Do you remember the interview day at the bank? Yes, when we met the director in the management offices, up at the last floor. A special occasion indeed, not for the interview itself, but because we met in that waiting-room.
My hands swept and I panicked when I realized that you were there for that job too. You looked so self-confident, not the least bit worried of having a rival for the cashier place. I don’t deny that, compared to my shabby jacket, you looked like such a turd in that light wool suit.
Yes, I know. Thinking about that now makes you laugh, Max. And you introduced yourself: “Nice to meet you, Maximilien”.
But What shit of a name is Maximilien, I said to myself, that of a sparkling wine? And from above your meter ninety you felt comfortable in that pretentious name.
I did not know anything about you and your mother and her story of being a single mother. I thought you jacked me around the first time you told me about the demonstrations she took you to since you were a child.
“Nobody believes in that thing, you know?” you said drinking your fourth beer. And beers did not affect you at all. They only made you feel like talking. “She was in love with Capanna. Do you recall Mario Capanna? The one supporting the Proletarian Democracy”.
I did not even know who he was. We never spoke about politics at home. They all cared about going to mass, sanctifying holidays and looking for a safe job for me. And you still had to tell the best part of the story: “She called me Maximilien, like Robespierre, the French Revolution guy. She made a big mess at the register of births for this name. Luckily enough there was no more space on the application forms, otherwise, if it were up to her, my name would have now been Maximilien François Marc Isidore de Robespierre. And maybe she would have also claimed the nickname: “The incorruptible”.
And you, who had no father, grown up with bread and strikes, you became a giant, while I, who had been brought up in my beautiful nursery among a Christian family, hardly reached one meter sixty.
Do you remember when we realized that both of us had been hired? You gave me such a strong pat on the back that I almost had an accident the first day at work. Your ear-splitting and contagious laughter stood above my cry of pain.
Oh the hilarity that put in a good mood and that you, since your first experience as a cashier, were always ready to show off with the customers. And I enjoyed all those laughs next to you, at the other counter.
Ehi you, do you remember the hottie competition? When we kept count of the girls that chose to queue at our counter. I used to win only when Mister Carboni was at your place. When you were there, you had them all. And that was it, nothing to do about it. My queue was always shorter than yours, useless to say it, women from zero to eighty always slipped towards you. They seemed to enjoy the wait and devoured you with their eyes, while those who were waiting for me were impatient and anxious to go back to their life. I got rid of the retired ones at the speed of light because, I don’t know if you get what I mean, women always came to your desk and certainly not for your laughter.
And then we started to see each other even outside the bank. Same friends, same group. And we set up a house and a family too. Actually, I married Maddi, as largely expected, while you, in your grandmother’s house, set on a kennels with a series of Red Cross nurses who took turns in taking care of you and your dogs.
Do you remember when we finally ended up at the office? Do you recall? The bank had started to trade financial products. One couldn’t be satisfied anymore with ordinary bonds and state securities. Everybody had to invest. Speculating and then talking about that at the bar like Gianni Agnelli at the golf Club. And the director talking our head off saying that, otherwise, our customers would stop bringing their savings to us and would all go and bring them to Berlusconi.
You accepted to shift to financial products only to be a pain in Berlusconi’s arse. And you confessed to me that it was the only time your mother had been proud of you. You did not care about money though, about percentages on sales and you began to grow sad with that office job.
At the beginning, I thought it was because there were not many girls hanging around the office. But afterwards I realised, that this was not the reason that broke your laughing spirit.
All those people’s expectations started to burden you. I’m not talking about entrepreneurs who had sniffed out how to make easy money instead of investing in their own company, nor those poor bourgeois you totally ignored, people who threw away all the little money earned to buy a SUV for their wives as soon as they put their hands on it.
Old people had worn down your resistance. You never told me anything about it, but that nan who had raised you had left a mark on you.
With good manners, you always tried to advise them against Argentinean bonds and milk shares. But, some of them could not understand. They were obsessed by profits, they wanted to increase their savings with such an eagerness that was gibberish to you. Amass and amass as if they would have lived forever. And sometimes, these people, being annoyed, came to me. And to protect you, yes, and also to prevent them from going to the director and complain and also because money did not disgust me, I fobbed them that rotten shit and sent them back home happy.
You could have told me how you were feeling, I mean, deep inside, instead of keeping everything bottled up inside you. I used to come to you when I was in need and, sometimes, I was a pain in the ass, I know. I told you how Maddi was pissing me off for one reason or the other. “Lucky you, since your dogs don’t talk”, I used to tell you drinking our coffee. “And your girlfriends? The only right they have is to leave their toothbrush in the bathroom just so you can lead on them”.
We suddenly stopped seeing each other after work. Without any apparent reason. I often invited you for a drink but you were never free. Or to watch a football game and drink a beer at home but then you had to go out of town.
When our second child was born you did not even come to meet him. Maddi and I had thought of calling him Max, but it was just for a moment. I thought again about the story behind your name, I told her and that made me laugh. We called him Anselmo like his maternal grandfather.
And then, that old man whose name I don’t recall came to the bank with a lawyer and pretended to speak to the director.
“Egidio. his name is Egidio”, you shouted furiously when I told you. I had met him in the corridor while I was making up that girl who works in the management area at the coffee machine.
How on earth you could remember his name will always be a mystery. For me they were all the same: like numbers that had to be classified one after the other and bye bye dude. You even knew that his wife was dead: as if you really cared for him.
And when they put the bank under the administration of an external commissioner, you remember? What crossed your mind? You stopped coming to work all of a sudden as if the whole disaster was your fault. We could not choose: we just had to obey and hit the target, so to exceed the budget and do it by placing the products imposed by the management office.
“Keep your head down and hurry!” so they said. And so I did until the managing director threw himself out of the window.
But he was the responsible one. What the hell did you have to do with that? You were a poor soul, just like me. Nobody asked you to take the blame, to honour in that way your revolutionary name.
And now I have to come and see you here every week, right here at the Vantiniano cemetery. Maddi and I adopted your dogs that you had left alone.
And another strange thing happened; one of those that would make your beautiful laughter resound. I met your mother here. Her manners reminded me of you, just in fragments. In the deep of her eyes, I could strongly feel her suffering. She took my arm and she told me of that little boy who marched seriously at the demonstrations. At a certain point, she said to me: “I came to see Maximilien yesterday and I found out that he has a new burial niche neighbour, you know?” Then her voice trembled : “It’s Egidio…the ice-cream seller at the park kiosk. The man who, when we came back from the marches, filled his ice-cream cone with a generous helping of pistachio and, smiling to him, said: “Here’s your prize, my dear. As green as freedom”.
Translation by Paola Roveda (edited by Simone Maria Bonin)