Amantea (Italy) May 20th 2010
“Luca! Take your brother and sister! run away from here and don’t look back!“ I heard the man scream , he was screaming to his children, like they had a chance.
our men were all over the place ready to eliminate the entire family. I saw them running after the children.
“Damn it! I really don’t like this part of my job” I muttered to myself .
I like to protect the Boss, and his family… but I hate to go on one of his “missions” as The Boss calls them.
The other man working with me, Gino, had already killed the man’s wife while she was sleeping but then he had to run after the children who were escaping. We were supposed to eliminate the entire family and I should have shot her husband as soon as I got into their bedroom, but I didn’t. he had children, just like me! He loved his wife, I could see it in the way he is was still caressing her hair and kissing her face while she was lying next to him, dead.
My hands were shaking and I couldn’t seem to get myself to shoot him, but I had no choice, it was him or me, his family or mine. I was trying to think about my family ,my children. but it was a bad idea, instead of helping me those thoughts gave me a conscience and I really didn’t need one right then!
I’ve learned the hard way to separate my conscience from my mind when I’m on a mission. But I really didn‘t want to shoot him ,
“ damn it!” I muttered pulling my arm up and trying to aim at him, I noticed that he was looking at me, without fear, without talking ,he was waiting for me to pull the trigger.
”don’t look at me!” I told him, my voice shaking .
Why didn’t I just shoot him while he was still sleeping? it would have been better, for the both of us. he wouldn’t have had the time to see his wife die. and I wouldn’t have had the time to think about what I was doing.
He was still watching me “or what? what are you going to do ? Shoot me? …come on get it over with, we both know it’s me or your entire family…and I bet I’m not your first kill… SO SHOOT ME! just…just let my children go, they don‘t know anything!” he said.
Ok don’t think just act….don’t think just act…just shoot, I was trying to convince myself…just pull the trigger. just turn around and shoot. I turned around thought about nothing….and I pulled the trigger.
little rock (Arkansas) June 14th 2010
My father’s coffin was positioned in front of the altar in church .
I felt numb ,I couldn’t believe my father was lying in that coffin. I didn’t believe he was really dead.
Anger was crawling up my spine again, he didn’t deserve to die.
My parents moved to Little Rock from Italy 18 years ago, when I was just a few months old.
They were both born in a little town called Amantea, on the Calabrian coast in the south of Italy.
My father was a woodworker, he had a relative living here in the states. He learned English as soon as he arrived in the US and immediately opened his little woodshop.
After years of hard work, he became a famous woodworker and he started to make money, he loved his job and he was an artist with wood. He made everything from wooden chairs to entire kitchens, bedrooms and all sorts of furniture.
My mother never worked in the US, my father wanted her to stay at home with us.
When I was 3 years old, they had my little sister, Cristina. We weren’t a perfect family, but our house was filled with love and respect for each other. My little sister was the happy one, I was the charming one, my mother was the forever loving and a little crazy one, and my father was the strong one, he really was the heart of our family.
We used to have lots of parties at home and we always had a home filled with laughter and joy, but all of this died with my father the day a drunken truck driver decided to drink and drive….
I still remember when my mother spoke to the officers who came to our home that evening…
The doorbell rang and we thought that my father had forgotten his house keys again so while I was on the phone with a friend, and my sister was in her room , my mother went to open the door.
After some minutes passed I noticed that she was still standing at the door so I hung up and went to see what was happening, as I approached the door I saw two officers standing in front of my mother on the threshold,
I heard one of the officers say “It looks like the truck driver had too much to drink ,he didn’t stop at the red light and unfortunately drove into your husband’s car”
“is he in the hospital , is he hurt?” I heard my mother say , interrupting the officer mid sentence.
As I looked in the officers face I understood. “I’m so sorry Mrs. Rinaldi, but he didn’t make it. he died on spot” .
As soon as he said those words my mother fell to her knees in front of them.
“no, no, no he’s just running late as usual, he…he can’t leave me …oh God..” she cried.
I could see her heart break in front of my eyes, my own heart was hammering in my head , ice was crawling in my veins.
“mom?” I heard myself ask as I knelt with her and took her in my arms
“ l’ho perso” she said, over and over again “l’ho perso per sempre” she cried. It was Italian…for ‘ I’ve lost him forever’….
The day after the accident I helped my mother with the funeral arrangements and I took care of my little sister while my mother just sat on her bed with my father's shirt in her hands, she looked empty, as if she lost her soul.
I went to Cristina’s room and found her hiding in her closet, she kept crying and asking why God would let him die.
I had no answer, I didn’t know, all I knew was that I was angry and confused.
I wanted to find that truck driver and kill him, but that wouldn’t bring him back, nothing would, so I just took her in my arms and sat with her for hours.
She eventually stopped crying and fell asleep.
I envied my mother and my sister for their tears, because after one day I still wasn’t capable of crying, I wasn’t sad either , I was just angry.
I kept thinking that he was going to come home soon and this was all a misunderstanding, but at the funeral, when I saw the sand falling on my father’s coffin I realized that he will never come home again, and my heart broke into a million pieces.
My mother was crying on my shoulder and my little sister was hugging me, they were the only thing left of my family. I promised myself that I would never let anything happen to them.
After the funeral we went home and as soon as all the guests were gone my mother told us that she had bad news, she was sitting in my father’s favorite chair and even if she was trying her best to look calm, I could see her hands forming fists on her lap and her knuckles where white from the pressure …she was falling apart.
“I have bad news” she told us “ unfortunately we can’t keep living in this house because we are still paying a mortgage for it and I don’t have a job and…” I stood up and hugged her, I didn’t want to see her this way
“ It’s ok mom don’t worry we can find a smaller house and I will quit college and pay for everything and..”
“No!” she shouted, cutting me off, “ NO you will not quit college, and you will not take the responsibility of this family on your shoulders, I will not allow that , I want you and Christina to be happy and live your lives like young people should…so I’ve decided that I want us to go live with aunt Carmela and her family while I find myself a job and then I will buy us a home and pay for your studies here in the US!”
I shook my head refusing to hear it “But Mom this is…“
she broke me off mid sentence, took my face between her hands and looked me in the eyes “ I will do everything I can to get enough college money for the both of you , and when you both finish college you will find a job that you like and that pays you well , and you will be happy !” she looked away and wiped her eyes.
“ I know that times will be tough but I will not let this family fall to pieces!…your father and me have sacrificed a lot to come this far and I will not stop now, it will be different from now on, but I’m one hindered percent sure that your father would want the same thing” she finished speaking and I couldn’t seem to let my brain function. Was she telling me that we’re all moving to Italy? To live with my aunt??? Oh no…
” mom you can’t be serious! You want us to leave our friends and school behind and live on the others side of the world!”
“ your father and I talked about this ones, we discussed the possibilities so that if something happened to one of us the family would be safe…so we both agreed that if something was to happen to him, that I would return to Italy, live with my sister, work and if necessary find some way to pay for your college…you know I didn’t finish school and I barely speak English…the only job I could get in the USA is as a waitress while in Italy I can find a better job…plus…your father didn’t want me to be left alone here…” she looked at Cristina who was shaking her head in denial “ Honey everything will be all right” she told her.
“No it won’t!” Cristina started to shout “ I’m still in High School! and I barely know Italian! I don’t even know how the schools are over there!!! All my friends are here mom! I have my life here, my dancing school! I can’t just leave everything behind, and what about dad!” She started crying “ Will we leave him behind ? What if I want to visit him at his grave…we can’t leave him mom…we can’t”
I just stared at them,shocked and afraid, “Mom are you sure there is no other way?” I asked hoping that this was all just a bad dream and I would wake up and have a normal life again, but it wasn’t a dream and my life was forever changed.
“ Matt , honey if I could I would stay here but I can’t, please don’t be mad at me . I promise that I will do everything I can so that you can restart college next year. it’s just one year , it’s not forever.”
I looked at her face and I saw that she was scared for the future too, and she was doing her best to care for us .
“ok mom, I understand and I accept your decision, and we do as you say but on one condition” I told her .
“ what condition” she asked.
“I will not sit at home for an entire year, I will find a job too, thanks to all the time I spent learning to speak Italian I don’t think it will be that hard to find a job so that I can pay for my own tuition while you save money for Christy”.
She looked at me for a long time “Ok” she said “as long as you promise me that you will not give up on college I guess one year of work won’t harm anyone,” she turned to look at Christy “ what about you sweetie, are you ok with this?” she asked .
“I guess I have no choice do I ?” Christy asked, already knowing the answer .
“ I’m so sorry honey” My mother looked very pale and tired.
“It’s ok mom , I mean I really, really hate it but this is not your fault and I guess I’ll just make the best out of an ugly situation or something, do they have dancing schools in Calabria? oh never mind…don’t worry ok” my sister hugged my mother and I joined them.
We left our old house one week after the funeral ,the new owners were already moving in their stuff while we got in a rental car and drove to the airport.
We couldn’t even bring my father’s handmade furniture with us, we had to store them at a storage room we hired with the help of a family friend. Leaving it all behind was one of the hardest things I ever did, my life was changing and the wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.
We took our flight to Italy around noon. The plane trip was a long torture for someone who was grieving like me, all I wanted to do was sit in my room alone and try to make sense out of what was left of my life! Instead I was on a plane to Italy, sitting next to my mother and sister who barely spoke to me.
After we waited 5 hours for our second flight in Rome, the short trip from Rome to Calabria didn’t last that long and it brought us in this little airport called ‘Lamezia Terme.
I got a good view of the sea while we were landing, it was beautiful and I remembered all the stories my parents told me about this place, my father always had that look of longing and you could see that he missed it when he talked about it . And now I could see why, it was beautiful, breath taking.
A strange feeling came over me, as if something inside me knew this place, knew that it was a part of me .
The sea had this beautiful intense blue color, the beaches were rocky in some points and stretched out in others, the sky was a shade of blue I had never seen before, and the mountains were huge and strong It looked like they were the guardians of the beach.
Why did they ever leave this place? I thought to myself. And for the first time since my father left I saw my mother’s face light up a little while she recognized this place.
“sono a casa…finalmente” she whispered… I am home…finally
My aunt , uncle and my cousin Giulia where waiting for us at the gates.
Giulia immediately ran to us, first she hugged my mother and sister, then she turned and hugged me while she messed up my hair like she used to do every time she came to visit us.
The good thing about Giulia was that she was the only person I met after the death of my parents that didn’t ask how I felt.
“you got taller and you look older” she said pinching my cheeks, and for the first time in this horrible week, I felt less miserable.
Giulia was not so tall , but she stood out in her special own way, she had long brown hair and green eyes, a little nose and a beautiful smile, she was not the classical beauty but she was special, kind of fairy like…she talked and talked and talked and always smiled…she reminded me of dory the fish in “finding Nemo” always cheerful and saying what was on her mind…I really liked her.
My aunt and my mother where crying and hugging each other, not caring about the people around us.
Christy just stood there, looking as if she was about to face hell.
Then my aunt came to hug me close and put her arm around me “Come on, let’s go home” she said.
As soon as we got outside I felt this terrible heat cover me. I knew Calabria had a warm climate, but this was surreal, it was just 9 AM and already the long jeans I decided to wear were feeling heavy to walk in .
I was overwhelmed by the smell of saltwater ,flowers and a lot of other things that made me think about tropical islands. We got into a little white Fiat Punto, the car looked quite old but thank God they had air-conditioning !
The roads were quite bumpy and the people’s driving skills were barbarian! It looked like they just drove the way they wanted to and I felt like I was in a roller coaster . I didn’t even want to think about learning to drive the ‘Italian way’.
I guessed that people around here didn’t even consider the traffic signs on the roads. How they managed to drive around like that and not hit another car remained a mystery to me! Welcome to your new life I thought to myself ironically.
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