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The Black Suitcase

This is how my usual workday began at the Termini Station, among the stink of scorching asphalt and the piss of some vagabond that flowed on the street like the tear of a stranger. In the beginning I would position myself at the entrance, in front of the swarm of taxies that buzzed around like crazy: the sun was at its peak and my colleague and I gasped under our uniforms; even talking was difficult and our communication was limited to a complicit exchange of glances at the occasional pretty girl passing through the crowd. Later I moved inside, into the heart or rather the gut of Termini, where all the meat that Rome devours each day end up, only to fuse into a single mass of flesh, dripping with sweat. I was doing my rounds, maneuvering through the people, when I noticed a suitcase that was all by itself near the ticket machines: it was black, medium-sized, one of those rigid ones without any distinguishing characteristics, like the brand logo, nothing at all. I wait a bit, I look around, the suitcase is still there, immersed with its enigmatic stillness in the continuous flow of the station. Then I approach it, I observe it more attentively, I decide not to open it yet. Someone notices my interest and mutters confusedly suspects, curiosities. In the end, I decide to open it, actually a bit imprudently, in order to look for information about its owner: all I find is an immaculately white shirt, a pair of blue trousers, a new toothbrush, and a notepad with nothing written on it; no document or luggage tag that could help me find the owner. It looked like everything had been bought at the same time and abandoned there. So I close the suitcase and head toward the lost and found office, while the people disappear again in the flow. When I return to the entrance of the station to start my shift again, I find the familiar stink of asphalt and piss, but also something new in me, something undefined floating in my mind. I was thinking about the suitcase, about its shape, so precise and square, and at the same time about its content so anonymous and obscure. Perhaps this is Termini, perhaps its name hides something much more profound than the proximity to some ancient Roman thermal baths: an extreme frontier where Rome and perhaps the World terminate, where love and hate, where peoples and languages all terminate, where I terminate and no one else begins, where even eternity terminates. But also terms like “words”, like instead the possibility of a representation, a communication, even among the stink of scorching asphalt and the piss of some vagabond flowing on the street like the tear of a stranger.

Rodolfo Veneziani (from blog The black box)

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