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Existential Exaggeration

My middle adolescence experiences are marked by the geographical movement from my birthplace, Salice, to the city suburb of Scala Ritiro, Messina. My father moved the family closer to the city to afford my schooling. Lodged in a valley, this small community scattered along an old regional highway was shadowed by hills and evil destiny. During my permanence there, one young individual died a victim of a freaky accident falling off a ladder, and another, rejected in love, committed suicide by blowing up his intestines away with a hunting rifle. There were others. These stories didn’t make pleasant news, but I didn’t seem to pay too much attention to them since I was too wrapped up in enjoying my youthful existence. There were too many beautiful girls to fall in love with and many soccer games to win.

By this time, my self-concept about my physical appearance was as exaggerated as possible. I liked how my body was shaped, and girls purposefully looked at me with intensity. With excessive vanity, I didn’t return their looks and enjoyed exasperating their irritated reactions. During a casual conversation, a popular student in her twenties whispered to a friend softly but just as loudly for me to hear, “Pasqualino sta diventando simpatico!” I didn’t need the confirmation, but I also welcomed the affirmation since it came from a mature person. In another situation, the most attractive girl in Scale Ritiro intentionally placed a couple of beauty marks on her cheek exactly where I had them. I refused to glance at her because she flirted with other boys. Secretly, however, I wanted her to be my partner. When she didn’t stare, I looked.

Feeling extremely confident about my appearance, I fell in love with Graziella. She was slender and dark-skinned. Her eyes melted my heart, and not seeing her filled me with insurmountable anticipation. She worked as an apprentice for a dressmaker in the city. Every day, I tried to ride the bus simultaneously with her. She also knew my schedule, and if I was a second late running out of my door, she stepped up slowly on the bus so I could get on it. At one point, my mother noticed that I was paying too much attention to her and confronted me about it. I calmly replied that I desired to marry Graziella. When she heard that, she practically exploded. Fortunately, there weren’t any objects to throw at me, so I was safe for a while. Eventually, she secretly arranged a private consultation with our family physician to find out what was wrong with me.

What else could I have wanted? Graziella returned my attention, and I managed to survive in school. I did just enough to sail. I read everything I could get my hands on (not necessarily what I had to read in school). I read one to two pocketbooks a week in the summer. I was obsessed with international espionage and was contemplating becoming a secret agent.

For three summers, I was as ecstatic as one could be. While all my friends were free for summer vacation, I worked at the beach resort, ‘Vittoria,’ twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I didn’t mind and felt responsible. In the morning, I took the boat out to sea and went for a swim! During the day, I admired the beautiful girls lying on the beach with bikinis who came to my bar to drink Coca-Cola. I did whatever I could to impress. Under the intense scrutiny of Swedish girls’ irradiating, astonished blue eyes, I performed my tasks in rhythmical order. I kept an icy water bottle to please the girls that attracted me. When they came to my bar, I gave them the coldest glass of water possible. To make the experience more pleasant, I also placed a straw and a slice of lemon in the glass so they could satisfy their thirst more.

Taking pride in my physical appearance, I was also daring as a soccer goalkeeper. Once, during a heated soccer match with a neighboring village, I dove into an attacker’s feet to steal the ball and put my life on the line. I ended up in hospital for two weeks with internal hemorrhaging and a broken nose. My face was swollen like a balloon, but I was satisfied with saving a sure goal and the game. Everyone respected me and recognized my presence. I surmised that if I focused with all the intensity of my emotions, I could be successful at whatever I embarked on and did.

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