Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
As she did every morning passing by, she made the sign of the cross and recited a prayer to Saint Stephan after which the church was named. That was her parish: she had been living in that street for almost eighty years by then. She breathed for the first time in the house on the ground floor on the right to the bar, and she was committed to say her last words on the very same sofa where her mother, may she rest in peace, had had her (at the time nobody used to go to the hospital, people were as tough as old boots unlike the current wimps). As she was saying, that was her parish: it was there where she was baptized and received her first consecrated host. There she got married to her poor Alvise, bless his soul, and still there she had her three children initiated to the Catholic life. She would not miss a single mass, not even if the pope told her to do so. She lived her life around the Sunday ceremony, waiting for it all week long: she always went to the hairdresser on Saturday so that she’d be ready and steady for our Lord, and for making the other wives of the neighborhood envious of her beauty. She still couldn’t help giggling about that, although she knew memories were treacherous and one had to be careful not to give them too much importance.
Oh God, she always did that: wandering in the shadows of the past and losing track of time. In a blink of an eye, it was already 8:15 a.m. and she was already late for the market! All the good vegetables were always gone by 8:45 a.m., and Santa Marta was further for her than it had been only fifteen years before, so she’d better get moving. To move was not an easy task in itself, let alone to move rapidly. The leg never stopped hurting as if little needles were constantly penetrating her right tight making her grit her teeth at every step. But she refused to listen to reason, she would not go to the doctor for that little thing. Perfectly fine, that’s what she was.
The rhythmical noise of her stick had stopped bothering her since she had lost a good deal of the hearing from her left ear. The way up to San Vidal Church was smooth as butter: it was enough to balance the weight well and not to put too much pressure neither on the stick nor on the weakened leg. The man working on the florist at the corner always cheered her with a big smile, he was a good man; however, she gave up buying tulips there as prices were too high for her taste. Since tourists and university students started invading her district, nothing was the same, not even reaching the market was as it used to be.
As a matter of fact, to get to Santa Marta she had to cross the Accademia bridge that was garrisoned by groups of tourists taking pictures with the Grand Canal in the background. The one taking the picture always stood at a two meters distance from the other so that the passage was halted for the time of the photo. And what bothered her the most was that they would then stare at the landscape laying over the handrail preventing her from holding it as she climbed the 104 steps. What did an old lady have to do to walk safely in her own city? Going up and down stairs always shortened her breath but having to be concerned about not bumping into people was just unbearable. She was already late without that bunch of silly foreigners. Anyway, she managed to get down and was ready to rush to her final destination when a young woman, she must have been in her twenties, passed her, barely touching her shoulder and yet apologizing for that. The young lady turned her head just the time to say sorry and then disappeared in the multitude of other fast young people.
If only the girl hadn’t apologized, she would have not got mad. After all, it happens all the time to clumsy people like that to crash into strangers. But what really got on her nerves was that the young woman might have thought of her as pitiful. Did she look helpless or needy of any sort of compassion? If she had only been a few years younger, that kid would have not been able to pass her, not even to think of doing so. She had been such a flash in her times that other people would bite her dust.
And as she thought those deluded things, she did not even notice that she had started to move her stick and legs progressively faster. Perhaps, she was unconsciously trying to reach the girl in order to voice out her complaints, or maybe she just wanted to win a last race as the ones she used to win from her church to Tommaseo’s statue when she was little. Surely, no fresh broccoli or green zucchini had a place in her mind as she fought that battle against the flowing of time. And yet, it only took a bunch of seconds for her to lose, as much time as it takes to say sorry or to forget how to properly balance the weight of her 78 years. As she was falling, though, she did not think about the pain, nor the medical expenses. Indeed, her only worry was that on Sunday she would not be able to attend mass.