It was an evening like many, a shared homely meal, telling each other how our respective day went. But after dinner Lise poured herself another glass of wine, instead of carefully put the glass wine jug back in the kitchen cabinet. She offered to fill in my glass too, and I stretched my empty silly goblet, from which I insisted to drink my wine from, a gift I received from my nephew. I felt there was something bothering her and wondered what it was. We had been together for over a year and moved together a few months ago. In all this time, I got to know Lise as a moderate person in all her choices: never drinks too much, never smokes too much, never eats too much. She also measured her words, so that any compliments or loving whispers are all the more valuable to my ears.
I was about to get up and sit on the couch, as I expected her to do but she did not move. I froze, afraid to hear what she wanted to say. My heart beats quickened as fast as my brain silently repeated the plea “don’t leave me”.
She took a cigarette and I agonized at each of her movements and yet trying to imprint them in my brain, as if holding each second of that evening could have provided a cure to my future pain.
“The innocence of the children, the priest said. What do you think?” were her first words after the long silence.
I raised my eye brown.
“At the funeral, you don’t remember?” she asked.
Then I realized what she talked about. We attended the funeral of an old aunt of hers a couple of days ago, but I vaguely remembered what the priest’s preach.
“He said something about keeping the innocence of a child. Like Pascoli. Do you remember Pascoli?” she said.
“Giovanni Pascoli, the poet? Il fanciullino?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Right, right, was it a poem?” I asked.
“No, it was his poetic theory.”
“And what was that?”
“Poetry should be spontaneous and intuitive, the same way children arrive at the truth intuitively, looking at all things with amazement, as if it were always the first time, they have seen them.”
“Ah, I see,” I said. That was it? Was she worried about some kind of poetic issue, which, said incidentally, I could still not grasp?
“What is the problem with that?” I asked.
“With Pascoli? None, he was all right. He said, after all, that children are led to the truth, meaning to knowledge. No, it’s the priest, who bothers me.”
I knew she had no strong feelings for priests, and yet it was unusual she took any of a priest’s words so to heart.
“It is unnatural, what they say,” she said, looking at the burning tip of her cigarette.
They said? Both the priest and Pascoli? I was on a shaky ground as I was not sure what the real topic was about. Poetry? The last time I learned anything about poetry was over 30 years ago during the compulsory Italian literature classes and I did not feel qualified to express any thoughts on the subject. And yet, I was curious to see where her mind was going, thus I hoped that some kind of generic answer would keep the conversation rolling. I searched in the darkest folds of my brain for some stuff I could reply with.
“Children are said to be the most natural beings, and spontaneous, like Pascoli said,” I finally ventured very carefully.
“What is not normal is to be an adult and keep the same innocence,” she said, violently aspiring on her cigarette, burning its core to a pile of ashes.
“Wait a minute? Are you talking about sex?” I grinned. The conversation was taking an interesting turn, which I hope to eventually exploit to get some fun action despite being the middle of the week.
“I am talking about the natural drive a child develops when growing up. Sex is one of them but so it is knowledge. This wish to keep adult people in a childlike innocence denies the core nature of a human being, which is the urge to reproduce and the urge to understand and create. Without the innate curiosity of the human beings there would have been no evolution and we would all still be living in caves. And with no sex urge, there will be no human life at all.”
From her words and her frown expression I gathered that she was not in the mood for sex, after all. Pity, I definitively had the drive she was talking about and would have liked to act more on it.
“Are you so sure that curiosity is so innate in the human beings?” I looked out of the window, tilting my head on the side to point in the direction of our neighbours, whose television set would seemingly one 24/7 and could be heard loud and clear when we opened our window.
“That’s another story,” she said rolling her eyes. “But even they, they did not escape the nature, given the fact they have 4 children.”
“Maybe there is a correlation about sex drive and curiosity. The more sex – and children one person has– the less curious the person is,” I suggested.
“Definitively less time to be curious, especially if one is alone with to deal with them.”
“She is not alone, she has a husband,” I said.
“Yeah, an Italian one, who did not notice we live in the XXI century, which is the same as having no husband,” she said, then continued after a brief pause, “and who wants to live in a world full of ignorant people? And mind you, I am not necessarily speaking of people who received an education. There are plenty who went to school and yet are still unable to form a thought on their own,” she said.
“I agree. Therefore, we should defend the right to ignorance, in the sense that nobody should be obliged to go to school, the government would save lots of money.”
“It would not, the budget for education is ridiculously low. And do you really think that a world without education would be better?”
Her voice was slightly aggressing and I straight up my back to clarify myself.
“Look, young people go to school and what happens? They study all the same, whether they are able or not, interested or not, they all end up wearing the same stuff, saying the same things, thinking the same thoughts. Those who don’t are bullied and soon drop out of the school system. In some countries is even worse. It is like placing all the kids with their beautiful differences in one shaker, you shake them for 5, 10, or more years, and then you get them out with the same form, colour and size. And the shaker is the school, mind you. It should not be called school, it should be called, I don’t know, massificator. Does such a word exist?”
“No, but you see…you just created something. This is what we are, creators.”
She gave me one of her beautiful smile and I also felt the creator in me. Not the one who invented one stupid word, but the one who managed to sparkle such a warm smile. I got up and took her face in my hands.
“No, you are even better than that, because you are the creator of love, what can be higher than that?”