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Termini stories: life of Effe

Effe has been in this station for too long.
She was part of that crowd that the station swallows in its labyrinth of tunnels, underpasses, and platforms. It’s unlikely for it to let you get away when you need her to survive. And Effe survived like many others who fill the station every day, Effe with her story, the others with theirs.
I could tell you her story, but you already know it: “ Young Romanian woman with four children begs for money in the station”. How many times have you read it?

A sentence like this, a story like this, you have seen it many times, maybe written on a shoe box, maybe a bit different, but the meaning was the same. So if you already know it, I’m not going to tell you who Effe was for me and for you who have seen her carrying that sign. I’ll tell you who Effe was before and after that sign.
Effe was the youngest in the family. She lived with her mother and sisters in a town near Bucharest. She grew up fast, everyone there grows up fast. She met a boy, they married very young, and they quickly had three kids. There was no money, and after a while even her husband began to disappear . Effe decided that there was nothing left for her there. The day that they left Bucharest was the day that she realized that the kids only had her, and that she only had them. And so they weren’t actually so alone after all.
She didn’t know Italian, but she learned quickly, they used to tell her that in school. She came to Italy because she heard that other Romanians came here, not that she knew where they ended up, but she didn’t care. Food was the first of her problems, a house the second, a job the third. And in this order her new life evolved, first she would search for food and a roof for her kids, and if there was time, for a job. But at that point the station, this station, came into Effe’s life. Termini became her employer, and the commuters possible clients. And like the cruelest of bosses the station clutched her, knowing that Effe needed that spot, that cardboard sign from Mc Donald’s, that man with a smug face who would throw her some coins gathered from his coat pocket. She knew very well that going there and kneeling down in front the world wasn’t a job.
At first she thought that she would do this only for a few months, just the time to make some money to pay the rent, then she would find something better. After all, when she was little if somebody would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she never answered but deep down she thought she would be happy.
Months passed and soon they became years.
Effe knew why people in the station looked at her with contempt. In the end she had gotten used to that life, she had stopped trying to find work since they fired her after two months for bringing her youngest child to work with her. And in those years she realized that people couldn’t stand this: “ You sit there waiting for what? Get up and find a job!” In the beginning she tried to speak with people, but for some reason after they told her to get a job, they just couldn’t be bothered and rushed off.
Some people, however, would stop. In the five years she spent inside that station she learned to recognize every metro worker, every barman, every homeless person, and others who for a variety of reasons, would spend a large part of their existence there. There was “Ciccio” who every morning cleaned the stairs that connect the metro A to the metro B. When he would see Effe sitting in the place that he had just cleaned he would scream at her jokingly: “Effettì what are you doing? Look at this floor, how it shines, let it breathe!” Then with a knowing smile, he would continue to clean. Then there was Terry who worked at the bar. Effe would always see her while she was arguing with her boyfriend on the phone, until Terry once told Effe that it wasn’t her boyfriend but her lover. Her boyfriend was “kind and nice, he always cooks dinner for me, the sweetie!”
Not to mention Eddi, a fifty year- old Neapolitan man, married and then divorced, who had decided to travel like “Christopher Colombus”. Unfortunately he never made it to America, and every time he tried to catch a train he would change his mind and wait for the next one. “Who cares, little girl? Trains always pass, sooner or later I’ll get one.”
And when this would happen, when somebody stopped near her, she would find a bit of herself.
Five long years passed this way, in a place that everybody uses to go elsewhere, but where she instead had already arrived, always.
That was her, not her kids though, they had an entire lifetime to arrive.
One day in September she took her kids and went to Termini. And this time winking at Eddi she did what everybody else does in a station, she took a train and went away.
Today when Effe passes by the Frankfurt station she smiles, she gets on one train to take her kids to school and a second to get to the restaurant where she works.
And today her story begins.

Marica Fantauzzi [/tie_full_img] A sentence like this, a story like this, you have seen it many times, maybe written on a shoe box, maybe a bit different, but the meaning was the same. So if you already know it, I’m not going to tell you who Effe was for me and for you who have seen her carrying that sign. I’ll tell you who Effe was before and after that sign.
Effe was the youngest in the family. She lived with her mother and sisters in a town near Bucharest. She grew up fast, everyone there grows up fast. She met a boy, they married very young, and they quickly had three kids. There was no money, and after a while even her husband began to disappear . Effe decided that there was nothing left for her there. The day that they left Bucharest was the day that she realized that the kids only had her, and that she only had them. And so they weren’t actually so alone after all.
She didn’t know Italian, but she learned quickly, they used to tell her that in school. She came to Italy because she heard that other Romanians came here, not that she knew where they ended up, but she didn’t care. Food was the first of her problems, a house the second, a job the third. And in this order her new life evolved, first she would search for food and a roof for her kids, and if there was time, for a job. But at that point the station, this station, came into Effe’s life. Termini became her employer, and the commuters possible clients. And like the cruelest of bosses the station clutched her, knowing that Effe needed that spot, that cardboard sign from Mc Donald’s, that man with a smug face who would throw her some coins gathered from his coat pocket. She knew very well that going there and kneeling down in front the world wasn’t a job.
At first she thought that she would do this only for a few months, just the time to make some money to pay the rent, then she would find something better. After all, when she was little if somebody would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she never answered but deep down she thought she would be happy.
Months passed and soon they became years.
Effe knew why people in the station looked at her with contempt. In the end she had gotten used to that life, she had stopped trying to find work since they fired her after two months for bringing her youngest child to work with her. And in those years she realized that people couldn’t stand this: “ You sit there waiting for what? Get up and find a job!” In the beginning she tried to speak with people, but for some reason after they told her to get a job, they just couldn’t be bothered and rushed off.
Some people, however, would stop. In the five years she spent inside that station she learned to recognize every metro worker, every barman, every homeless person, and others who for a variety of reasons, would spend a large part of their existence there. There was “Ciccio” who every morning cleaned the stairs that connect the metro A to the metro B. When he would see Effe sitting in the place that he had just cleaned he would scream at her jokingly: “Effettì what are you doing? Look at this floor, how it shines, let it breathe!” Then with a knowing smile, he would continue to clean. Then there was Terry who worked at the bar. Effe would always see her while she was arguing with her boyfriend on the phone, until Terry once told Effe that it wasn’t her boyfriend but her lover. Her boyfriend was “kind and nice, he always cooks dinner for me, the sweetie!”
Not to mention Eddi, a fifty year- old Neapolitan man, married and then divorced, who had decided to travel like “Christopher Colombus”. Unfortunately he never made it to America, and every time he tried to catch a train he would change his mind and wait for the next one. “Who cares, little girl? Trains always pass, sooner or later I’ll get one.”
And when this would happen, when somebody stopped near her, she would find a bit of herself.
Five long years passed this way, in a place that everybody uses to go elsewhere, but where she instead had already arrived, always.
That was her, not her kids though, they had an entire lifetime to arrive.
One day in September she took her kids and went to Termini. And this time winking at Eddi she did what everybody else does in a station, she took a train and went away.
Today when Effe passes by the Frankfurt station she smiles, she gets on one train to take her kids to school and a second to get to the restaurant where she works.
And today her story begins.

Marica Fantauzzi

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One comment

  1. che bello!
    … e io che aspettavo un finale crudo , ancora più crudo dell’inizio e invece…
    grazie!

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