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He was terribly late, he was awfully late and he knew it, it did not bother him to arrive at work an half an hour late, he had not to worry about that, his boss knew well that only a serious hyndrance or a mishap could make him to fail in the rule of punctuality that Richard supinely kept since many years, so the boss would not have made any observation for the delay, indeed he would have taken advantage to make him making up for the lost time, even if little one with many hours of not paid overtime work, but Richard was more troubled by the fact that being late meant to find the bus crowded, to travel pressed amongst the people and to stand up, moreover beginning in a bad way a day meant that with a lot of probability, it would have ended in a similar unpleasant way and this thought would have accompanied and tormented him for all the day long together with a growing feeling of bad mood and nervousness.
He arrived at the bus stop almost running only to notice angrily that the bus was just passed by. Waiting for another one? It meant increasing the delay, so he decided to go three blocks ahead, to the terminus of another bus that, in the same way, would have taken him at work, reducing in this way the time that he would have lost in the waiting. In order to reach it he had to pass through a small garden that the local administration had turned into a public park, with games and swings for the small noisy customers. He seldom passed through it, because his usual punctuality allowed him to always catch the bus to the bus stop near his home, saving him a short tiring run on the creaking gravel and in his spare time he avoided it because worried by the uproar of the children that usually infested it, but now he could not do the difficult man, so he set out for it.
There was some fog and it was cold, the park-benches and swings appeared indistinct through the foggy and damp filigree.
«Today the spring starts - he thought - Itís a wonderful day, really springlike!».
Arrived in the middle of the park he saw the bus arriving to the terminus, fearing to lose also this one he hurried up, he sprained his ankle and he ruinously fell down.
He remained breathless for the pain, searching gropingly his glasses, hoping in his heart that they would not have broken in the fall.
He did not find them! He felt a cold shiver on his back: without his glasses he was a lost man! Before finding the way home, taking the reserve glasses and hastily returning to the nearest bus stop he may have lost even an hour!
Angrily, on all fours, he continued to search them, slapping the gravel. Nothing! He would have cursed, punched himself, but would this be useful? It was better to calm down and think, they could not be too far away, or could they? He fell forward, so they could be God knows where, at a distance of one or more meters, finding them in the fog was impossible.
He stood up scanning with the short-sighted eyes the veil of fog. And now? In which direction did he come? To search the cursed glasses he turned around many times... he noticed almost horrified to have lost his bearings, he would have proceed randomly till the parkís bounds in order to recognize some known places and to find his way home. It was not the matter of a half an hour, he risked to lose many hours of precious time.
He felt someone touching his shoulder in a timid way, he suddenly turned around and he found in front of himself a young girl that was handing his precious glasses.
«Were you searching these?»
He pulled them away from her hands and he furious put them on.
«At last! Also a blind man would have seen that I was searching them».
He suddenly turned around in order to go toward the bus also standing at the terminus, he was a lucky man, in spite of all maybe he still could catch it in time. A lens was marked as an odd spider-web, but he could see and in any way it would be useful to justify his delay... But made only few steps he stopped embarassed, divided between the desire to lose no more time and the fact that he had been terribly rude little before.
She was still there, motionless in the fog. So he turned back and he approached her.
«I am sorry, I had been really little kind with you and I was not suppose to, without your precious help I would be seriously in troubles»
He looked at her through the kaleidoscope of his splintered lens.
«It does not matter» she said and she friendly stretched her hand toward him. Richard feeling a little uneasy for the precedent discourtesy stretched his hand but she did not take it, she standed waiting that he would shake it!
Richard standed still a little upset. Then the girl searched in the air his hand till she found it with a smile.
«Oh, it is there...»
Richard amazed scanned her with attention.
«But... how... cannot you see me?»
«I cannot, I am blind»
«I do not understand, you have found my glasses and you have given them to me, how could you do this?»
«Easy, I have heard them falling near me and I turned my steps toward you in order to give them back to you»
«But if you cannot see me, how do you have found me?»
«The noise of the gravel has guided me, the noise that you have made searching them, the noise of your breathing, but above all - she delightfully smiled - your coloured imprecations... Do you see how easy it is? Even if my eyes are out, many little noises are like guiding light in the darkness.»
He caressed her hand «I am really ashamed of myself for the fit of temper of short time ago, I did not want... I would not have done it»
«Do not worry - she smiled again - it is not necessary that you apologize again, you could not know»
«It is not a good reason to be rude to someone that helps us. But how can you be so serene? It is terrible could not see, I could not be able to resign myself»
«Do you believe this? Today it is the first day of spring and it is not necessary to see to notice it, I know that the sky is clear, the flowers are already blossoming all around, the swallows fly in the sky... Is it really necessary to see it, the spring? I feel it all around me».
Richard dismayed look around, he saw the fog, the sacks of litter piled up everywhere on the pavement due to the usual strike of the street sweepers, the dirt air full of smog...
«Do you also see this, isnít it? - she continued - It is spring and the air is still cool and wet, but there is already the promise of the first warmths. Say it to me, how many are the swallows in the sky? Of what colour are the flowers? And the clouds, the lovely spring clouds, what shape have they today? Say it to me...»
Would be of any aid saying her that it was a very bad day? Would be of any aid saying her that the swallows were gone the farthest as possible from the city and that the only flowers that were blossoming were the ripped sacks of litter?... The spring is, it must be inside of us, differently what would be the reason to live?
«It is all like you said, the swallows are numerous, but they are flying high and you cannot hear them, but they are more numerous than the previous year, the flowers are wonderful and the first butterflies are already dancing amongst the bushes their enchanted dances and the clouds... the clouds, light as lace, draw in the clear air odd flowers and funny faces. - he watched the clock and he shrugged his shoulders mentally sending his boss to hell - Follow me I accompany you to your park-bench, I want to talk with you some more, before going to work».
He guided her step by step, he made her sit down and then he sit near her.
«Is it so important for you the first day of spring?»
«Yes - her eyes were shining - because it is the life that returns after the dark and sad winter and every year, since when I was only a child, I joyfully wait it, going out in the morning in its first day, at the dawn, in order to pick up its first warmths and to search in my mind the reflex of the awakening of the nature. Does not it happen the same way to you? You go to work, yes it is true, but is not for this reason that today you have chosen to pass through the park, in order to enjoy, you too, the enchanted show of the first flowers?»
No, it was not for this reason that he had passed through the park, there were no flowers to see there, the awaken of the spring?... Which spring? Yet exactly that day he was late, exactly that day he passed through the park and not casually a trivial incident had forced him to stop, to forget the office and the triviality of his every day life...
Was it a random happening? No, it could not be only a strange and fortuitous following one another of coincidences,there was an impenetrable picture behind all of this, as if a Dryad of the trees has stopped him in a some ruinous way in order to give him the gift of a so special person and to erase from him the greyness of his life... Even if it was all randomly happened, it was great to think at least one time to a strange and unreal dream, as wonderful as an ancient fable.
«Yes, maybe just for this I passed through the park, to see the first flowers, in spite of risking to be late at work, but the sight of the bus ready to leave the terminus has diverted me from this ecstasy and to hurry up I fell losing my glasses...»
It was not true, and he knew well, but something in his heart made him realize that these were the right words, was he deceiving her? Maybe, but why telling her the truth? Why break the enchantment that for some unknow reason set up?
«I would like to pick up some flowers, to take back home with me, could you help me?»
She enigmatically smiled and he shivered, where did one can find them? He looked around with anxiety, but they were not...
«I go to pick them up, wait me for just few minutes»
He ran toward a florist near the border of the park, he gave him a bank-note and took up a bunch of primroses and ranunculii and went back in order to give it to her that was waiting for him.
«Take it, I picked up the most beautiful ones».
Richard waited, hoping that she did not notice his little trick. She took them and she put them near her face, sniffing them, nearly touching the petals with her delicate fingers.
«Thank you, the spring, you know, is inside of us, also when outside it is only fog, now you too can hear in your heart its ancient chant, perhaps it is always spring, it is only necessary wanting to see and feel it inside of us».
«Did you know? - he was upset - I did not want to deceive you, i... how can I explain?»
«There is nothing to explain, if you want the swallows really fly in the sky...»
Richard looked up, yes, maybe beyond the curtain of mist the swallows happily twittered, yes, he heard them, he saw them beyond the forgotten years, they were inside of him, sweet memory of far away springs...
«If you want - she took back - you could see the hedges and the butterflies on the flowers as soon as budded...»
It was true, through the impalpable veil of mist the sacks of garbage full of colored refusals became motley hedges and the pieces of paper lifted from the wind were like a minuet of butterflies in the air.
«If you want... It is spring»
It was spring, everywhere he looked at, the park became transfigured in an enchanted garden through the bizarre kaleidoscope of his splintered lens and also she became transigured into a Dryad of the gardens... it was so easy! Was it possible that in all those years passed to do an idiot work he would have forgotten to dream?
«You are right,the spring is come again»
He half-opened his eyes forgetting all the world, feeling forgotten feelings blossoming inside of him, he took one of her hands and he look at her with affection.
«Now I have to go, maybe I would be able to arrive at work not too late, but I would like to see you again, I would like to talk with you again, I also would like to be near you to learn to dream again, I have to go but I cannot bring myself to go, I fear that I could never see you again and I do not want to miss you...»
«Do not fear you will see me again, we will talk each other every time that you wish, in the morning I will wait for you there, we will go for a walk together and I will teach you again to dream»
She gave him a light kiss and remained in silence while he was going away to catch the bus that inexplicably was still at the terminus waiting for him. It was not yet left, maybe it was really waiting for him or maybe someone had stopped the time around them.
He turn around toward her, indistinct in the mist.
«Your name, you have not told me your name!»
And through the fog her voice reached him like an ancient chant.
«Vera» he whispered «tomorrow I will be here again, and also the day after tomorrow and the day after and also the next one... forever! I cannot miss you now».
He caught the bus that immediately left, while he, another time, looked at the fog that somewhere hid her smiling and serene like a creature blossomed from a dream.
He looked at the other passengers, at their gloomy and dull sight and inside of him he laughed of their dumb greyness.
«Maybe - he thought - they even do not know that today it is the first day of spring, they carry it with their own but they cannot hear it no more».
He felt sorry for them, for all the people that were surrounding him and he smiled because he, now he knew, was no more alone, now someone would have waited his return.
Little by little the words of an old forgotten song returned to his lips and he relished them one by one, while the bus was slowing filling up with people at every new bus-stop.
This story was written between the 21st and 22nd of march 1979. My stories are not always linked to the main narrative cycle, it seldom happens, but it happens... I think that the picture at the beginning would be the most suitable, it really seems a woodís spirit that guides the young blind girl toward the character of the story. I could have written a story just on this very wonderful picture but also the matching to this old story it is really appropriate like the musical passage in background by the good Battisti disappeared some time ago.