Who would have thought? Thoughts for Silvia Romano, now free

Who would have thought that hope for the future of humanity could come in the middle of a pandemic?

The morning of the 9th of May was a typical quarantine Saturday morning. Alike every other day, indiscernible from any other afternoon evening and night. Just a random spot in the inchoate vortex of corona-time. After having tried to figure out, unsuccessfully, how to get a refund for the second flight that, in one week, I booked and got cancelled, I decided to go wash my clothes at the Chinese laundromat near my house. My phone went off, a WhatsApp message had reached me as I was loading the tumble dryer, suffocated by the warm air coming through my face mask…who would have thought I’d ever say that?

I stood up and laid back against the wall, took out a book, a wonderful collection of poems by Constantine Cavafy, and started to read. Who would have thought graduate school in New York would be like that, reading poems while I get distracted by other’s people socks making surprising color-combinations in the loop of the washing machines? My phone went off again, I took it out, and thus I got the news: Silvia Romano is free. After a year and a half in the hands of her, allegedly Islamist, kidnappers, between Kenya and Somalia, Silvia is free and on a plane back to Italy, to her home: who would have thought?

I put my phone away and went back to my book, but soon realised that I wasn’t moving past the same one poem, my mind was somewhere else, the news about Silvia was sinking in. She is alive. She doesn’t know, not yet, the malignities that have been said about her: “going to Africa as a volunteer, you cannot complain if you get kidnapped,” “I hope they rape her, though she’ll probably enjoy it.” I hope no one tells her, I hope no one gives importance to the voices that time, as is always the case, has already condemned. But I am sure Silvia would understand, she knows that she is the forerunner of a future, more perfect, society that just isn’t yet.

I cried, who would have thought I’d ever cry in a laundromat? The other customers looking at me, puzzled, but they know I’m okay, I am smiling through the face-mask, I think they can tell. I look back to the page and for what I can discern through the tears I read the following poem:

“Let them not seek to discover who I was

from all that I have done and said.

An obstacle was there that transformed

the deeds and the manner of my life.

An obstacle was there that stopped me

many times when I was about to speak.

Only from my most imperceptible deeds

and my most covert writings—

from these alone will they understand me.

But perhaps it isn’t worth exerting

such care and such effort for them to know me.

Later, in the more perfect society,

surely some other person created like me

will appear and act freely.”

(C. Cafavy – Hidden things)

Will there be a time when the Silvia Romano of this world will all be free? Today she is, and the first thing she said was “I was strong, I resisted”; and today the resistance should start for all of us. Let’s prepare for the revolution, for the more perfect society, whose coming is well overdue.

Would Silvia have thought she would come back to her mum and dad? Would they have thought they would hug her, kiss her again? Regardless, now she is free. Free like these trees that I see from my window and that today seem greener and stronger in the glorious light of noon. I wonder if they also know that Silvia is back. They look so strong, even in today’s blowing wind. Just like them, we will resist. Looking back, someone will smile: who would have thought?


di Giuseppe Vicinanza