There are days when the sky above Turin is immense. Days of summer haze when from early morning the heat blurs the horizon, blurs on one side the hills and on the other the mountains. At dawn the trees rustle in vast leafy waves with a slow, continuous movement that spreads through the whole city. The sky looms opaque, a uniform yellowish gray, cloudless and still. Under this sky the swallows wheel and warble. Soon afterward, around eight, the trees, swaying more and more slowly, close in on the birdsong until their movement stops, the sky turns a violent yellow, and the sound of cars fills the streets.
I happen to hear Gianni and some of his friends talking about the Turin of their childhood and adolescence, when they’d go skating at the Italia: here was the footbridge over the railway; there they’d walk along the street with the brothels or on Via Roma before the reconstruction, when the buildings were still slanting over the old shops. Turin ended at the Mauriziano hospital, and there the fields began.
Talking about that Turin, Gianni and his friends aren’t at all sad, aren’t regretful about anything. I heard Gianni regretting only the tracks of the No. 8 tram that were torn up some years ago. « They’ll see, » he said, vengefully, « when there’s no more gas! » Once, walking through the Valentino park, he mourned the giant monkey puzzle tree in the botanical garden, whose stump, an enormous gray ruin, sticks out through the railings.
He talks about people, and as he talks the city narrows into a tight circle where everyone knows everyone else.
« She was bowlegged even as a child, » he reflects, of a woman passing by.
« You know her? »
« No, but we were at elementary school together—she also went to Silvio Pellico. »
He doesn’t mourn the Turin of long ago, I say to myself, because he hasn’t lost it. He hasn’t lost his childhood.
« If a story just like that one — dying babies, divine retribution — had come back to me from childhood memories, it would have seemed fantastical, unreal. »
A story about a lonely railway guard on a desolate steppe. « In the cursed August of 1991 the radio informed Kasatonov that there was a state of emergency in the capital. Then it fell silent, as if the receiver had broken. »
« I guess it all began, » he said, « because of that weak-headedness my father sometimes had. It just rubbed me the wrong way. »
« —Tot va ser, passe a creure—començà—, per enfellonir-me d’aquella mena de fluixedat de cap que agafà al meu pare. »