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IHAVENOCHILDREN. ROSA by Serena Castro Stera

Here she goes again, that tramp… there she is, waiting for me to turn the corner of the courtyard to start gossiping.

I can see with the tail of my eye how she leans on the broom, staring at me as I walk away, ready to unleash her foul-mouthed tongue. I know that as soon as I’ll be out of the way she will raise her head towards the balcony on the first floor, she will call out to Mrs. Rusciano and they will start talking about me. “Hey, Marì, have you seen the bride? Have you seen how she walks!!! Stiff as a stick!” The bride. It’s been five years since Gaetano and I got married, but here you will always be the bride until you have your first child. And I don’t have any.

Once I used to talk to the doorwoman, she seemed a nice person, a simple woman like everyone else here in this Neapolitan “building” on street number twenty-three, apartment eight in Corso Secondigliano. This kind of communal gossipy life has always brought me some joy, everyone looking out the balconies facing the courtyard and helping each other, passing salt and hanging out clothes, smelling each other’s smells and sharing communions, deaths, weddings and births. Indeed, births.

In this building children are born here all the time, confetti are eaten all year round, larger and larger birth garlands keep flourishing on the doors, as a real race: the bigger the garland, the greater the pride and even grandmothers hang their garlands, even if the child was born to daughters or daughters-in-law who live elsewhere, what‘s gotta do with it, ‘family is family! ‘

It was the doorwoman to hand me the scissors with which I cut the good luck ribbon stretched between the two palms before entering the courtyard on July 9, five years ago, on the day of my wedding. I remember she winked at me and said, “Long live the bride! You are so beautiful, god knows how many beautiful children we gonna see!

I also thought she jinxed me.

Because no children at all, neither ugly nor beautiful. And we wanted one so badly, a little boy.  It’s eating me up that this body that does not respond. Yes, the doorwoman is right: I feel as if I swallowed a stick. Stiff. At first, we made love without worries because he was sure that I would get pregnant today or tomorrow and even immediately was fine, since I stayed at home, I am a housewife and I can look after children. I also bought specialized magazines where they gave you advice, do this, do that, put candles around the bathtub, create an atmosphere. And we really have been going at it!! Every month, however, the same story: hatefully precise that signal that nothing came of it and everything got on my nerves and Gaetano kept saying “Alright, you are nervous ’cause you have your stuff”. He didn’t have to put up with the grins of the women in the building, the endless stories of new children: “Did you hear that Mrs. Lucariello’s daughter had her fourth child? It is a boy, such a beautiful BABY”. What’s that? Are they like rabbits, always giving birth? At first they were all nice and friendly and often they joked about it “Eh Rosa, you look knackered, is it too much work?”. We laughed together, it was pleasant, I knew it was just a matter of time.

Then, slowly they started prying a bit too much. “Are you not feeling good, Rosa? What’s up, do you have any worries?” The tone was strange, even a little aggressive and treacherous. They looked at me differently. More and more often they excluded me from their chats and the reason was clear: they were talking about me. Why still nothing? A broken bride? What’s wrong with you? And me drooling over baby shops, dreaming that I would choose a huge bow and the most expensive Capodimonte favors to give to everyone and that they could fuck themselves. Tormenting myself while doing housework, swallowing my tears imagining the baby’s room, holding in my arms nephews and nieces who were born every two, three months, like mushrooms. I like kids so much! And they like me. They are always quiet in my arms, clearly they can feel the passion I have for them. They really make my body warm. I really need a child, I HAVE TO have one. I’m a woman. Then one day Mrs. Rusciano really crossed the line. I still remember all the wrinkles on her face as she said to me in a confidential tone “But is your husband good, Rosa? There are ways these days” “Excuse me, MRS. RUSCIANO, but why don’t you mind your fucking business?” Many faces peeked out from behind the curtains of some windows, someone came out on the balcony, the doorwoman, pretending she had to bring a bucket, appeared on the stairs. “Hey, the bride is pissed off! Come on Rosa, why do you take it so badly? Excuse me, but that’s just a way of saying.” “There you go m’am, you should say sorry and from now on find another topic for your gossips! ” Since then my life here has been hell. I cried and begged Gaetano to move or I would go out of my mind. Every time I go in and out of the building, the tone of voice lowers, as if a funeral procession was passing by and I was the dead. That’s how they see me and that’s how I feel. If I can’t be what every woman was born to be, if I can’t have a child, I’m broken, worthless. “Dead meat!!”

Because it must certainly be my fault, I am too nervous, too thin, too short, too much something. Or maybe too little. And I have some crazy eyes. That poor man has nothing to do with it, of course, “that guy always smiles, greets, is polite”.

He’s a police officer, a defender of law and order. It can’t depend on him.

A bride is o uaio.                            (The problem is the bride.)

A bride.                                          (The bride)

 Serena Castro Stera

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