Eating Out Tonight

The cats are lying in wait, ready to ambush me from the shadow of my open door, which extends into the dark little corridor. Both are pregnant and are waiting for me with big glimmering eyes, answering every movement I make with a raspy rumbling that hardly reminds me of a “miaow.” I try to get to the kitchen but after two steps they have passed me by and are blocking the entrance, anxiously waiting, looming large. I scent my chance as they scratch on the cupboard where their filthy food bowls sit and then vanish into the bathroom. Or rather, bath-cell.
“This place has never been dry during the last twenty years!” Was that the fat mouldy-green sponge whispering at me from the shower?
But all I see is two tiny bloodshot eyes looking at me from a mirror, reflecting grey dust. One can hear an exhausted Maria from the room next door, doing her daily workout with Miguel. Which doesn’t mean that he’s allowed to stay overnight. Is that what you call “una storia”? It’s already getting dark and I haven’t had anything throughout the day but three caffé and a bottle of Rosso dell’ Umbria. I should start forcing my efforts to get something to eat. I open the door noisily and, leaning against the door frame, light a cigarette. Nothing is moving. The light in the corridor is broken and the yellow spot on the floor produced by my desk lamp doesn’t show any conspicuities.
As I start walking again,, I look briefly to my left where two green dots suddenly light up and a claw pierces my calf. Shit, who knows what diseases these bastards might have! The other cat attacks from the front and, though I can block her with my elbow, her claws get my throat. Escaping forward, I stumble over a broom and hit the sticky floorboards, my hat rolls towards the front door and the cats leap at it, the cigarette fizzels on the back of my hand with a stinging pain.
Then, fast as lightning, a black curtain falls down. I don’t see any alternative to swatting around me furiously with the broom until two yowling obstacles creep away into the kitchen. I grab a jacket and a new bottle of wine from my pitch dark room and make my way out. Out on the street I realize that there is blood running down my nose and I decide it would be better to eat out tonight. I wonder if there is still a store open where I could buy some catfood.
I ascend the steps up to Piazza IV Novembre where I drink my wine and try to think of a good and cheap place to eat. A Morrocan is whistling to me – couldn’t do it less understated. What he offers is of the worst quality so I let him go back to the place where he hides his pot under a bucket, swearing at me in a silent inscrutable murmur. I should just steal it when his cockiness makes him leave it alone next time, I think to myself. Then he could return to selling flowers like his faceless brothers, patrolling the bars and clubs with a mangy bundle of roses or, if the weather is bad, cleaning car windows with water from the gutter. Sometimes one of them disappears, but when they find the body no one can recognise him.
I guess I’ll go to the Loop, a bar on my street. The beer is expensive there, but you can eat for quite cheap. I can drink at home later on. They have free concerts nearly every day and today of all days, there’s this worn-down american folk-duo performing. The guy is wearing flared jeans and cowboy boots and looks fat and cuddly while he’s busy penetrating his four (!) stomp boxes. The girl sings and actually looks quite sweet.
Just when it starts to oblige me, a drunken bloke in his fifties hands me a flyer about the Communist Movement. It claims that communist parties all over the world are about to succeed. They are even sure that they have a good chance in Italy…well, I won’t comment on that. The man who gave me the flyer observes me, staggering stiff with his torso, all the time I pretend to read. I stick my eyes on the sheet fearing that he’s gonna try to fart his strange political meaning into my ear and wonder if it gives me an advantage to show him I’m a stranger. At that very moment the compagno enters his chair and proclaims with sweeping gestures and a surprisingly loud voice a drunksacred flowerleft declaration in free verse, seemingly about feminism and sexual liberation, into the respectfully disregarding group of spectators.
The end of his little eruption gets nodded and the Texas duo continues with its next song. It’s about a girl who cries on a funfair because her boyfriend left her. The most convincing moment is indeed that it sounds like she would really sit on a rollercoaster. I spill the last bit of my diehard pannini with a big gulp of beer down the roaring catering-alley and make my way home.
The fusebox in the stairway is still blinking red and I deduce that since it’s Friday night and I’m in Italy, this means I’m not gonna have electricity until next Tuesday. Bene! How romantic…if I had any candles! As I open the door, a green slimy barrel is soaking along the corridor wall and finally sticks itself to one spot back at the shower cabin. Both other enemies seem to be served for today. To make sure I throw my last two sausages into Luca’s room and close the door after the cats grinded behind them. Then, in the shivering glow of the flame from my lighter, I grab the edibles from the thing formerly known as a fridge, put them into a plastic bag, and hang them outside on the iron gutter of my window.
There they were determined to remain the rest of my Italian February, paid for by funds of the European Union.