Giulia Caminito for Super8

March is a special month for the AbanoRitz, choosen not by chance by Terry and Ida Poletto to be dedicated to a dream, a project, a reality: the realization of the Super 8, that we invite you to discover, week by week. Eight authors stayed in our hotel, but more precisely in our rooms at the fifth floor: our Creative Rooms. Eight rooms, eight writers, eight telling.

This week we read Giulia Caminito, class 88, born and still in Roma, where she graduated in polical philosophy. In 2016 she publishes “The big A” (ed. Giunti) with which she wins the prizes Bagutta First Novel, Berto and Brancati Youngs, meanwhile the last publication is “One day will come”(ed. Bompiani, 2019). We decided to see what she could have written about our design suite 519 and here she is with

“The date”

On the wall are two cherubs, nude and golden. The smell of Carlo’s cigarettes is intense. The little plastic tables on the small terrace have been stained by red dust which was brought by the rain. Then a noise coming from the bathroom makes me wince. My chest rises quickly and I start to sway. My temples ache and I can feel my heart beating behind my septum. Somebody in the bathroom laughs. It is the cackling voice of a woman. “Carlo, have you ever heard someone laugh like that?” I ask and it looks like he is motionless, out on the small terrace, the door window shut, he cannot hear me, so I get up. I walk on the carpeted floor. The room is the same. Every year I take care to call the hotel in January to reserve our stay in the month of April. I want room one hundred and two. It has a nice small terrace, a spacious anteroom and then there are the cherubs on the wall which I can make out from a lying position. I peep into the bathroom and I see a naked old woman lying in the bathtub. She is not immersed in water, she is just there, wizened and dry, her flesh is shimmering and she is laughing. “Carlo…” I call my husband, who is smoking his unfiltered nazionale cigarette in his bathrobe. My husband’s hair is the same as always, rough and bristly over the nape of his neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I would like to see his neck disappear into the terry toweling hood of his bathrobe. He punctually has his thermal bath in the hotel swimming pools at eight o’ clock, when there is nobody around and the rabbits are sniffing at the pools. I continue sleeping when he swims, then he returns and starts smoking. I open my eyes, pull the sheet over my head, hide and shout: “Come and find me”. He jumps on the bed, pretending not to see me and asks: “Oh no! Where has she gone?” but then he finds me, combs my hair with his fingers and says: “Tonight, a glass of prosecco and then we’ll listen to the concert in the mirror room.” The old bat laughs. Her body is hard, her hairdo well styled with hairpins, her nails varnished in blue. Old women transform into trees and to men they become as desirable as the shrubs on the side of pavements or weeds or a weeping willow. She is a tree-bark-like woman, whereas I have not even got beyond my thirties yet and I need to ask Carlo to return and come and look for me. Then someone knocks on the door of our room. It is half past nine and, at AbanoRitz they know that, at that time, I have scrambled eggs and fresh tomatoes. Every April, in room one hundred and two, at half past nine, three tomatoes and warm eggs. There have now been five knocks on the door. The old bat goes: “So, are you going to get that?”. I open my eyes and feel the light on my face. The room has changed, I can make out its excessively illuminated edges. The cherubs, the dark red carpeted floor and the little plastic tables on the small terrace have disappeared. It is a new hotel room and it seems to be in a different city. The lights are as long as stems, the bed is low and large and the room is as big as a house. I get up fuzzy with sleep and the dream that I had. I take a few steps and I see a five-seater sofa, magazines advertising racing cars and champagne, and a TV the size of a child. There is nothing that I recognize. “Carlo, where are we?” I ask loudly, but I notice that the other side of the bed is untouched. He did not sleep here. I cannot remember what we did the night before and not even why we are not in our usual room. Yet, I have not forgotten the old bat’s laughter. I’m about to open the sliding door – I know it is the one for the bathroom – but then I stop. I feel cold from my knees up and I am afraid to find her there, like an uprooted flower or a ripped-up tree; a dying plant. I look around; I notice the time. It is ten o’ clock. Nobody has knocked on the door for breakfast yet but, waiting for me sitting on the table by the window, is a tray of fruit and a yellow rubber duck. The room would be suitable for a family of four, yet I am on my own. I move slowly and look at the coarse-fibered wool cover cast on the sofa. I cannot smell smoke. The light is bright and I see a different sliding door. I wonder where it leads to. I slide the door open wide and discover that it is a walk-in wardrobe. I look at the hanging clothes. There aren’t any ties or ironed shirts. There is no trace of a man. My dresses are hanging there. I find they have yellowed and I see some pale colored dresses which I do not recognize. In the middle is my most expensive one, a birthday gift, handmade by a little female tailor in Campo de’ Fiori. It has three purple petals on the skirt and fine narrow straps. The dress is looking at me. It has loose seams and the forsaken look of a corpse. I do not dare to brush up against it, so I open the drawers, move hangers about, but Carlo’s items have disappeared. He must have left. My head aches, from the top of my neck down to the nape of my neck. Carlo always says that, when I am not feeling well I need to lie down and rest, so I do it. I lie down in the wardrobe and stare at the ceiling of what would be the perfect room for a New York heiress. We just live in Centocelle though, and this is the only holiday that we have during the year, our only treat; the eggs, the tomatoes, a swim at eight in the morning, the rabbits, the prosecco, the mirror room. I open my eyes wider. I am young, I have a whole life ahead of me, so therefore Carlo cannot have disappeared. I see a black swimsuit and a bathrobe hanging, I put them on while letting my cotton pyjamas slip off me, I throw the door open and I hastily walk out. The halls make me feel disoriented. The doors are all white and the numbers on them are different colors. A young woman with cat’s eyes and a French bob haircut appears, smiles at me and voices a very confidential Bonjour. I start running, wearing my cloth slippers and, after a mere three steps, I am breathless. I find a lift at the end of the hall on the left. I press the button and it opens straight away. It is shiny and new. I am thirty years old and it is the Seventies, forever the years of rhombus-patterned dresses, Carlo’s pool table games and lit cigarettes during meals. I shiver when I arrive at the foyer, which, unlike everything else, has not changed. The foyer of Persian carpets, mirrors adorned with arabesques, small velvet armchairs, the bar, brocade curtains. The same cruise-ship-looking foyer which I fell in love with the first time I came here. Thinking about it, the hotel seems to be split into two, like a mermaid, and has an ancient tail and a new head. The lower floors are those of my whole life, whereas the top floor conceals the rooms of wonder, where you can shelter dwarves, fairies and miniature cities in the walk-in wardrobes. “When did you renovate them?” I ask a waiter in a white livery. “Renovate what madam?” the waiter responds, while giving me a look he would reserve for a root or a bulb. I do not answer him and turn around. My tattered slippers and I walk across the foyer surrounded by the swishing of parcels and large bags. Carlo must be at the swimming pools. The entrance is on the first floor. I walk up the stairs. The pool is large and is overlooked by a concrete paneled vaulted ceiling. There is a sweet balminess. A woman is using some swimming tool in the water to slim down her hips and I am looking for my husband. Usually, he stands by the bar to buy sparkling water and an orange, but he is not even there. I feel sadness sweeping through me, acrid and sharp. All at once, it flows up to my throat and chin and my jaws tremble. So, I grab the arm of a young blonde man who is carrying towels to be washed. “Have you seen my husband? He’s in his mid-thirties, not too tall, black hair drawn back from his forehead. He was with me yesterday…” I ask him. “I’ll get someone to assist you, madam”. He looks at me compassionately and I would like to scream and rip my bathrobe off. The sadness has become ferocity. I cling onto his arm. “I want you to call my husband” I say as though I were a snake. The young man lets go of the towels and takes care of the reptile which I have become. He lets me hold my grip firmly around his forearm, but he is the one dragging me, slowly, and keeps saying: “We’ll sort it out”. I would just like to get back in the hot water. I would be smoother after the third dip, have a mud pack after the fifth one and rub heavy white body cream into my skin every night. I would be new and change age and lineage. “Take me to room one hundred and two, I beg you” I say in a hiss that is harmless now, but he does not answer and continues leading me. We walk down to the foyer. The young man looks around, seeming to seek help, until he sees a woman. She has salt-and-pepper hair, is wearing baggy black trousers, heeled clogs and a knitted top. He calls her and she comes over to us. The woman says: “Mrs. Gregori, are you lost again?”. I do not want to listen to her, so I turn my head towards the wall where an enormous old mirror and that is where I see the face of the old bat laughing. Now I am sitting in the woman’s office. Her name is Ada and she made me prepare red fruit tea. I did not need to ask for any explanations anymore. The vision in the mirror brought the truth back to me all at once, but still Ada put a sheet of paper in my hand. The paper is signed Silvana Gregori, which is me. Next to my name is hers, the head manager of the AbanoRitz. Her office is full of paper and drawings and she has fresh flowers in a blue glass vase. I feel the dark circles under my eyes running down my cheeks and my breasts drooping towards my stomach. The sheet of paper is a letter backdated to April 2016, the first April of my life without Carlo. In the letter, Ada pays her condolences and invites me to stay at her hotel. She knows I cannot afford my room, number one hundred and two, and she also knows that it has been years since I was last there, because of my illness and then Carlo’s. Then my daughter phoned Ada and kindly asked her to host me one more time as my memory is not good anymore and I need the memories of those days, when I was happy. Ada therefore decided that I would stay here every year, in one of the rooms on the top floor as they are new and the hotel customers, who are used to the old ones, have not come round to the idea of booking them yet. The vacant room in that week of April every year will be mine. It is a gift from the hotel to a family who, for thirty years, have been coming using the only money they had for their holidays. “Do you remember now?” Ada asks me, and I say yes. “Thank you” I answer. “I’m not thirty years old anymore, am I?” I ask in a feeble voice. “No Mrs. Gregori, you are not, but here at the AbanoRitz, you will always be.” She smiles gently and takes a spray can out of a drawer. “May I?” she asks and I nod. So, she takes the top off and sprays my face with thermal water. The smell of it and its pleasant perfume take me back to the ablutions, the cocktails at the swimming pool, the eggs and tomatoes, the cherubs, the cigarettes on the small terrace and to when I used to hide in bed to be found. “Are you coming to the party after dinner tonight?” Ada asks me while putting the spray away. “No, I’m not. Sorry.” I pull my very grey hair back behind my ears and I remember I have brought my expensive dress to wear tonight, so I add: “I have a date in the mirror room.”

© Giovanni De Sandre

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