Nina and Nano

PART ONE  THE ENCOUNTER






The journey



Nina paid no attention to what her mother told her. They had been driving the southern highway for over an hour in the direction of a small coastal town, where they planned to spend two weeks of summer vacation. She gazed absentmindedly at the sprawling green vineyards that they were rapidly leaving behind on the other side of the highway. She was struck by the perfect alignment of the plants, where large bunches of grapes should already grow, but which would not yet be mature enough for the harvest. The large farmhouses that housed the wineries and the sumptuous residences of the owners of the extensive vineyards also drew her attention, which she envied, because she would have liked to live in one of those large farmhouses. Other times she would look up and stare ecstatically at the whimsical clusters of white clouds that formed figures that she was trying to identify, such as a large elephant, an angel, an UFO, or a giant with a large, white body.

Her mother tried in vain for her daughter to pay attention to her because Nina did not want to make that trip and did not want to listen to her arguments to justify it.

The extensive vineyards seemed to have no end. At intervals, some gaps were opened, planted with other crops, or lush groves of Mediterranean pines emerged. Other times, roads were opened that led to the mansions, with the margins limited by stylized cypresses, asymmetrically separated from each other, that gave cozy shade to those who circulated or walked through them.

Towards noon the radiant sun shone and the shadows caused by the leafy foliage of the trees fell vertically on the ground. From time to time flocks of wood pigeons crossed the sky, chased by a falcon. Flocks of noisy crows perched on the tops of the erect cypresses, restless, passing from one cypress to another, in an endless territorial struggle.

“Nina, daughter, you are distracted and you don't pay attention to me.”

“I don't care what you're saying!”

“My mother would have slapped me if I had answered that way.”

Nina could not have respect for her mother, because she believed she did not behave like a responsible mother, but like a capricious girl who did what she wanted, regardless of her opinion.

“My grandma would not have made this trip! “Nina replied with an angry expression.

“Your grandma lives in another century!”

It seemed to Nina that the answer made no sense, because in all centuries mothers are the same.

“Well, I keep the century of grandma!”

“But what is strange that we spend two weeks on the beach?”

“Nothing. But you are not going on the beach, but to meet a man who is married!”

“He is very unhappy in his marriage, but his wife does not want to grant him a divorce. They can be said to be separate. What's wrong with my friend?”

“Say rather your lover, and also your boss!”

“Nina, you are very cruel to your mother! You blame me for things you can't understand! There is no shame in having relationships with a man. I am a free and adult woman!”

“You are a divorced woman!”

“And what is the difference?”

“I think you still owe Dad a respect!”

For Nina the divorce was just a separation, but not a rupture.

“Then why did we get divorced?”

“Are you asking me? I do not know!”

“Nina, your father is the most boring person on the planet!”

“It doesn't seem so to me ...”

“I know that you love your father more than me. But someday you will understand. The years fly by, and the youth in a sigh! At the age of fifteen you have no idea what it feels like to look in the mirror and you begin not to recognize the image that appears on the other side. I am 42 years old. Before I know it I will be 50 and then we will no longer need to make these trips, because there will be no man to meet with ... Someday you will understand ...”

Nina felt violent and sad at the same time. She wanted to maintain a good relationship with her mother, but her way of behaving exasperated her that she, just 15 years old and with little experience in life, seemed irresponsible.

Nina tried to imagine herself twenty or thirty years older. Possibly she would look the same as her mother: sagging arms, light double chin, some cellulite on her hips, sagging and sagging breasts. Yes, her mother was right, it must be very painful to grow old with all those symptoms. But that was not enough to justify her behavior. “Everyone grows old,” she thought without taking her eyes off the landscape they were leaving behind, “but they don't behave like her.”

The vineyards had disappeared from the landscape and vast fields of orange and lemon trees were beginning to be seen. These trees were also in perfect alignment on the ground. They had left behind several of the country's most popular tourist cities. The rural landscape of scattered country houses became denser, and from the highway you could see numerous small towns surrounded by orange groves, but also by other kinds of fruit trees adapted to warm areas, such as avocados and mangoes. Nina was tired and hot, but there was no point in opening the window, because the air from the desert in North Africa was so hot and dry it burned on her skin.

“I'm tired, thirsty and hungry!” Nina protested. “Can we stop at the next service area to refresh and eat something?”

A few kilometers away they found a service area. They parked the overheated car and, still numb from several hours of inactivity, entered the restaurant. Nina chose the dish of the day: fresh fish from the local sea and her mother just a simple salad. They took a seat by the large windows from where the heavy traffic on the highway could be seen.

“Is the fish fresh?” Asked the mother to break the silence. Nina nodded with a slight nod.

“I know you like fish more than meat. Where we go you will enjoy the most delicious fish grills in this country.”

Nina understood that her mother wanted to return to the subject they had tried to talk about during the trip.

“Nina, the day after tomorrow my boss will meet us.”

“Your lover!”

“Yes, yes; my lover! But he will only stay three or four days.”

“In our same apartment?”

“Sure! Do you think I could afford an apartment by the sea in one of the most expensive tourist areas in this country?”

“So, has he paid for it?”

“Yes.”

“And, of course, you have to sleep with him!”

“Why do you insist on martyring me? Couldn't you be a little more understanding and avoid telling me things so harshly?”

Nina felt that she had indeed been very hard on her mother, but her behavior was intolerable. However, she apologized.

“Sorry, mom!”

“Well, fine, but you have to understand things and be less fussy, not to say puritanical! You want to be a great singer, who do you think pays for your music classes? With my salary we barely get to eat, get dressed and pay the rent. Yes, it's true, I sleep with him, because the extras are also paid by him. Everyone sleeps with everyone! What is wrong with having sex when you are my age and you are a free woman? I understand that you see things differently, and I'm glad it's the case, but don't be so light judging your mother, just because she knows how to get everything we both need.”

Nina was listening to her mother, but could not agree. There was no justification for her to sleep with a boy if she wasn't in love. But she didn't want to contradict her mother and let her speak without interrupting her.

“When I was your age we women could not do anything without the consent of men. We had no freedom and we could not take the initiative in anything. It was all sin! At the age of fifteen we still wore white socks and it was a whore to wear pants. Now you can dress as you please, you are free to take the initiative and nobody asks you whether or not you are a virgin, because it no longer matters. Would you like those times to return?”

Nina shook her head slightly in denial.

“No, of course not! That is why I do not find it wrong that if two people like each other and want each other, they will have sex without the need a promise of eternal love.. You are free to think otherwise, but at least respect my way of thinking and don't judge me lightly.”

The mother seemed to doubt what she wanted to say next to her confused daughter, but she needed to know.

“Nina, since we will be all together in the apartment we have to do something so that you know when you should or should not enter. I will put the red bath towel on the railing of the terrace so that you know when you should wait on the beach, and when it is not there you will be able to enter. Do you agree?”

That indecent system seemed intolerable to Nina, but for nothing in the world did she want to surprise her mother in bed with a man, so she agreed with an energetic response, which made her discomfort clear.

“Yes, mom, I agree!”

“Well, it's time to continue the trip, we still have many kilometers left, and I wouldn't want to be too late.”

The two women joined the highway and continued the journey without either of them breaking the tense silence created by the restaurant's conversation.

Now the landscape had changed again, and the palm groves were abundant and there were few spaces that were not urbanized. On soft hills there were countless summer houses, with large well-kept gardens, in many cases, with refreshing swimming pools. Twilight reddened the clouds as the sun sank below the horizon, freeing the environment from its suffoc