My wife’s voice on the phone is excited, even a little bit scared.
“Are you sure? ” I ask. It’s a stupid question, I know.
“What do you mean am I sure? It’s here on the table!”
“No, I mean: are you sure it’s… the one?”
“Listen, it’s a book-shaped parcel from the publishing house…what else could it be, a bomb?”
It’s 10 a.m., I’m in the office and I have to wait until 6 p.m. to come back home. I’m in no mood for irony. “Ok, ok…look after it until I come back!”
“Look after it?” my wife repeats sweetly. “So if two little legs pop out of the parcel and it tries to run away, will I have to chase it? If necessary, am I allowed to shoot it?”
I grumble something about her feeble sense of humour and hang up.
From that moment my brain turns to jelly; I have the mental skills of a jam jar. A colleague enters my room around noon to ask my opinion on a work issue and I answer in such an unlikely manner that he goes off astonished, without saying a word, staring at me worriedly.
No doubt rumours will spread around the office in the afternoon that I come in drunk and talk nonsense. I can’t eat during my lunch break. My stomach feels like a wrung out rag left out to dry in the sun. I gulp down a coffee which has the effect of making me even more nervous. Some poor soul phones me to find out about his files and I nearly bite his head off down the handset. The clock seems to have stopped. In fact, in some recess of my mind, I’m under the paranoiac impression that the hands are going backwards.
In spite of everything, finally the time comes to go home. I stand in front of the clocking-out machine, badge in hand, for a few minutes and finally closing time arrives. I swipe my badge at the speed of sound, like a mad Fantozzi, and leg it as if the building was about to collapse.
My sprint is short-lived. Since I’m about as athletic as an eighty year-old with emphysema, I’m out of breath after just two blocks and I have to slow down. Holding my aching hips, I somehow get home. I ring the bell, but don’t wait for a reply: I use my key and rush to the lift. It’s busy, so I hit the door angrily to make those using it hurry up. After five seconds the lift, which was actually already on the way down, opens and Mr Lavopa from the third floor exits with difficulty.
With difficulty because he is a huge man, two metres tall and just as wide, a body building instructor. He stares at me as if I was a mouse that has suddenly decided to take the lift, rather than run away inside the walls.
At any other time I would have disappeared, apologising profusely. Today I shove him aside with my shoulder (or rather I am the one that bounces back) and I rush into the lift. Lavopa says something unpleasant about my poor mother, but I have no time (and no courage) to investigate and I hurry to push the button to my floor. It’s an old lift and the inner doors have to be opened by hand. Naturally, in my frenzied state, I open them too early and the cabin is stuck half a meter too short; so I have to close the doors and push the button again. I open them again too early and this time there are only 15 cm between me and my goal. I curse like a godless trucker from Grosseto and finally at the third attempt I reach the landing and get out.
My wife, who feels sorry for me in spite of everything, is waiting for me in the doorway.
“Where is it?” I pant.
“On the table. You won’t believe it but it hasn’t moved…”
I pretend not to get her pun.
A plain parcel is awaiting in the kitchen. A yellow envelope with a hand written address.
I sit and dry my sweaty forehead with a tissue. My wife comes in and sits beside me. We stare at the envelope. “What are we waiting for?” she asks after a while.
“Nothing… I’ll open it now” I say, motionless.
“Do you want me to call the bomb-disposal experts? Do you really think it could be a bomb?” she comments caustically after another while.
“No, you’re right, I’ll open it!” I say.
I take the parcel in my shaking hands, I unwrap it (destroy, it actually) and at last here it is.
It’s here. Here in my hands.
The first copy of my book.
Everything is there. The title is there. The book cover is there. My name is there. The pages are there. They are even stuck together. The lines printed on the pages are there. Nothing is missing.
I open it slowly, as I am afraid it could break. The dedication that I had kept secret is there too. I check if it is correct, then I give my wife the book. She reads her name and is in floods of tears.
I don’t know what I am feeling. I can’t explain it. I was so excited a minute ago and now I am calm, almost detached. It’s so weird!
Now I’m officially a writer. Shouldn’t I be super happy? Shouldn’t it be my best professional moment? Why is it affecting me less than I had expected? Why is my wife almost more excited than I am?
Suddenly I see. I see that I can’t express my joy because I know this is not the happy ending, but just the hard beginning of my adventure. Everything has to be done yet. The important thing is that my book has to be read by as many people as possible, and not that a book exists with my name on it (that’s just personal satisfaction). And they have to like it.
My mind is already working. I have already gone beyond. I am already anxious waiting to know if the book will be sold.
Well then, maybe I don’t have all the qualities of a writer, but I already have all their defects.