“ First Morning Rays” is an intimate first-person narrative that will infuse you with optimism, self-confidence, courage and a thirst for renewal.
This is a crystal-clear, realistic account of a woman dissatisfied with her life and her sluggish relationship with her husband. Crushed by the routine and apathy of everyday life, Elena begins to question whether she deserves to be happy and how many points of view she needs to change in order to feel in her place. And here comes a change - a bold and irresistible male gaze sweeps away all her inhibitions, and the whirlwind of sensuality confronts her with the need to make a choice.
This is the sixth work of the cult Italian author Fabio Volo, also known as a showman, radio and television presenter, actor, DJ and singer. It seems that his writing role still dominates, because his novels invariably top the literary charts - they are translated into many languages all over the world and are realized in millions of copies. In his moving personal stories, every reader can recognize their own experience, emotion, longing or disappointment.
I harbor many doubts. I am afraid that my life will turn out to be one long misunderstanding. Maybe I'm not the woman I believe I am.
These were the thoughts that crossed my mind this morning as soon as I woke up after trying to remember every detail of what I had just dreamed: it was a summer Sunday afternoon, I was wearing a t-shirt that barely reached above my knees, and spread sheets on a balcony surrounding the apartment building. From the opposite apartment I could hear the tap of a razor tapping on the sink. Suddenly a man came out of the door opposite me and lit a cigarette. His slicked back hair was still wet, he was wearing a white tank top and hazel pants. He smiled at me and we said hello.
– Don't forget that tonight I'm waiting for you at home for dinner.
I entered the house to choose the dress to wear.
I was excited, excited and happy. When I stood in front of his door, he took my hand and led me inside. Home was the one I grew up in.
– I used to live here, you know?
– Of course I know.
I looked around and everything was exactly as it was in my childhood. Even the orange clock hanging on the wall. He came closer and cupped my face in his hands and breathed in the scent of the pit of my neck. A shiver went through me. Then, when he had almost kissed me on the lips, the bell rang.
At that moment I opened my eyes: it was Paolo's alarm clock. I knew it would ring twice more, ten minutes apart. The dream was still alive in me: the feeling of freedom, the excitement of our arrangement, the excitement of meeting.
I turned to look at my sleeping husband, watched him for a few minutes. In my dream, I hadn't even thought about the fact that I was married and I couldn't accept that invitation.
I went to the bathroom, took a shower and continued to feel like the woman from the dream. Lately an inner voice has been confusing me, undermining my confidence, making me insecure and indecisive; what I experienced in my dream last night does not help me at all.
This afternoon I remembered which dress I wore in the dream: I bought it last year, but I never wore it because when I tried it on again at home, I didn't like it. After dinner, I took her out of the wardrobe and looking at her, I asked myself if the reason was really the dress.
I am happy when I have a hard time finding a place to park. Lately I've been having long phone calls with Carla in the car so I don't have to go home right away. It's always been like that with her, ever since school: I don't need to explain my mood, as long as she hears my voice, she'll understand everything. Then I get out of the car, walk to my house and hope he hasn't come home yet so I can get the occasional quarter of an hour alone, which works so well for me. However, if I know he's already back, I go slow. As soon as I get home, I try to hide the dissatisfaction I harbor inside. Thus, without realizing it, I learned to play a part, to pretend, and most of all to imitate. I imitate the image of a wife I have in my head, I imitate my girlfriends in love and happy, I imitate myself as a married woman at the beginning, which I am no longer capable of being. I do all this to avoid him seeing my inner restlessness, too much sadness. Often, as I open the door, I'm afraid I won't go home without feelings for him.
Before entering, I always take a deep breath and hope for a mask. There are days when I think he understands when I'm pretending, but he doesn't say anything. From so many pretenses, sometimes I don't even know what the truth is anymore.
How could it happen? We were so sure of our love. I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. I remember the preparation, the excitement of what we were doing together. I had dreamed of this day all my life. I always had a husband in my head, that's what I wanted for a long time. I just had to find out who it was.
I had already made the decision to get married even before I met Paolo. I always thought that I would become a woman only thanks to a husband. I was a happy woman, how could I not be? Through my wedding, I preserved a peaceful future, banished forever the fear of loneliness. Therefore we were happy, and not only us: they all seemed so. Now I wonder if it was a coincidence or if I was seeing my life through their eyes.
Everything was as clear and snow-white as the sheets in the marital bed where we would sleep and love each other for the rest of our lives.
At first I was so excited, it took a little to make me feel satisfied: the purchase of two brightly colored breakfast bowls, the kitchen towels with light blue edges, a pillow for the sofa, new towels for the bathroom.
Maybe it was always just in my head.
Actually, come to think of it, we've hardly ever used many of these things, they're practically brand new: the wok, the champagne glasses, the Japanese tea cups, the bourguignon pot…
Our house is full of unlit candles. Like the two of us. The wick is still white.
Before I got married, I imagined my life with Paolo - how I would talk to him every night and tell him about my day, what I had done and what I dreamed of doing together with him. I imagined dinners at home with friends, and then the complicit bursts of laughter when setting the table after everyone had left. I imagined dinners alone at home - watching a movie, cuddled up under the covers on the couch.
In reality, almost nothing of all that I had dreamed about happened. We talked less and less - so much so that I finally convinced myself that, after all, you don't need to talk much if you love the other. The years pass and it is certainly less tiresome to endure the silence than a conversation that no longer arouses interest in you.
Some topics became taboo over time and so, for fear of saying too much, we ended up saying too little. Sometimes I wonder if all these unspoken things have alienated us. Priorities and urgent needs changed to the point where we forgot about what we wanted.
Now my days are sad without giving it away. He mistakes my sadness for tiredness.
Nothing surprises me anymore: neither Paolo, nor life, nor myself.
I wonder when the future I imagined started to fade and where my wedding day dreams went.
Perhaps there is something worse than lost dreams: the unwillingness to continue dreaming. We faded out slowly, drifting off into a slumber without even realizing it. First we emptied the future of content, and then we began to do the same with everyday life, with the present. When you can't get what you want, you end up loving what you can.
My husband has become my brother and yet I do not decide to leave him. I see everything that is wrong between us, but I feel blocked. I dream of waking up and being another woman living a life different from mine. Yet I know that if I drop everything, I will suffer from it.
As I read these words, I felt infinite tenderness. The woman who wrote them is so vulnerable that I was immediately moved. I wanted to go to her to hug her and comfort her. I would like to tell her not to worry because things will change and turn out well, even though they have turned out well, even though she can't know it yet. She has no idea that she will find a way out of this situation, that she will soon have answers to her questions. She does not yet know that she is about to be freed from everything that keeps her bound, as if in a prison, motionless.
My words are not ordinary words of hope. When I read this diary, I do not imagine the future of this woman, embarking optimistically on predictions. I look at him, living in my present.
Because this woman is myself a few years ago.
If I could time travel I would go to her because I remember how alone she felt. I wasn't going to stop her from experiencing the experience that separates us, even the painful one, because that pain also helped her grow. I would sit next to her so she could feel my presence.
I feel love for the woman I was. Although she was frail, she was never weak, although she was tired and worn out, she never stopped fighting. I manage to resist. I feel that I must recognize the virtues of the woman I was, and they are many: the courage to be wrong, the will to be, the responsibility to make one's choice.
This is the second change of residence in my life. The third, to be more precise, if I count the one when I was seven years old and my parents decided to move to another city. I didn't help much in that case, I mostly cried.
– You will see, Elena, you will like the new house… Your room is even bigger and there will be room for more toys – my mother kept repeating to calm me down.
– I don't want a bigger room, I want this one, I want to stay here.
Yesterday afternoon the guys from the moving company told me not to worry because they will do everything. They asked me how to arrange my belongings, but I told them just to take the boxes, because I would take care of it myself. Carla also offered to help me, but I declined.
I'm thirty-eight years old and packing up my life again. How many cartons will I need? How many boxes is my life in?
“I have two days – I said to myself. - Take it easy. It's a long and tiring weekend ahead, but I'm sure I'll be able to pack everything. U
Yesterday I started from the kitchen: plates, glasses, bowls, tea cups. Today and tomorrow I will finish the rest.
I just made coffee. As I drink it, I walk around the rooms. How it affects me to see things ready to be put away, to watch the open boxes, to walk around this house for the last time.
I'm leaving here. And I want to do it alone, in complete silence. I want to go out slowly, aware of everything, aware of what I'm leaving behind and excited about what awaits me. Whatever it is.
I try to steal the smells, the sounds, the light caressing the walls. To hear the noises that accompanied my existence in this house. That's why I kept preparing the boxes myself: because I want to fold my life neatly, touching each object and experiencing the story and the memories it resurrects.
Every memory will be like a piece of a story.
I put the coffee cup down and take a book from the bookshelf. I love opening a book and going through the sentences I've highlighted over the years. To discover what made an impression on me, what I felt, what I was actually looking for.
My relocation begins here, from the pages of my diary, from the narrative of who I was.
– I'm tired, I'm fed up, I'm bored, we have to do something – I keep repeating.
And he – nothing. Act as if nothing has happened, as if everything is calm and normal. The only difference is that he doesn't try to make love to me anymore: he knows I'll push him away, and - to avoid being pushed away - he doesn't ask for it.
How can you desire and love a man who does not rebel against anything? He used to behave differently: he would come closer and ask me if I wanted to make love to him. I remember the time when, while I was washing the dishes, he said to me:
– Do you agree to go over there and make love?
With a question asked out loud like that, even if I had some half-hearted desire, it would pass me by. The more he humbles himself and is polite and submissive, the more I react with irritation and anger.
Lately it's getting harder and harder for me to make love to him. It used to be less difficult for me to do so than to explain my refusal. And it was all over in a matter of minutes. I repeat to myself that loving each other is not the most important thing, because our relationship, after so many years, can rest on other things: affection, like-mindedness and the fact that we know each other as we have never known anyone.
A strong desire to travel, to laugh, to have fun erupted in me. Desire to live in a new world different from my own. I need to be able to hope.
I need to love. I don't want to make excuses anymore for not loving.
However, the exact opposite happens with Paolo: he works, goes home, eats, watches TV and goes to bed. He seems to be almost out of it, talks little, goes to sleep with one expression on his face at night and wakes up with the same expression in the morning. We live in a routine that could no longer lead to any different outcome. If we are not happy today, we will not be happy tomorrow. I feel like I'm spending my life waiting for something that will never happen.
In the last few days, I tried to talk to him again, to tell him that this is not how it works. He always tells me that the time is not right. In the morning - because he barely woke up, in the evening - because he had a hard day at work and wants to be left alone at least at home; in bed he says he's tired and he'd rather talk about it some other time or he'll get nervous and won't be able to sleep.
– We will talk about that tomorrow.
But that tomorrow never comes. Maybe even I'm not so sure what to say. I too am afraid to face some subjects head on. I believed so much in my relationship with Paolo that I don't want to admit that I was wrong. I hate to accept that all the sacrifices, tears and silences have been for nothing. It hurts me immensely to admit that I have not been able to achieve what I have always longed for and surrender to the thought that I have failed. I don't want to hear, "You two looked so good together."
I'm tempted to choose rejection rather than defeat, to pretend that life hasn't silently alienated us. Then I start to wonder if it's not my fault, maybe I don't know how to feel satisfied, maybe I'm chasing a dream of perfection that can't be achieved in reality. After all, he's a decent guy and I should learn to be less demanding, more emotionally independent, and a little more accommodating. It's my fault, it's fine for Paolo. Apparently he's fed up with finding me here when he opens the door in the evening.
I try to think that this is only a temporary crisis. I blame myself for not loving enough, and promise myself over and over again to love more, as if things can be fixed with more intense love. And then even I don't know where I find more strength and I still put my all into it, possessed by the illusion that it is possible to turn a lie into the truth.
It takes a lot of energy to invent a present when the future looks more like a threat than a hope.
I start by being careful about my behavior, my actions, my words. I make new plans: weekend, dinner, recipe, new hairstyle. I want to be sure that I did my best. To cement this marriage, I even went so far as to fantasize strange things. For example, thinking about Paolo as if he were with another woman, imagining that he was cheating on me, so that I could still feel something.
For a while I believe this and everything seems fine. But then some insignificant incident is enough for me to be swept away again by doubt like a huge wave. Last Saturday, for example, I woke up and wanted to have a quiet, quiet breakfast: butter, marmalade, orange juice, coffee. When I went into the kitchen, Paolo had disassembled the broken vacuum cleaner and had placed newspapers on the table with all the parts on them. I said nothing, put the coffee maker on and went into the bathroom. Then I got the coffee and went back to the bedroom. I got irritated but didn't want to discuss it so I stayed in bed. After a few minutes he came over and asked if I knew where the vacuum cleaner's warranty card was. He opened the cupboard and started looking for something in a box. Then he left the cupboard door and the bedroom door open and returned to the kitchen where he continued to noisily do his work.
Then I thought that this life is not for me anymore. I felt like that vacuum cleaner: a pile of parts that I can't seem to hold together. A silly incident like that is enough to make me wish I was somewhere else. I just don't recognize myself: I've always been smiling, cheerful, understood; but now I often behave in such a way that I feel ashamed.
Sometimes when we talk, I know he's right and I'm probably exaggerating and annoying, but it's stronger than me: I just can't stand it. Some mornings I wake up and I'm already in a bad mood, I have to get out of bed immediately because even the blankets seem designed to keep me in prison. I've never felt anything like it. I'm afraid of becoming an evil woman. I happen to have exactly the same behavior that I always hated in my mother.
I don't know what to do, how to get out of the situation. I don't even know if I want to face all the difficulties, including the practical ones, that I will encounter in the separation. Not knowing what to do with myself robs me of energy and inner drive. I wonder if I'll have the strength to break the bonds I've been building day after day. I am uneasy at the prospect of facing what I will face when I leave here.
I need someone to listen to me.