Even though he was no longer a boy, nobody had told him anything about it. Some think ignoring a few essentials things is intrinsic to men, yet he – as well as many others – was convinced his sixth sense would vibrate when the time came, a hand would knock, a bell would ring. What was the purpose of all those books otherwise?
And yet it was just a dull light on a white wall, a plastic chair in the terrace, the constant noise of cicadas, the night darkness a few feet away, the pages of a book filled with sand grains, a cigarette in his hand, the package just next to him, his feet stretched on the chair. If only he had perceived it, perhaps Federico Mancini would have gotten up, he wouldn’t have lit another cigarette nor started reading another chapter of that book. He would have probably gone inside to caress the naked legs of the girl who was sleeping in the bedroom, and perhaps, who knows, they would have made love. And yet he stayed in the terrace to empty that bottle and when he eventually went to bed he simply didn’t wake her.
An absent-minded breakfast, their cell phones on the table, an uttered don’t know, coffee again, the map of the island listlessly opened, already broken on the edges, a shower to make those sleepy minutes pass, awakened sexual thoughts, the minimarket shop attendant, a compulsive movement of the hand, a held back grunt, his semen dirtying the tiles, the shower head to clean it up.
They had sunbathed after preparing their beach towels, applying sunblock on one another, bathing on their own, a sandwich at lunch, a light nap under the beach umbrella, no meaningful sentences, no goodbye kiss. Close as usual, their hands lightly touching as they looked elsewhere. Despite the clear sky, despite the last hours were running out, the faith bells had remained silent for Federico Mancini, perhaps filled with organic cotton wool, wrapped in cellophane, in his ears only the clamour of bathers, there will be bills to pay when we get back.
Behind a yellow beer came the time to choose a restaurant. Carefully reading a guidebook, the list of selected restaurants, the atmosphere described with stereotyped adjectives, prices, the top three choices, mixing their personal preferences, another beer, calling to see if there’s a table available. The positive answer of the waiter generating low-cost adrenalin, their hands clapping, the first meaningful kiss of the day.
They come back from the beach after the sunset, joking about the stupid people who leave when the best moment is yet to come just to be eating at eight thirty. They don’t, long showers listening to the radio, choosing a dress and a t-shirt, taking a selfie next to the unmade bed, publishing it, again in the bathroom, fixing her lipstick, washing his teeth. A soft pat on her bottom to hurry up, they’re late.
«Are you really going to take the tartare?» she asked him without even raising her eyes from the menu «If you feel sick tonight I won’t drive you to the hospital»
Such a nice summer.
The white wine bottle in the crate, the dripping noise when he took it out and the pull as he put it back down, the ice cubes floating, the waiters too, dim lights, well-mannered diners, a fairly-priced bill. Flaccid smiles as he put his credit card in his pocket.
Was he going back home? In that moment Federico Mancini hoped to go back home, make love, smoke naked in the terrace, or did he suggest going to the beach? Perhaps he thought she would say no, or maybe he wanted to convince her, we’re on vacation, let’s go. That I don’t know. What I do know is that they got on a rented scooter, the wind blowing in their faces, the curves of the reef, her hands on his waist, their helmets touching because of a sudden stop, she laughs, a hand stretched on the knee up until the clearing where it has to stop, the noise of waves washing the rocks, looking at the most distant stars, his arm on her shoulders.
She laughs, maybe she tells him it’s dangerous or perhaps she’s just laughing.
Federico leans out, «Don’t tell me you’re cold.»
«Come on, we’ve just eaten.»
Federico is indignant about her caution, it’s the funny behaviour his friends know to be part of his personality, he steps closer.
«Come back here, you’re scaring me.»
It’s just a dive, it’s summer. He tries to convince her, let’s jump together. She shakes her head, Federico gets undressed, he’s in his underwear and a pair of trainers, he stretches out his hand towards her, last call, she slaps it, he turns, run-up and jump.
A rock hides under the surface of the water, Federico’s body floating, screams, calls, the noise of the ambulance, the blue light, the white and orange striped gurney, the back of the nurse who kneels down and immediately gets back up, the sheet on his body, a white hand slipping out.
He was twenty-eight, Federico Mancini, and his friends say he didn’t have any strange feeling.