Translated by John Minahane 

Return from Turin 
 
The first time I saw her was in a café, she was standing by the counter drinking coffee, and I wanted to turn on my heel and leave the establishment, give my head a shake and forget about her, because how many cafés does Borromini Square have where someone can drink white coffee without looking at such repulsive creatures, such botches of Nature, as that woman was, but just then I was spotted by that waitress who knew me so well she made me contribute every month to the stray cats and dogs in that refuge of theirs, even though I’m allergic to animal fur and maybe to animals in general, she noticed my presence and screeched across the floor at me, the usual? latte macchiato? and by then I couldn’t leave and pretend that I’d never even stepped in there that day. Circumspectly I came nearer to the counter, and so inevitably also to that woman, I scanned her from behind: small figure, black hair cropped short, curved spine and dreadfully emaciated legs which were outlined even under the loose trousers, but when I came level with her and leaned against the counter, my nausea was magnified still more, the skin on her face was so oddly stretched, as if it wasn’t a good all-round  fit, and on her nose she had big glasses in a white frame, through which she cast an inimical look at me as soon as she sensed I was looking her over. Yes, of course, she must be well used to curious and disgusted looks, like all handicapped people, though in her case it wasn’t clear what exactly her disability was, one had the feeling that something wasn’t right in her as a whole, as if the handicap had naturally spread out over the whole body and could not decide in which part to settle down, whether in the legs, on the back, or perhaps – as if that body was about to be prematurely and spontaneously expelled from the womb, but at the last moment it clung to the mother within and hung on, hung on tooth and nail. I directed my gaze at the glass of latte macchiato which the waitress placed in front of me, I was hoping we’d get talking, we’d toss in a few words about those bastards of hers for which she couldn’t find new owners and time would flow faster, but she went off somewhere to the rear and I and the woman remained at the counter alone. I could hear her slurping, the impacts of the spoon against the cup, and, alas, I could not help also noticing her tic, that woman scrunched up her nose, if that’s the name for it, every five seconds she bent it into folds, hoisted it upwards, and after this moment she was obliged from time to time to push the glasses back on her nose so they wouldn’t fall. I hadn’t even properly stirred the latte macchiato and I was starting to drink it in gulps, just to have it behind me, when I felt something on my tongue, I fished a short black hair out of my mouth and that was too much for me, quickly I pulled out my purse and threw a few coins on the counter, shouting at the waitress, who assuredly didn’t hear me, but that didn’t matter, I almost ran out of the café, up Corso Gabetti with limber stride and no turning round, I had a hankering to spit out, to puke all that coffee out, but in that district everyone knew me, I couldn’t behave there like an utter pig.
 
I thought it was a once-off incident, that the woman had only strayed into our district by chance and I wouldn’t have to confront her ever again and look upon that misjudgement of Nature, but awareness, or rather certainty soon came that no, this was no coincidence, she inhabited these parts just as much as me and my husband, her den too was concealed somewhere in those tall run-down houses in the vicinity, a musty bedsit, as I imagined it, or maybe double bedsit, because that woman also had a mother, a bent old woman with a permanently frozen smile, and a dog, a yellow mongrel, she used to drag both of them out on walks and snap at them incessantly. I’d already been living in the district about a year, after the wedding I’d moved to my husband’s bachelor apartment, where by then I felt almost at home, after a bitter struggle against my husband’s ingrained bad habits and obsessions, where I finally found my own spot, took ownership of a few square metres, and just when I felt like being merciful even to that inhospitable district, she too appeared, but how was it that I only bumped into her after a year, when previously too I’d being going out, doing the shopping, to the park? Now I was meeting her at every moment, mostly in her impressive trio with the mother at death’s door and the hysterical bitch, they marched down the street and everyone knew them, everyone greeted them, called to her, ciao, Franca, come stai?, so without wanting to I also learned her name. Franca, I was forced to concede that the thing even had a name, Franca, and so an identity, Franca, that this wasn’t a piece of rubbish, Franca, which could be thrust into a black plastic bag and tied with a piece of string and flung into the dustman’s lorry when it was going round. Always when I saw her I felt aggravated, a ball of something swelled up in my throat, my mouth went dry and I trembled all over, oh no, not her again! I avoided her as best I could, I fled as soon as she appeared in my vicinity, I didn’t want to look at her, I diverted my sight from that horror, but at the same time I had her face constantly before me, that ghastly fixity, that spasm, I used to say, such people should not be allowed to live, that sort ought to be swept away somewhere so that they don’t ruin the day for us, the normal people, we, who after all can’t do anything about the way they look, the kind of monsters they become, the hard time they have in this world, and besides they bring misfortune, that’s a concrete-hard fact, she emits evil, I said to my husband at supper, evil radiates from that woman, I feel it, if you only knew, she gives me goosebumps on my spine, why does she stand in my way, why does she vex me with her existence, why doesn’t she barricade herself in her double bedsit and turn on the gas? In such conversations tears sometimes gushed from me, my husband patted my hand encouragingly, now now, calm down, it’ll be OK, but I saw in his eyes, I saw very plainly that he was more than appalled at my utterances, that such things after all must not be uttered, that only now was he beginning to realise what a Nazi he had taken as his wife.
 
And with the passage of time it only worsened, I saw her everywhere, she was lurking at every crossing, in every shop or café, ever more frequently I found myself scanning the street for no reason, training my gaze over all nooks and corners of our district, so then crawl out, you swine, from that filthy burrow of yours, I know that you’re here somewhere, I’d let out a threatening mutter from beneath my nose, and when later at suppertime I began to rush away from the laid table and look out the window to see if she wasn’t about just then, because I felt her presence, as if I had a radar working in me that measured every move she made, my husband shook his head and pulled me away from the radiator, this doesn’t look like premenstrual syndrome, this looks a lot more serious, and at that moment I realised that for two months I hadn’t had the curse. Needless to say, she was there when I went to buy the pregnancy test, she was there in that pharmacy, she was standing in the queue holding the lead on her bitch, which began to bristle as soon as I came in, she was there and looked unpleasantly at me when I pulled my queue ticket out of the dispenser. She was buying tablets – who knows for what – demonstratively she passed round me towards the exit, I had time to register how she puckered her nose with that tic of hers and she vanished behind the display window, maybe she too had begun to find it unpleasant, how often we were bumping into each other. My husband embraced me, he said that explained everything, my astonishing behaviour of recent weeks, but now we must think of the future, of our bright future with the eagerly awaited descendant, who knows if it would be a girl or a boy, he danced with delight at the twice-marked test round the living-room and at supper he refused to let me eat prosciutto crudo, come on, you don’t know? such an elementary thing, that raw meat is unsuitable for you during this time, what am I saying unsuitable, exceptionally dangerous! better eat that salad I’ve washed for you and you can throw a few tomatoes in with it, you don’t want to put on weight after all, how would that look, a hundred-kilo wife, my ninety-five kilo husband laughed and pretended not to see my indignant expression, my aversion when looking at that unprepossessing salad on the plate with the chopped tomato, while he opened up an entire wrapped portion of ham and potato salad for himself. The following day I said yes, definitely he’s right, now everything will take a turn for the better, they say that too on the internet, everywhere, that a person must prepare herself for the changes in mood which the hormones bring, for weepiness and hysterics, the surrounding milieu must equip itself with strong nerves and the pregnant woman with tissues, that’s precisely what was said on those women’s pages, and the nurse told me the same when I called my gynaecologist to make an appointment for ultrasound, a few tests already had said yes, five tests after all can’t be wrong, and we both laughed into the telephone.