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The Second Slap, Survival

Updated: Jul 10, 2022


Avoiding the first slap did not guarantee immunity. The second slap arrived unexpectedly.

It all started in the church's courtyard while playing a pick-up soccer game with fellow students getting off bus # 22 from downtown Messina after a tiring day in school. Some of us didn't even bother changing shoes. We picked two of the best players to be captains. The two best players picked the competing teams, and off we went kicking any round ball we could find.


Sometimes, we played and played until sunset when our guilty consciences reminded us that we had to go home to do homework. We played to win, and games did not necessarily show positive examples. We were physical. If we didn't get the ball, we chased our rivals to get the ball back.


On one of these occasions, I ran after one of my opponents, tackled the ball, missed it, and struck my rival's ankle. Intentional? No. It was a foul, an infraction of the game, as it is put in the International Laws of the Game.


My rival wasn't upset and knew that our soled shoes didn't allow us to have perfect friction with the cemented surface. We could readily get hurt. The next day my rival, Giovanni, didn't get on bus # 22. So he didn't the day after and the day after that. By way of village gossip, I found out that Giovanni had to stay off his foot for a month. Missing a month of school was severe. Teachers had no mercy. Either you did or did not do the work. If you didn't, you comprised your grade and risked repeating the school year.


About a month later, I accompanied Padre Settineri, our village priest, on a visit to a bedridden villager. As we approached the village square, Giovanni’s mom came toward me and slapped me with force in the face. She shouted, "Hai fatto perdere la scuola a mio figlio!" You made my son lose school!" I had fallen to the ground and was just sitting there waiting for some type of justice. Padre Settineri looked down at me with an expression that summed it all," Il peggio è passato. Alzati e cammina!" "The worst is over. Get up and walk." I did.


Was I accidentally kicking my soccer rival wrong? Was intentionally slapping me wrong? The look on Padre Settineri said it all, "Keep moving!" That’s what survivors do to stay alive.


Il Secondo Schiaffo

Correndo dietro a un pallone Spensierato Calciando una caviglia Sfrenato Guardando sbigottito Schiaffeggiato Cadendo in piazza Umiliato Aspettando un perdono Dimenticato Mi alzo Cammino E guardo Avanti Non piu’ Un passato


The Second Slap Running after a ball Carefree Kicking an ankle Unrestrained Looking startled Slapped Falling into the square Humiliated Waiting for forgiveness Forgotten I get up I walk And I look Forward Not anymore A past




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