18. Me her and the lilac sky

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I walked fast on the side walk, angrily stepping on the crisp yellow leaves that crackled beneath my feet. I swung my arms, brushing away the heavy autumn air. Noemi tried to keep up with my pace and occasionally called my name. I knew she wanted me to slow down. But I couldn't. I was furious and I was devastated and there was nothing I wanted more than just running away as fast and as far as possible.


She finally outpaced me and put herself in front of me. We both gasped, realizing that we were running out of air.

"Pit..." she called my name again with a softer voice. Her bushy eyebrows were slightly furrowed and her long eyelashes clapped as she looked at me with concern. I looked away.

"I just – I'm such an idiot," I mumbled. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I put you in that situation. Those things Diego said, he – "

"Hey, it's okay. It doesn't matter. I'm okay."

"Oh, okay. Are you sure? God, I don't even know if I should be angry or hurt or... this is so stupid."

I let out an anxious chuckle and nervously ruffled my hair. Noemi smiled.

"You have every right to feel whatever you're feeling right now," she said. Then something in her eyes ignited and she stroke her chin. "Do you trust me?"

I nodded. Maybe she was the only person I trusted in this entire world. She started walking and I followed her. We first went through the main street of our neighbourhood, passing the little Marconi square where the church bells rang 4 o'clock. She then proceeded walking towards the seafront, the famous Corso Italia. As we paced along the promenade, people threw curious glances our way. At first I wondered why, but then I realized that the answer was quite obvious. I looked horrible, with my shabby clothes from last night, ruffled hair and purple bags under my eyes. I smelled like alcohol and cannabis, which probably wasn't that pleasing to the 80-year-olds who were grumpily sitting on the benches trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon.

And then there was Noemi, with her wild hair intertwined with an orange bow, her weird outfit and that denim jacket and crappy boots that didn't quite fit with the rest. No wonder they were staring at us. Their most intriguing question must have been, "why does such a cute girl like her hang out with that drunk hooligan?" A question neither I had an answer for.

As we walked forward, all of a sudden Noemi turned and started walking down the stairs that led right to the beach. She climbed on one of the rocks, grasping the harsh cold surface with her hands and hopping on the stone. As she stood on the top of it, she smiled widely and fixed her dress, encouraging me to follow her. She turned around and started her adventurous route, hopping from one stone to another. She carefully chose where to put her feet, trying to avoid falling into the water. I proceeded after her.

After quite a long time of jumping, we finally arrived at our destination, which turned out to be a little piece of an isolated rocky coast. We sat on the beach, exhausted. It was strangely quiet, with nothing but the peaceful sound of waves hitting gently against the rocks. There was nothing but a boundless vastness in front of me. No buildings, no people, no cars. Just the dreamy sky and the sea and us.

"Is this your secret place?" I asked. "You know, like in the movies. The place where you go to write in your diary and stuff."

Noemi smiled. "Yeah, I guess. It's just very beautiful, you know? And beautiful places tend to calm me down. I hope it can help you too."

Her voice sounded like spring. I laid my head on the ground and closed my eyes. I inhaled the salty smell of the sea and then I exhaled it slowly. The sun covered my body with rays of light.

"How do you do it?" I whispered.


"How do you just... It's like when you smile and it's actually genuine, you know? And when you say stuff like this, you actually mean it. You always mean everything you say. And I don't understand." I paused, wondering if my rambling made any sense to her. "Why you're always so nice and happy and, I don't know, just you. How can you be like that when you know that you're living in this shitty world where no one ever gives a shit?"

She kept silent for a while. I didn't really need an answer, the words just kind of flew out of my mouth.

"Well, I agree. The world is a giant clusterfuck of heartless, greedy people who want to destroy everything just for the sake of it. But the world is also a beautiful place, with this ocean and trees and the sky. And... there are people who try really hard to keep this harmony and they want to build whenever something falls. And they see something, through all this darkness, they see something worth fighting for." She paused. "And I guess I'm just trying to be one of those people."

I looked up. The lilac clouds were like a mélange of cotton candy, spread across the soft azure sky. Minutes passed, and they swam slowly towards someplace else. I looked at Noemi. She was crying. A sudden burst of sadness, just like that. Tears filled her eyes and ran down her cheeks. All done in a deadly silence.

"What's wrong?" I asked softly.

"Nothing, it's nothing."

"You can tell me. I mean, if you want to."

"I know." She looked at me and smiled with tenderness, her eyes still watery. "It's just that... I try to be positive and not think about it, and it makes me feel kind of stupid, worrying about these silly things, but... I see you and I see that you have all these friends and you go to parties and you fall in love, and I'm just... not doing any of those things. I guess I just feel like I'm missing out and –"

"You're not. Trust me."

"No, but you see... they tell us we should be responsible and mature, but they also tell us that these are the best years of our lives. Maybe some things you do are mistakes, but they're mistakes we're supposed to learn from now that we're young. Because then when we grow up, we'll never get to experience all that stupid not-so-good-for-you stuff, because well, it's stupid and as adults we should know better than that. Does that make sense?"

"I guess."

She lifted her chest and sat up, with her knees wrapped between her arms.

"I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. But I've spent so many years stuck in my bedroom, alone and afraid of everything. I was in a very dark place and I'm trying to get out of it, but... sometimes it still pulls me back in. And I guess that's normal. I mean, I know I've improved and maybe it will get easier with time. But I just... I want to live. Like you do. You know, with the capital L and all that jazz. I want to see the world, to travel, to learn... And it feels like I'm running out of time. But then I also feel dumb for thinking –"

"Hey," I put my hand on her shoulder to calm her down. "You're not dumb."

She laughed. "Thank you. That actually made me feel better."

She looked at me, she was so close I could see the constellation of freckles on her cheeks.

"You know," she said, "I'm very grateful to have you in my life."

I froze. I think no one had ever told me something like that before. Grateful to have you in my life. What a poweful, sincere phrase.

"Me too," I said. And she had no idea how much.

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