|Our Brothers and Sisters Wave Hello and Goodbye From the Fleeting House|
by Gregory Wilde  /  fiction  /  8 Oct 2007
Then Antonio would walk to the train tracks, and sit on a bench waiting for his train to arrive. He'd light a cigarette and watch the birds soar through the mountains behind his house. Sometimes there was a rare bird or two, but in all, crested larks, woodlarks, and great crested geese were all he saw on his short and peaceful mornings behind the hills of the rusted mountain plains.
It never took long for a train to arrive. Antonio would always have the time to smoke a cigarette before he heard the clatter of the metal, and saw the steam brushing between the trees. Then he would rise from the bench, throw his cigarette to the grass, and dust off his fisherman's hat. The train would stop a few feet away, and Antonio would get on and say nod to the train operator. Sometimes Antonio would say, "Ciao, buon mattina mio amico," but most of the time he would say, "Buon mattina, ché un bel giorno."
Antonio worked in Milan. He was a very talented tailor at a neighborhood suit negozio, located a few blocks from the Piazza Duomo. It was a fine place to work, but Antonio believed his work as a tailor would never equal anything important or meaningful. So there were days when Antonio left early and walked into the Parco Sempione, rejoicing the fading day, as the sun lowered into the hills and fell below the fields.
Antonio was very lonely. He wanted a wife, and he wanted a child to teach football to, like his father did to him before he died. He dreamt of traveling the world and seeing it live through the eyes of his family. Antonio feared an existence that was as ordinary as the next man, and he never thought his life would come to this haunting reality.
When Antonio returned to his village in the evening, he would go to a barra near his home and drink until it was too late to plan an idea for tomorrow. Antonio wanted to be another person, but there was nothing he could see or feel or believe in. Sometimes, Antonio would cry himself to sleep when he came home. He would sit in his father's chair and listen to Fabrizio de André records. In the middle of the night Antonio would wake up with dried tears on his chin and then walk to the icebox to have another beer. On most days, Antonio didn't know how he got up in the morning.
Antonio's sister was living in Venice when Antonio attempted his first suicide. Antonio woke up one morning and loaded his father's gun. He tried to shoot his face, but missed and shattered his kitchen window. His neighbor called the police, and Antonio told the officer he had seen a wild pig and was scared for his garden in the back yard. The older officer believed Antonio's story, but his sister, Annio, did not. She took a train to Milan and then took the rural line to Antonio's village, where she saw the shattered glass. Annio asked Antonio what happened, but soon realized his story changed the more he told it. The younger officer told Annio over the phone he suspected suicide, but did not have enough evidence to bring Antonio into proper counsel.
Annio stayed with Antonio for a few days, but had to leave for Venice because her job would not let her stay. Annio worked for the Italian train lines, Trenitalia, and she loved her work and could not give her boss any trouble. Annio feared leaving would cause her brother more pain, but knew in her heart that she could not be there forever, and to leave now was all the same.
Before Annio left for Venice, she told her brother that he needed to take some time off at work. She asked Antonio to stay with her for a week, or longer if he desired. But Antonio didn't want to see Venice again without a lover, or at least a girlfriend. Annio said she understood, and said goodbye to Antonio at the Milano Centrale Station. Antonio seemed in good spirits, and he even gave his sister kiss on the cheek before she boarded the train.
It was a few months later that Antonio tried to kill himself again. This time, he went to work and pretended to trip into the Milano Centrale train tracks. Antonio thought he heard a train approaching on his side of the platform, but was badly mistaken when the train on the opposite side came and went. A siren went off and some emergency firemen pulled Antonio out of the pit. When the policemen asked Antonio what happened, and when they took notes from eyewitnesses, they collaborated that Antonio needed serious counseling.
A few days later, Antonio was taken to a secluded hospital in Florence and was given proper medication for his disorder. The doctors said Antonio had a chemical imbalance, and the medication he was now taking should help him cope with the feelings of isolation and abandonment.
Annio came to the hospital to see Antonio, and even stayed a week to make sure her brother was getting better. Antonio told his sister he was fine and that he felt rejuvenated. But the doctors disagreed and would not release Antonio from the hospital unless he stayed with Annio in Venice. Annio smiled and kissed her brother on the forehead, saying, "Oh, brother, this is great!"
A week later, Annio bought Antonio a first-class ticket to Venice. Antonio sold much of his furniture and old clothes that weekend. He cut his hair short, bought a new football at the athletic store, and boarded the train never to look at Milan or his village again.
Most of Antonio's friends did not mind him leaving. They felt Antonio was sick and needed the best help he could get, and that was with Annio in Venice. Antonio's good friend, Vincent, gave him a box of salami for his trip, and his not-so-good friend, Renaldo, gave him a shirt that said, "Milano: Divertimento Tempo!" Antonio gave the shirt to a peasant outside the train station, along with the salami. He felt much better about his life, and he boarded the train to Venice.
The train ride to Venice was peaceful and slow. Antonio could not remember the last time he was so happy, and he could not recollect the last trip to Venice. Antonio closed his eyes and dreamt of the way the canals echoed thick romanticism, and how all the stairs leading to the building's entrances were underwater. He remembered the long black gondolas and the Venetians who rowed them in the summers and how amazing they were to ride with a lover. Even though Antonio had promised himself he would never come back to Venice without a girl, he felt good, and he felt like he belonged.
At the Stazione Ferroviaría Santa Lucia, Annio greeted Antonio with a hug and kiss. She was genuinely happy to see her brother and even asked him if he wanted to have a caffè with her. Antonio said sure so they walked to a vaporetti porta, and took a vaporetti to Porta della Carta, where they entered Caffè Florian and had coffee with chocolate dragées.
Antonio was shameless with the conversation he was having with his sister. They talked about the future and what Antonio could do in Venice. Annio thought Antonio could work in a sarto negozio, but Antonio disagreed. So Annio asked Antonio what he wanted to do with his new life, and Antonio looked into Annio's eyes and said he didn't know. They laughed for a second, but Annio did not like the sound of all that mistero. She tried to think of all the plausible ideas for her brother, but she could not think of anything concrete, so she gave up today for tomorrow.
Even though Antonio and Annio are not blood related, they are still brother and sister from marriage. Antonio's father, Giovanni, had a dreadful divorce and wanted another lover. So he went to the bars to find a wife, and after a few weeks he met Annio's mother, Isis. As the weeks past, Giovanni and Isis fell madly and hopelessly in love. They decided it was the right time to introduce the young Annio to Antonio. Not so surprisingly, the new brother and sister got along very well and grew into proper siblings.
Isis and Giovanni had a very loving and caring marriage until Giovanni died two years later from a massive stroke. Isis and Annio moved back to Naples because that's where their blood flows. Antonio tried very hard to forget about the love for his sister, and how much he wanted to be inside her. He wanted to live without all the thoughts of Annio, and on most days he would not, and that was the most tragic of all.
When Antonio and Annio walked back to the apartment, it never occurred to Antonio that the root of his depression was Annio. It was hard for Antonio to walk with Annio in Venice, because Antonio believed Venice was the most romantic city in the world. When they got back to Annio's apartment, Antonio was happy to be with Annio. He told her at the door how special he loved her, and he reached to hold her hand. Annio was taken back by her brother's overwhelming passione.
Annio held Antonio's weathered hand. They stood in the bright midnight with silence between them. Antonio heard the songs he knew as a child floating through his mind, and Annio heard the songs she knew as a child floating through her mind. Antonio moved his fingers between Annio's fingers, and he slid his fingertips along her arms and on her stomach and over her breasts and over Annio's lips. Annio took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her breath was hot and sweet. Antonio moved closer and kissed Annio's closed eyes. They opened their lips in unison and pushed their tongues inside each other's mouths. Annio felt her body tremble with a sensation she had never felt. Her toes were as hot as the sun, and her face was as wet as a watered peach. Annio could not hold back her desire for her brother, so she took off her silk dress and told Antonio to kiss her entire body. Antonio kissed and cradled his sister, and touched her where only real lovers would. Her skin was as smooth as porcelain, and it was as hot and wet as the first time she made love. Antonio took his clothes off and rushed inside his sister, pushing himself deep into her body. They dropped to the floor and made love until climaxing together, pushing their faces into the sky.
In the cool Venetian air, Annio and Antonio sat face to face on the wet tiled floor, their legs tangled around each other's torsos, their hands caressing each other's thighs and lips and chests. When Annio breathed she felt her breath steam into the air, and when Antonio breathed he felt the space of time closing in. They touched each other in the soft moonlight for hours.
The next morning, Annio woke up in her bed not remembering how she got there. She heard ghastly screaming from the neighbors, and she felt a chill down her face and across her naked body. She rushed to the veranda to see her brother floating like a log in the Grand Canal. Annio heard some birds above her, and she looked up to see a dozen Bennu birds soaring in the direction of the sun. Annio ran back to her apartment and cried for her brother and the love she felt but was now gone. Annio smoked five cigarettes and surmised in the shadows of her room that Antonio was just a boy, and that was all that could be said.
Annio took a shower, changed, and walked outside to greet her day. The neighbors asked Annio if she knew the boy in the canal, but Annio couldn't say anything other than "no." No, the boy in the canal was sconosciuto, and worthless. Maybe the decaying body was Annio's mailman, or a tailor, or a man from the grocery store. The only truth Annio knew was that she never wanted a brother.
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