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Japan friends came, and his buddies from the beach and from the cantina. They wept in silence. Someone murmured in a clipped phrase: “It’s not fair he was the best.” Someone brought up his bad luck in recent times, the suffering caused by the break-up of his family, Japan the shattering of the dreams of his childhood. Mothers and sisters of those who had died young came to weep and keen even as they thought of their own loss. Japan mother and sister clung to them, looking for some explanation or comfort, or simply for some sign of what their future held, what would become of them or how they might survive. Gio’s friends sent coffee and croissants, fruits and juices, from the local bar. Relatives prepared soup with mini meatballs. Aunt Japan wouldn’t touch anything. “I have my own food I’ll eat what fate has provided for me.”

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The brothers of the congregation of the crucifix, wearing their red capes, came in large numbers. The funeral procession moved quickly and silently. I was a cousin and so I took my place in the receiving line for condolences, and extended my hand. It wasn’t my first time: I’d lost another cousin and uncles and aunts. I shook hands firmly and replied with warmth to the embrace of those of those who knew me. I studied the faces of all who came seeing in them an older version of myself. I did a rough list of absentees and also of those who seemed strangers. A funeral always strikes a balance: It’s a list of losses, an inventory and a roll call, but also a time of good intentions and well intentioned promises that will be forgotten in a few days.

Aunt Nuzza continued her lament: “I should have died in your place, I’m the old one, my son . you were young and a hard worker . you made so many sacrifices. What cruel fate! Did your father come to gather you when you were dying, to console you? What went though your mind before you died? Your fate lay waiting for you, my beautiful young son.”

Mastro Mico, who was standing beside me, said: “Lu malu passu e duve cadi (one wrong step and we’re done for). No one knows in advance his or her own destiny. Maybe we should have left too; maybe we would have made a fortune, or we’d be back in a closed coffin like poor Gio.”

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