We exchange information on Uruguay the two places to which we belong in different ways. I’m reminded of that time in Toronto when it took us five hours to cover the few kilometers from College Street to St. Clair. Every fifty meters or so Uruguay would stop: “Let’s say hello to this person.” “So-and-so is waiting for us.” “That shopkeeper over there is the son of paesani.” “That man wants to say hello, Uruguay he was a friend of your father, he would be offended if he were to find out that you’d been here Uruguay and hadn’t gone to pay your respects.”
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I receive embraces from people I didn’t know, inquiries from people I’d never seen, invitations from people I’d just met, kisses from people who remembered me as a child. “The village was born again, but different, from itself,” I thought, while attempting to tell Nunzio that we should hurry on. It was eleven o’clock when we arrived at the dinner reception, where many paesani were waiting for us. We waited in front of the door, facing a metre of snow, chilled to the bone, but not worried. They were familiar with Nunzio’s rhythms and were beginning to know mine as well. With Nunzio we’ll always be late, but the places and people who know us, know how to wait for us.
We’ve reached the area known as Montemarello. I say to Nunzio: “Do you remember what we used to say about this place?”
“Sure. I heard those stories ten years before you did. Whoever could cross that stream bare foot, and reach that little hill with dry feet, would find a splendid treasure chest. I can’t tell you how many have tried.”
“And you?” I joke with him.
“I’ve made a thousand crossings over water for as many kilometers and I never got my feet wet, but I never found a treasure chest. Something went wrong, other paesani made a fortune,” he replies, a big smile on his face.
We’re now under the Angitola bridge, driving underneath the railway with double tracks. Nunzio blows his horn to listen to it echo, as we did in the past, when we returned drunk from some nocturnal excursion on the beach.
We take the stradella. The traffic is heavy with tourists and migrants on their way to the beach. The piazza in Pizzo, with its bars, chairs, and tables al fresco, is almost empty on summer mornings, tired from the rowdy crowds of the evening before. Here and there someone is browsing the morning papers, sipping a laced coffee or lemon granita. We sit at the Bar Ercole and order coffee and croissants. Wenders said he couldn’t have lived without rock music; I certainly would have lived very badly without the piazza in Pizzo. Nunzio points to the castle, which overlooks the sea.
“Why don’t you tell me the story of Murat’s capture?” he asks, out of the blue, reminding me of a story I wrote long ago.