05. The Dream Lady

“Good morning, Mr. Monti.”
“Good morning, Cesare.”
A quick greeting to the guard on duty, the stamp with the magnetic card and Gian Luca Monti set off with firm steps along the corridor that led to the elevators. He was late, but this was no news. And he had to hurry, if he didn’t want the internal bar to close, forcing him to face the morning at the office without counting on the energy of breakfast; but even this would have been no news either. He stopped in front of the doors of the descending elevator closest to the ground floor, glancing with worry at the clock hands, now dangerously close to 09:00, perhaps in the forlorn hope that this would persuade them to slow down. Absorbed in very complicated mathematical calculations on travel times, he did not even notice the person who had come up behind him and entered the elevator as soon as the doors opened; instead, his only thought was to press the button for the floor where the internal bar was located as soon as possible. Only when he saw a thin and graceful hand reaching the button for a different floor did Gian Luca Monti realize he was not alone and turned around.

***

Work could – and would – wait: Gian Luca Monti had other things to think about at that moment. Thoughts with thin and graceful hands.
Typing random characters on the keyboard, the terminal stationary on the login screen, Gian Luca Monti was lost in himself. He was no longer very young; he had been aware for a while of the fact that Santa Claus did not exist, and he thought he knew a lot about life and love. Love, this crazy feeling which is said to keep the world alive and which loses all charm, if analyzed rationally; something that Gian Luca Monti, being a good computer specialist, had hastened to do. His theories could be summed up in a potpourri of cynicism (which he preferred to call realism), irony (which he preferred to call British humour) and romanticism (in the literary meaning of the term, which Gian Luca Monti did not redefine for the simple reason that he didn’t know what it meant); with a very accentuated shade of self-harm, probably (which he preferred to call post break-up syndrome of perpetual listening of our song). And yet, in spite of his theories and certainties (which, in Gian Luca Monti’s innate presumption, coincided), his Dream Lady seemed to really exist, exactly like he had dreamed of her and desired her several years before. Thus, cynicism was replaced by hope, and hope by fear. The fear of talking to her, of getting to know her, of discovering that it was not how it should be, or that, much more trivially, it would not work. Or perhaps, after all, the fear of being forced to love a real person and not a solitary utopia. The fear of being happy.

***

Lunch break. Gian Luca Monti took his place inside the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor. At an intermediate level, the doors opened and She entered. A shy glance, a smile that froze halfway between the brain (the heart?) and the lips. Then, unexpectedly, Her look and smile. And the panic. And those long-forgotten sensations, who knows if they were ever really felt or just imagined. Another glance, a smile that this time managed to make its way through the fears. And once again Her look and smile. And that magic for which an elevator with twelve people suddenly becomes empty, except for you and Her. And for the light that surrounds her, so intense that it breaks through the darkness in you.

Ground floor.
The doors that open, the occupants that move along the corridor and, once crossed the threshold of the entrance door, disperse each on their own way.
And the magic becomes reality and the elevator is really empty, except for you and Her.
The waiting, the embarrassment. She, as she lowers her eyes in a sad smile and leaves the elevator.
Gian Luca Monti passed the corridor, the entrance door. He stood still for a moment, watching her walk away into the pale autumn sun, then gave her a silent goodbye and walked slowly along the sidewalk in the usual daily direction.
It simply could never have been more beautiful than this.

END

[First written as “La Dama dei Sogni” in 1995. Re-edited in 2018 with the help of Sonia Lombardo. Translated from the Italian by Sabrina Beretta and edited by Karen Rought in 2019.]
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