3. Abyss

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The girl waited a few seconds for my reply and then went back to scribbling on her notebook. She looked embarrassed. But I didn't care. I didn't care about these "good students". I didn't care about their faces, their names, their personalities. I crossed my arms and laid my head on the desk, planning to spend the entire lesson with my eyes closed, imagining I was somewhere else. In another moment of my life, in another galaxy. Anywhere but here.

I tried to fall asleep, thinking it would probably infuriate Miss Libertini, but then I realized that she didn't really care, and if I slept it would just mean that she won. I didn't know what the competition was, but she was definitely winning. So I kept my eyes shut, with Miss Libertini's voice speaking with monotony and the girl's pencil scribbling and scribbling.

As I started to finally fall asleep, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was the girl again. She put a wrapped piece of paper on my desk and smiled nervously. Confused and slightly annoyed, I unfolded it. And then, as soon as I saw the doodle, a grin stretched over my face. There was a cute little potato standing on a tiny bridge, looking at a gigantic hole beneath him. In the corner of the page it was written – Upon the abyss, not into it.

It was me. I was the potato standing on the bridge. I was upon the abyss.

I looked at the girl again and this time I actually looked at her. She wasn't particularly beautiful, but she had a funny facial expression. Her thick arched eyebrows gave her a pretty serious air, which was in contrast with the childish look of dimples on her rosy cheeks.

"How did you know?" I whispered.


I didn't know whether that hmm meant that she didn't hear the question or that she didn't understand.

"I, uhm, thank you," I mumbled. "This is... a masterpiece. Is that supposed to be a potato?"

She looked at the drawing and laughed. "Well... I'd say that's open to interpretation."

"Modern art, huh?"

"Modern art."

She smiled again and suddenly I forgot that I wasn't supposed to care about these people. Their faces, their names, their personalities.

"I'm Pietro, by the way. You can call me Pit."


"Nice to meet you, Noemi." I folded the page and shoved it into my pocket. ''So, uhm, is this how you usually start a conversation with people? With a doodle and a poetic quote?"

She laughed. "No. Well, actually... maybe. Let's say you were my first trial in a very weird social experiment."

Yes, she was definitely weird. But somehow, that made me feel comfortable talking to her.

"So why are you here?" she asked. "you don't look that stupid. Sorry, I meant... you don't look like a guy that would be held back. "

"Don't I?"

She smiled. "Well, maybe a little."

"Thank you, I'm flattered. I'm actually..." I cleared my throat, trying to make my voice sound as dramatic as possible and sitting like a rebel wannabe. I didn't even know who I was trying to imitate. Maybe I was imitating myself. "School is a system of oppression, ya know? Oppression of creativity and authenticity. Everyone is a smart-ass when it comes to hiding crib notes in their underwear and copying homework from Yahoo answers. But those nerds who don't cheat, they're even worse, you know? They always forget what they study, and what's the point of that? Oh right, they're doing it for their future. They're so worried about their future, they forget to live their lives. Live in the present, you know, yolo and shit. They forget to understand the things they study by heart. They forget to think, they just follow."

Noemi quietly clapped her hands. "Impressive. Sounds like a speech straight out of Fight Club. You know, if it were made for angsty teenagers."

"Thank you, thank you. I think it deserves a Nobel prize."

She smiled, but then looked at me suspiciously. "Do you actually believe what you just said? I mean, I know you were being sarcastic, but... "

I shrugged. ''I don't know, maybe some of it. Anyway, what were you doing?'' I teased. ''Didn't your parents teach you not to eavesdrop? Miss Libertini and I, that was a private conversation.''

''Yeah, sorry about that. But you know, I didn't have to eavesdrop that much. Everyone could hear you guys." Then she narrowed her eyes, as though looking for a different answer. ''I don't know. I've just never paid attention before, and now I want to.''

''Pay attention to what?''

She shrugged. ''I don't know, the world.''

A laughter suddenly escaped my mouth. She looked at me with surprise, but then laughed with me.

When the bell rang, I stormed out into the hallway and tried to find my friends. As always, cigarette smoke came out of the bathrooms and people piled up in front of the vending machines. I couldn't see them. Not amongst this sea of people who ran and pushed and blocked my way. I decided to call Dario to ask where he was, but then someone jumped on my back like a monkey and ruffled my hair.

"There he is, our little Pit!"

"Jesus," I yelled. "Dario, what the fuck? You scared the shit out of me."

He laughed. Gaia walked beside me, all serious.

"So how did it go?" she asked.

"How do you think? It was total shit. Miss Libertini humiliated me in front of everyone."

"Did you talk to your new classmates?"

"Nah, just this one girl."

Gaia raised a brow. "A girl, huh?"

"Yeah. Where's Virginia?" I didn't know why, but I wanted to change the topic.

"She's on the phone with her boyfriend," Dario said, with his feet back on the ground.

"Her what?"

"Her boyfriend."

"Are you serious?"


"Oh, wow." I didn't know what to say. Virginia had never been in a relationship before. She was always about school and work and ambition. But good for her, I guess. "And who is this guy? Do we know him?"

Gaia shook her head. ''No, she met him this summer in Portofino. He looks nice, though. Anyway, she wants us all to have lunch together so we can meet him. Are you in?''

''Sure,'' I said. ''My classes finish at 1:30. I'll see you in the school yard?"

There was a moment of silence because we realised that now it would always be like this. We had to meet at the school yard and not go there together. And sometimes my timetable wouldn't fit theirs and they would go eat without me.

"Okay." Gaia glanced at me and then at Dario. ''This means a lot to her, please don't fuck it up.''

She had a threatening tone. Not the usual, casual threatening we were used to. This time it was serious. I wondered what the hell she was worried about. Personally, I was excited to meet Virginia's first boyfriend. What could ever go wrong?

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