Plastic Flowers for Italians
Butchered in Auto Accidents
Just as in any other Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, nation where religion molds overly the social, economic and political mores of its inhabitants, there is a premium especially, in Italy, on objects that reflect miserableness whether they be crucifixes, hermetically-sealed glass coffins containing dead-for-centuries holy people, statues dripping with blood, priests with holes in their hands, bleeding sacred hearts...ad infinitum. From my perspective, these symbols prompt the Italians I live with to accommodate a unique disposition that induces them to lament. And they do it so well! But what is worse, Italians expect you to join in with them in sharing happenings which, in other cultures, might not be thought of as being edifying. Italians want to be felt sorry for. The “catch-22” here is that if you do commiserate, you are doing yourself a good deed, and for that you should be thankful to the Italians for this blessed opportunity. An Italian will not thank you. You must thank him or her. By giving thanks, you submit. Nothing pleases the racist Italians more than your recognition of their quasi-fascist sense of superiority, their contrived haughtiness. Half of the Italians live in the 1930s; the other half live in the 1960s. These desperate souls are struggling in vain to be something they are not without acknowledging the dreadfully tragic consequences of their actions which are often violent and self-destructive.
It is customary to see plastic containers or milk cartons holding flowers attached to poles or fences near to where an automobile or motorcycle mishap killed an often inebriated or doped Italian causal agent. Years ago there used to be real flowers in these make-shift recipients, but today they are plastic and in some places, where collisions are frequent, ten to fifteen bouquets might be visualized in rows—propped up there sometimes for years, the artificial floral arrangements now blanched by the sun and covered with the soot and grime from passing buses, trucks, cars, scooters and even, on occasion, horse-drawn carriages.
One late morning in Sesto Fiorentino, I approached the bus stop where I was to wait to travel on to Firenze. About four or five metres beyond, I could see a young woman kneeling down and preparing to set up a composition of “live” flowers which laid on the pavement in rolled newspaper pages right next to her. I went over.
“May I ask what you are doing, please?”
She looked up startled and responded compactly, but very softly:
“I'm composing these flowers for my brother.”
“Your brother?” I quizzed.
“Yes. He was killed here four years ago in a motorcycle accident.
I come here every month with flowers for him.”
I told her I was very sorry and she nodded her appreciation very demurely.
She was a comely individual and exceptionally sensitive in the way she expressed herself.
I wanted to do something for her.
I changed the tone of my voice somewhat to express my seriousness.
“Do you really think your brother would want you to be here so sad
commemorating his brutal death again and again and again?
Don't you think he would want you to go on with your life--
to be happy, to be free from the gloominess this tragedy causes you?”
In an instant, she burst out sobbing.
Her face was red as a beet.
I put my hand on her shoulder to soothe her.
Suddenly, she stood up.
As if she had been regenerated.
She closed in on me and abruptly hugged me almost violently.
She walked away.
The flowers remained on the sidewalk.
I refused to call after her.
When she turned out of sight at the corner,
I picked up the flowers.
I returned to the bus stop.
I waited for a beautiful woman to pass by,
and when one did, I presented the beauties to her.
She was taken aback.
“You are beautiful!”
Her face was red as a beet, too.
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Authored by Anthony St. John
15 December 2009