It was a few days since I was watching him. I found him different from the other workers, he seemed to have the air as perpetually horrified, though as age and seniority was far above the average of his colleagues; it was obvious that he was not naturally adaptable to them, and for this I felt like him, proving an unmistakable communion that led me to look for him at dinner or at the store, during the coffee break of the ten.
His name was Parolini, he was a bit hurt in his fifty-five years; the sharp contour, the many gray hairs; she was thin of appearance, of that sadness that was plagued by youthful hunger, unkemptly placated by the skeleton, the indigestible polenta of chestnut flour, the only fruit that the nature shed copiously, between those lilies of Lunigiana where Parolini was born.
Twenty-five, I was six months old in October of 1977 to work at the Military Navy Ammunition Facility after winning a technical expert contest and I was finishing the trial period doing practice in her workshops.
I soon realized that I was subject to study by the people at the establishment. Coming from the south (from the "low" as I could say) I was an unknown, so I was relegated to a kind of quarantine of cordial mistrust, from which, and after a long and careful examination, it would have come out if I could be considered " " or not. Parolini never studied me and his gaze, the rare occasions that he met with mine was always open, I noticed only the spontaneous deference that ordinary people perceive for people who "have studied" but without any servile attitude.
One day, for a number of reasons, the group I was part of and having dinner at the same table, had gnawed and sat down to lunch with Parolini alone.
"Good morning Parolini, I can? "
"Yes, doctor, please."
"I'm not a doctor, and if you want, you can give me some tu, I'm still young; how is the minestrone?"
"Fair but a bit salty and not good for my pressure; I'm sorry if I call her doctor but allow me to give her, she is my superior. "
"As you please, but since I am a superior, I want you to turn to me by name, Gregory, and if you just want to continue to give it to me, does not it sound like a good compromise?"
"I'm sorry if I did not do my own, but I did look at it the other day at the workshop when you stopped scratching that batch of projectiles from 127; I thought the chief shopkeeper had with her giving her the most antipathic jobs, but then I saw that she was looking at them alone, while younger colleagues fussed elegantly."
"I do not want to make easy speeches, but younger colleagues do this because they know little about the fatigue of working. Nobody taught it; when I was old they were taught me with fatigue and fatigue, the real one. The one that takes you all the strength and when you hear that you are going to end up, strangely do not worry about yourself but you're sorry because you think you can not complete well what you have to do. That's why for this thing here that comes to me since I was young, I can not separate the job from fatigue. What he wants, for me, that's fine, he figured if it was not good for my young colleagues. And also to those who are so young; you know, here we are almost all peasants and the forces need to keep them safe when we go home; there is to be plowed, to tie the screws, to make the groves for the tomatoes, there are those who have the beasts to govern ..."
"Can I ask you if you've always done this job and how did it begin?"
"These are things that happen by chance; almost always. I know a few people who have done what they dreamed of doing in their lives in the life, and those who have had the destiny to make it, often also had great disappointments; the more acute the bigger the desire for the realization of their dream. Life, though not at all, sooner or later presents the account for what you are, sometimes it is salty and inevitably one wonders if it was worth it.
But this has nothing to do with what he asked.
I am twenty-two and when I was seventeen, that Italy was in the war was in the air. My dad had died from invalidity five years earlier; had gotten an Austrian grenade on Adamello on seventeen, as he went to the assault, screaming "Savoy!" and with the 91 musket in his hand; they had squatted it to the best, under a field tent in the light of the oil light and then put it together with the dead, in the rain, for no one would have wasted half a lira if it came to him. But the next morning he was still alive; they came to realize why he called his mom, and then sent him back to a 18 BL, to stay alive on that truck with tire full for twenty-five miles of stone, maybe it was worse than the grenade. He returned home blind, with no left arm, with two medals and a number of grenade shards in the body, with which he took another ten years. He practically had no organ in order, except what he used to put my mother pregnant before my sister and then me. As a wife of great invalidity, my mom gave the place in Arsenal to Spezia, at the jewelery workshop, but could not travel every day from Monzone, both for the time she wanted and for the expense; the arsenal's pay was grace, and even worse it was my poor dad's retirement war that combined as he was no longer able to work the fields and his eyes were left alone to mourn this situation. Mum stayed in a sartine apartment near Brin Square and to return to Monzone, but only for one day a week, she had to take two trains.
Not bad that we were a big family; up to Monzone where I grew up, that of my mother. Between relatives and relatives we were about twenty. We were in a big alley and we all wanted great things; eating was eaten in two shifts, as here at the Plant, we worked all and very much, even the little ones. They were grammatical times, we were satisfied with little and we lacked almost nothing; we only bought matches, salt, medicine, and books for school, all the rest we did for our clothes, or we got it by bartering corn, chestnut flour and wine. "
We had finished eating for a while and had not missed one word of what she had told me, I wanted to still feel it and I felt benefited from being considered worthy of the confidences of her memories while listening to her 'I had observed while eating. One can understand many things of the person, observing the way he eats; Parolini made it with almost reverential slowness and spontaneously polite, with small bites, gently pushing the soup into the spoon with a bite of bread, it was understood that he had great respect for whatever he had in the dish.
After the coffee I struggled to make him accept, we saluted with a goodbye and with the promise to tell the rest, I felt helpless and I was glad by the handshake.