Costanza Casati has interviewed different girls from different countries and backgrounds, each one of them inspiring a story of hers. The names of the characters, however, are fictional.
Happiness. Whenever someone asked Emma about her main purpose in life, her answer would always be the same: happiness. The kind of happiness she was looking for didn’t come from material goods, she was sure about it. Goods can’t give emotions. Even though they may remain unblemished in time, stable and durable, they can’t give emotions.
That is what people can do. People, who might slip away, like sand blown by the wind, looking for new horizons, changing through the years, can give a sort of sudden, unexpected and short-lived happiness. That indeed is true happiness: strong and thrilling.
That was what Emma had lost.
She was crying, her face resting against the cold glass of the window, the real and reflected tears forming a single furrow on her cheeks. The pale light of the lamp, hovering over a dozen books, created a strange play of shadows on her head. She had dark eyes surrounded by heavy black lines that tears were trying to wipe off, dragging them down, smearing her cheek-bones. Long, untidy locks of hair were glued on her face, as if to dry those tears. Emma had been in that room, alone, for hours, fighting with her past. She was thinking about how she was before meeting Paolo, before leaving him. Determined, passionate, constant, with the only fear of not being up to the expectations she imposed on herself. But she didn’t know yet what real happiness was.
The noise of the sea, beating against the ferry-boat, penetrated everything.
Infinite, roaring, dark water.
Emma and Paolo were hidden under a shelter, in the night, about twenty yards from the ship’s bow.
“I want you to feel something.” Paolo smiled as he said this and Emma stopped breathing. The way he used to smile, as there was nothing bad in the world, killed her. Emma nodded. He moved towards the bow.
“Come,” he said.
She followed him, immersing herself in the wind and the splashing water, regardless of the hair that lashed her face and of the long dress that made her stumble. He was waiting for her. Closer and closer. He hugged her. The moon, bright and distant, touched the surface of the water and illuminated the tattoo on Emma’s neck. A greek word. πάθος.
Her love for him was something insane. It was devotion: she loved him more than she loved herself. That’s why she had left him. Trying to start all over again, to go back to her previous, stable life, in a new country.
But happiness is not stable.
Now he was there, a few hours away. He had come looking for her. Simple words, scrawled on a piece of paper stained with coffee, enclosed in an envelope addressed to Emma, “I’m here.”
She was an absolute determinist and he knew that. Nothing, according to Emma, happened by chance. Still, she didn’t want anybody else to decide for her either, not even him, and now a decision had to be made.
Emma jumped up, knocking over the stack of books. The lamp fell on the carpet with a dull thud. The glass cracked and the light went out. Emma felt the beat of her heart filling the dark room. She had to put aside her determination if she wanted to be happy. Why is it always so hard to understand how important something is, when you have it next to you?
“I’m here.” Happiness.