A little village in Italy, in the fifties.
“No! Don’t tell me that you have to pee. It’s always the same story, we are having the best fun and you have to pee. Why?”
Rosana is five, like the other two girls, but she is strong and bossy, and she is now shouting at Lena with anger, while Tonio and Lucia look down.
Lena is ashamed, her legs locked in, to stop the flow that wants to rush out of her body.
“I don’t know… I have to pee, and I can’t go home because mama will not let me out again.”
“And you can’t go to your aunt’s because of the ghost…”
“But… we could go to my aunt’s together, the four of us, maybe the ghost won’t come out.”
Rosana mocks her: “Haha, you’re stupid. My brother and his friend went and they saw the ghost and it was huuuuge and it was flying around but they ran away so fast and it didn’t catch them.
Go to Maria’s building then. She’s half deaf, and the doorway is always open. It’s dark and no one will see you.”
“Maria is not deaf.” Tonio dares to say. He is seven, the oldest, and the only one to contradict Rosana occasionally. “She knows that we pee there, so now she is on guard.”
“And she is mean…” Lena adds.
“Well, then, do it in your panties.” Rosana’s last words.
“Come Lena, I’ll help you.” Lucia takes Lena’s hand and brings her to Maria’s. She pushes the door open, there is a little dark space on the left, and then five stairs to Maria’s home.
Lena enters, her heartbeat so strong that she is sure Maria will hear it. She crouches down, the pee comes out noisily, endlessly. The others outside hold their breath, hoping that no one will appear in the street.
“I will get you damned rascal, I will break your legs! Who are you?” Maria’s door opens at the same time that the light goes on in the hallway. Lena bolts. They all run, the children faster than the old lady, in the labyrinth of medieval streets. The little ones find their hiding corner, breathless, their hearts drumming.
Maria screams like a madwoman, rushing with her broom from one corner of the street to the other.
“You escaped me this time, but I will get you! And then I will strangle you!”
The children hear, and they shiver. Lena feels the pee still running down her legs, the others aware. Tears come to her eyes, down her cheeks, shaking with her sobs.
Maybe was this image of Lena that never left Tonio. That year, 1954, he emigrated to Canada from his Italian village.
When he was 25, and living in Toronto, with a good job, he wrote to his grandmother in Italy and asked her to go to Lena’s. To propose marriage, even though he had never been back to Italy and had not seen Lena in 18 years.