The Woman with a Hat full of Cherries
The Woman with a Hat full of Cherries
'And a ball of fire from the sky will destroy the two towers......' prophecy by Nostradamus.
They had just woken up, almost at the same time. Margherita had immediately switched on the little radio on her bedside table to listen to the morning news. Oriana, still in her pyjamas, was busy making coffee on her electric ring. The smell of freshly brewed espresso was already filling the room.
She poured herself the first of a long series of cups of coffee and lit her third cigarette of the morning. Margherita, still lying on the bed with her eyes closed, was stretching her legs.
"Are you having a lazy spell this morning? Aren't you getting ready to go out?" Oriana inquired, anxious to start work typing on her faithful Olivetti.
Margherita, with her arms on her head, looked at her in amusement without showing any signs of haste. With a smile she reassured her, "Don't worry. I will leave you alone soon," but she continued to stretch herself on the bed like a cat in the sun.
Oriana went to the table and began to gather some sheets of paper that were scattered around. She found a photo of herself in New York with, in the background, the towers that subsequently would have been destroyed by the terrorists. She looked at the photo sadly. The two towers in the background made her think the photo belonged to a past that was no longer. The vision of the World Trade Center revived an old pain.
"Where were you when the towers were attacked?" Oriana asked Margherita who was by now beginning to get up.
"In Manhattan. In my apartment, not far from yours."
"Were you aware of what was happening?"
"Not exactly. My apartment looks onto one of the many lateral streets that lead to Central Park. From my window I face the attic of the building opposite. A middle aged man lives there and on the terrace he keeps an Italian flag permanently on display. We greet each other every morning. He starts each day going onto the terrace still in his pyjamas, waters the plants, adjusts the flag into the right position then sits down to drink his espresso and leaf through the newspaper. Each morning I follow his actions from my open window. I like to observe his morning routine. The loving, tender care he gives to his plants reminds me of my grandfather Eugenio who used to successfully cultivate white grapes on the terrace of his house in Trastevere.
The Italian man knows very well that I observe him. Every morning he calls out 'good morning', smiles at me and then continues with what he is doing, pretending to ignore my gaze that follows his routine, a routine that has also become mine. He is a very generous person. He grants me the freedom and pleasure to be part of his activities just like a little girl clings to her father or grandfather busy doing little jobs around the house, not so much because she is really interested in what they are doing but because she likes to be near them.
On the morning of that fateful day I was following his moves from the window of my apartment as usual. Suddenly somebody appeared on the threshold of the door to his terrace, told him something and everything changed. Something terrible must have happened, I thought, because he became very agitated and he abruptly interrupted his morning routine. At a certain point, I remember it so well, he turned to look at me, leaned over the balustrade of the terrace and started to shout something that I couldn't understand. With a terrible expression of anguish on his face he kept screaming words that just couldn't reach me then suddenly he started pointing to something in the sky. I was keeping looking up still I could see nothing. Gradually other people, equally agitated, started to appear at the windows of other apartments all around. They too seemed very intent in looking at the sky. There was a continuous buzz of voices, still I couldn't underst