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Discovering Life, Friendship, and Separation

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

In the times of Covid-19, we are receiving the gift of time. The time to ‘Know Thyself,’ as simply put by Socrates. Yet, ‘knowing oneself’ requires mirroring our images with our families, friends, and surroundings. In reassembling the mosaic of our emblematic figures, we find refuge in what we were, what we loved, and what became the reality of our being.

Growing up in the Peloritani hills in Sicily during the early '50s was idyllic. Children knew their boundaries, felt safe to roam the surrounding countryside and were allowed to return home at sunset. All the villagers knew each other by their first name, and there was no need to wear social masks. Young and old had an identity: contadino, studente, panettiere. As long as you did your job well and with love, you got the respect you deserved.

That was it. The rich were not that much more prosperous, and the poorer were not that much more miserable. If we had, we shared. If we didn't have, we bartered. Was that all there was to life? It could be, but it was not.

Out of nowhere, Giordano arrived from the city of Catania to live with the village priest, his uncle. Life took a sudden turn, and the discovery of life, friendship, and separation became an incredible everlasting journey.

Growing up near the train station, in Catania, Giordano possessed that 'street smartness' that can only be acquired by being regularly exposed to the uncertainties, risks, and dangers of city life.

Giordano and I became close friends. I reflected my being in his light. It was Giordano who suggested listening to ‘Tutto il Calcio, Minuto per Minuto,’ All Soccer, Minute by Minute, on the radio. It was Giordano who emulated Casanova effortlessly. It was Giordano that pushed to explore the world beyond the imaginary confines of the village.

Discovering life and friendship became 'oneness.' One did not exist without the other. What Giordano projected that I attempted to emulate was 'guts.' The courage to speak one's mind, the courage to do without fear, the courage to take risks, not knowing the unexplored.

Giordano did not think twice to say to a girl, “You have beautiful eyes.” Giordano didn’t care if he mis kicked the soccer ball. Giordano did not hesitate to take all of us swimming in a natural water pool where the village housewives went to wash their clothes beyond invisible village limits.

I had discovered life and friendship. I was about to create separation. My association with Giordano took a sudden change. He challenged to a fight. Disappointed, I did not back up. There we were fighting in the outskirts of the village facing a rainbow of colors at sunset overlooking the Bay of Milazzo. With our friends surrounded us, I was punched but punched back. I fell down, but I got up to withstand my ground. I did not win, but I was not a loser. One summer, Giordano challenged me to a soccer match. I thought, " Why against me and not on my side?" No matter. Two on two. Whoever scored the tenth goal first would win. He thought he would surely win. I mustered my skills and my side, in the end, won the match.

I was not Giordano. When I looked at girls, I spoke with my eyes. When I played soccer, I focused on one thing: get the ball. When I took a spontaneous trip to the city, I planned ahead: I told my mom; I said I would return at sunset; I shared the details of going to the circus, to the movies, and near the sea for a gelato. I stuck to a plan. I was learning to be myself.

No regrets, no hard feelings. Just the courage to move on and become 'me.' Giordano moved back to Catania, and my family moved to the nearby city of Messina. A year later, I wrote him a letter inviting him to spend the weekend with us. We talked about the girls we liked. We shaved our growing mustaches. I showed him a quote from 'The Gattopardo,' a book I was reading. He went back. We knew we were different. We never saw each other again.

In the times of Covid-19, when we are spending more time with ourselves than with others, we find comfort in solitude, and we dig the courage to be alone. At the same time, we rediscover past life, past friendships, and feel truly alive.

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