The television remained on, despite the empty couch. Anita, on the balcony, was shouting over the phone waving her hands, as though she wanted to prove her innocence, even physically, to a person in front of her. While sobbing, she kept on repeating that she was angry too, that she was very sorry. She had to believe her; they would have sworn to her. Between thoughts and excuses she had invented on the spot, she lowered her voice. Now she only said, “Yes, this is right. Yes, you warned me, mum; I am sorry”. Valerio, sat at the living room table, was turning his back to the television set, looking at the clock near the bookcase. One ear was listening to the news headlines. The other one was hearing his wife screaming, first; the soft whispering, later. The hands seemed to slow down, exhausted by the time spent during the week. The minute hand finally completes the turn after a lot of effort. It is two o’clock on the dot. Valerio gets up, takes his jacket and, within seconds, the dog (called Mammoth because of its abnormal size) hangs around his legs, wagging its tail. Valerio puts the collar on the dog and, when he looks through the window, he sees Anita crying and, grumbling, opens the door wide and slams it. Now he can breathe some fresh air. Down the stairs, he thinks how right he was to refuse his mother-in-law’s lunch. Once on the second floor, he wonders how long it has been since he has even had the desire to touch his wife. On the ground floor, he realized the imminent end of his marriage, the humiliating work contract he had just accepted to make his wife and mother-in-law happy (of that marriage which is about to end) and the fact that all this does not bother him much anyway. Once at the gate, he realized that not only does all this not bother him that much, but also, he does not care about it. Greetings to the neighbor, a smile to another passer-by with the dog, followed by the moment of embarrassment when the two animals sniff each other. He finally arrives at the park, right on time, like every Sunday, at a quarter past two. He sat on the usual bench, throwing the usual red ball to the dog. The idea of change stresses him; the idea of his wife who moans on the balcony irritates him; the idea of an unpleasant job fortifies him in his utter indifference. With his eyes on Mammoth, Valerio keeps on being thoughtful, bored. “You have a really nice dog, do you know that?”. The young boy smiles, waiting for some kind of gratitude. Valerio shrugs his shoulders and with half a smile, replies, “It is a normal dog”. The young man starts playing with it. Valerio looks at the situation and he is amused. The boy then sits down next to him. He takes out his mobile phone and follows the news. With his thumb and forefinger, he zooms in on the screen, saying something like: “Let me see how we’re doing…” and then admits in a louder voice: “This Sunday is not like any other”. Valerio turns around: quarrel with his wife, walk with the dog and discomfort. Perhaps is he talking about the weather? Yet, it is a spring day in step with the season. This is just like any other Sunday for him. He just has to hurry up home before the football matches start.
“Have you ever been there?”. Valerio realizes at that precise moment.
“No, I never go there. Nothing ever changes anyway”.
“Maybe you have to give it a try”.
“What about you? Have you ever been there?”
“No, me neither”.
“Do you see? We are exactly the same”.
“I do not think so. When, after years, I finally manage to receive my voter’s card and I am recognized as an Italian citizen, I will not miss a single appointment, because I will have sworn to be faithful to this Republic”.
Valerio does not speak; he just stares and meanwhile misses the whistle for the start of his team’s match. This is not a Sunday like any other. This is the Sunday on which a man who did not want to go to vote and a man who could not go to vote sat, in the park, in the city-center, on a bench that, on this Sunday at least, should have remained empty.