in-laws. I know his uncle who has a shop in town. His wife was in the hairdresser-s last week. Who are you? I manage to get in. She reluctantly gives me her name, then adds her maiden name – though she doesn’t like me asking her questions. 'I’m a dipendente comunale' (she works for the town council), she said immediately as if that was part of her name. A self-defined civil servant. She must have been proud of it. When did you get married, where did you get married, and don’t you have any children yet? When are you thinking of having children? At this point I realized she had a screw loose, although these questions are probably considered demonstration of interest among provincial Sicilians. I started backing away towards the door, but she wanted to know where I would be having lunch. Eh? At home, like yourself, I would imagine. Well, you know how you foreigners eat strange things. I mean, do you cook? She peered at me obviously expecting a negative. I said my husband did all the cooking and I was rarely in the kitchen, just to throw her completely. It stopped her in her tracks, so I left her with her mouth open.

I had just been reading in Il Giorno della Civetta what the Capitano Bellodi thinks about family in Sicily. He says it is lo Stato: The family is the State for the Sicilian. Sicilians are not interested in taxes, the army, other systems which make the state function. They are only interested in the institution of the family, in which they can cross the confines of their tendency towards a tragic solitude and adapt to cohabitation – so Sciascia appeared to think, using Bellodi as his spokesperson. That nosey madwoman will think she has me all worked out now since she managed to paint a network in her head of my husband’s family tree.

Sometimes living in Sicily feels so heavy. The weight of all those stares, all those tongues wagging on your behalf. Oh for the annonymity of the city.

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