The water stain was growing. The brown continent above Mia was her companion—her focal point—her mundane distraction. She could usually lose herself while transfixing upon it, but its magic was waning. Sweat dripped on her flesh, and it was all she could do to hide her disgust.
Mia wished for death. She had grown weary of praying for God to rescue her…the multitude of prayers were absorbed into the water spot on the ceiling. She thought of home. Her family. She quickly blinked back the tears. Crying with a client always resulted in two beatings; one from the John, and the other from Rocco.
She forced herself into a trance; always her last line of defense. Drifting aloft, beyond the water stain, she thought of the boy she liked back in Moldova. She pictured his face, his smile. Indulging the fantasy, she imagined him holding her hand after school, brushing her lips bashfully. He whispered in her ear the words of the poet they had loved and memorized…
Come to the forest spring where wavelets
Trembling o'er the pebbles glide
And the drooping willow branches
Its secluded threshold hide.
Eagerly your arms outstretching,
Hurry dear to my embrace,
That the breeze your hair will gather
And uplift it from your face.
The client did not say a word as he left, leaving a trail of his stench as he exited; liquor and stale smoke. As she pulled her clothing on, she berated herself. She was not worthy of being courted. She was never going to escape this life, under the thumb and constant watch of a tyrant. Mia sniffled and wiped her nose with her sleeve, and stepped back into the late night. Passing a couple with their hands intertwined, she let herself dwell on the impossibility of love. She glanced at her youthful hand, and doubted that it would ever be adorned with a golden band. The hypnotizing, lilting words floated back to her mind…
Forehead pale and tresses golden
On my shoulder you incline,
And your lip's delicious plunder
Raise up willingly to mine.
Mia rounded the corner as Stazione Centrale di Milano came into sight. It was the station that she and her mother arrived two years before. Without even thinking about it, she knew that it had been eight months and twelve days since her mother died. That meant that it had been eight months and ten days since Rocco “took her under his wing”—as he called it. Two hundred fifty three days since she knew who she was, or had been called by the name she carried for her first fifteen years.
There was a hint of chill in the air; the fall approaching with its crisp vigor. The architectural beauty of the glorious station had long since evaporated for her. Mia walked past the group of university kids that hung out by the fountain most nights playing guitar and handing out leaflets. She thought it was funny that they got shooed off more frequently than her.
After she settled against the wall in her usual spot, she closed her eyes to the soft strums of the instrument and imagined she was among the group of students…that she belonged there with them; that the beautiful boy with the soft curls that brushed his forehead was playing that melody for her…
We will dream a dream of fairies
Rocked by secret lullaby,
Which the lovely spring is chanting
And the winds that wander by.
Midst that harmony thus sleeping
Woodland tales our thoughts enthrall,
And upon our bodies softly
Do the lime-trees petal fall.
The sound of approaching footfalls forced Mia to lift her eyelids, fully expecting to see the wanton lust on the face of some man she would pray to forget. Instead, a pretty brunette stood before her. Mia’s eyes shifted frantically. The girl tried to hand her booklet.
“No, I can’t take that…”
“Sì, it’s for you. We will be going soon, but we all want you to have this…”
Mia took the booklet reluctantly and opened it. Inside was a five day Eurail pass and 200 euros. She sucked in her breath.
“Run, Bambina. Go back to your home if you have one. If you don’t, find us in Turin. My address is in there…my name is Cecelia.”
“I’m Mi…” she stammered, “My name is Emiliana.” As she spoke her forgotten name, the bells from a nearby church rang out twelve tolls.
It was a new day.
~Longing by Mihai Eminescu 1850-1889
English version by Corneliu M. Popescu
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