Carola Bonfili

from NERO n.02 november/december 2004

He masturbated regularly in the morning. It was the only way he knew to be able to get up. A little incentive to nicen up the day.
While he touched himself he didn’t think of familiar faces, or typically well-developed body parts.
In his mind a girl with an air of calm would tell him that nothing really mattered. She would also tell him that it was all a big mess and that he might as well live through it. Clearly, this was the general picture; the dynamics would change from time to time. Now he lay on the bed, looking at his stomach, his hands on it, the belly button slightly protruding; he thought of when he was little, and how he could inflate it and the swelling would make his skin pull. He liked seeing such a pronounced stomach, same as he liked staring at his own face when he was tired. His features would become accentuated, giving him a sinister look he was proud of.
He continued observing himself, now his attention turned towards his knees, which seemed swollen and stiff; he wasn’t even able to fully distend them and it worried him.
He was wondering how he was able to do things only when he was afraid; if it were up to him he would do nothing from morning to evening. Or he would do only the really basic things that would give immediate results. He also wasn’t very good at practical tasks. He was chronically unmindful, his carelessness towards anything that didn’t directly concern him made him fuck-up continuously.
Only when he was studying, would none of this happen. He studied maths, and he was sincerely attached to such discipline. He loved planar numbers, Renard’s numbers, the cyclical ones, and so on, the theories of Cardano and Binet.
His favourite was the Euler-Lindemann theory. This treasured theory held the five fundamental units of math. Someone had told him it was similar to a work of art that had been made on a glass sheet, but he couldn’t remember by whom.
When something was bothering him he would read; the muscles on his forehead would slowly relax, and sometimes he would even smile.
He was trying to prove his theory regarding the possibility of defining the technical and creative processes of artists. He would have made his calculations according to the different modes of work and the stylistic and physical features of a given artist; these modes would be then crystallized into standard math formulas.
He had never drawn, sculpted, or ever created anything remotely artistic, but he had always been an attentive observer, and he thought he’d recognized more than one similarity between the two disciplines. He was convinced that a mathematician had to be as imaginative as an artist in order to give worthy results.
The first person to make him realize this had been his father: he would say that if you had a creative perspective, then you had to live up to it. Otherwise it would be like a school play, where no one in the audience gives a shit but they all applaud.
The only artist the student knew was Gigi Ressa. Some guy who became known in 1970 due to some elaborate fetish-sculptures. They were assemblages of discarded objects left in his brother’s room by girls after one-night stands. Now that times had changed (and his brother had been married for ten years), the sculptor had started using leftovers from exhibition openings in important galleries for his pieces. His only certainty was that he would never pick up discarded cocktail umbrellas at one of his own openings.
It was Ressa that the student was supposed to meet that afternoon. Ressa had invited him to spend some time at his place; he shared it with some guy with an obscure past who called himself Christer Blomquist.
He wasn’t at all tickled by the thought of spending all that time in the company of those two gentlemen. He would have to listen to their conversations about the frocked and jewelled old people and the boring youth that attended the art openings. He would fall asleep, probably with his elbow resting in a plastic dish full of unknown leftovers, bits of paper, and some Sprite.
Besides, since he had been hanging out with the sculptor’s friends, the way he talked had changed. His voice had cracked slightly, and it was difficult for him to finish a sentence in a normal way, without mumbling half the words.
He lay between the sheets for a few more minutes. But he had to go to the bathroom and he was very hungry. He would only eat in bars, and he always ate the same things; except for the two times each month where he would munch on anything at hand. The rest of the time he only ate the worst kind of sandwiches.
He quickly put one foot down from the bed, then the other, and then he turned his whole body around. He ate nothing, washed himself distractedly and went out of the house, only to return immediately.
He had to check the gas hob. He knew he had turned it off but he could never avoid that strange ritual. Sometimes he would find himself thinking about the aftermath of an explosion in his flat. He would imagine coming back at night and finding his neighbour wrapped in a pea-green towel with a backdrop of smoke and debris. Then he would have to live somewhere else until things were worked out.
It took him a while to reach his scooter; he had to stop to remove some slugs that had come out with the rain onto the path and that would have been at the mercy of some distracted foot.
Despite his goodwill towards the animal kingdom, a dog had pissed on his bike lock, which was now impregnated with a pungent and noxious smell that rose intermittently. The boy took a few more moments to curse.
He was already speeding down the slope when his jacket sleeves (too long and impeding him from changing gears) and a sudden curve in the road made him sway and crash. He remained crouched; his palms were peeled, almost showing his bone cartilage, and where they were intact you could see bits of gravel stuck in the skin. The sensation of loss was similar to being shouted at by someone who doesn’t really care about you anymore.
The last thing he remembered, before waking up in a room that smelled of feet, was the face of a man in blue overalls, who he thought was staring at him without saying a word.