My name is Alina and I am Romanian: I know that people look at me even when I buy groceries at the supermarket. I feel the cashier’s eyes scanning me, the shop assistant’s glance slipping into my neckline, the clerks at the fish counter looking at my false lashes and the locks without split ends that I added to my hair. And the middle-aged lady who, grabbing an organic chicken breast from the fridge counter, asks herself how I can afford such a pair of shoes with the face I have. I work, Madam, I’m a woman who works. Her husband, next to her, shows interest in the line of my hips and does not ask himself where all these curves come from. He likes them and that’s all. I love how simple men are. I go to the gym and I work. Sacrifice keeps me this way.
Men are wonderful. Even if those living here are a bit strange, because it’s as if they were always afraid, but you cannot understand what frightens them. Maybe women make them fearful, because they are strange too, serious during the day and cheerful only at night.
There was a man who often came to see me and used to wait for me even when I was not there; he spoke a lot and paid me more for listening to him. He almost never looked at me in the eye and, if it depended on me, everything could have been over in five minutes. At the beginning it was like that, but then I realized that he needed something else.
So I tried to tell him a little bit about myself and, slowly, he started talking too. The first time it was enough to look at his wallet to make him understand that even chatters have a price; since then, after we had finished, he pulled out another bill, lighted a cigarette and started asking me some questions. I asked him something too about his life and so we talked a lot. When I sensed that we were going too far, it was always enough to glance at his wallet and we understood each other immediately. No, I’m not a psychologist, I’m a whore.
One evening he arrived and it was clear that he was very sad. In fact, we didn’t do anything: he just wanted to talk. He paid me as usual but I remained dressed. At one point, he opened the glove compartment of his car and pulled out a box, and inside there was a ring and he asked me to marry him. He told me that he was tired of his wife and that he did not love her anymore. But I asked him how he would feel if he left his two children and he replied that they were grown ups now, that they would have managed very well; he called them ungrateful bastards, because the older one did not want to carry on his business and his daughter was too much like her mother: she only cared for spending the money that he earned with so much effort.
Then he told me that he would make me live like a queen and would pay for the best college for my son. But I replied that my son did not care about studying because he played football in the youth league of Steaua and when he will have become a famous striker he will not need any money. Then he told me that he was in love with me, but I looked straight into his eyes, stroked his head and gave him a kiss on the cheek. And I have never seen him again, since that evening.
My name is Alina and I have been working in Italy for five years. In the last two years, Osvaldo has been my most loyal customer, the most generous and also the most discreet. I felt a bit amazed the other night when I entered the bar and saw the newspaper on the ice-cream fridge, because, at the bottom of the page, there was a picture of Osvaldo with a woman. I had already seen that one; she was always at the petrol station on the highway, a little farther than me.
Now I don’t remember the title of the article, but I think it said that he, the king of photovoltaic energy, had remarried with a foreigner and had opened a branch of his company in Romania, to start conquering the Eastern Europe markets. I burst out laughing and the few customers that were there turned around and looked at me. I apologized, closed the newspaper and drank my coffee. And I thought about how wonderful these men are.
Translation by Paola Roveda (edited by Camilla Girardi)