Desiring Atlas

Written by  Sergio Fortini
Half-serious map of joke in town.
On Saturday, in spring, at 6 p.m., in the air, the smell of mowed grass, lime and pollen coming from outside the walls is strong and blends with the noise of the cars taking the ways leading to the hypermarkets.

If you drive one of the circus beams on the mountain standing on the north-eastern corner of the enclosing walls, you would see parks and gardens spreading before you, starting from that area, which is nearly a quarter of a town and stretching for several hundred outdoor semipublic places, if you open these wide courtyards.

The traffic system could prove it's perfectly working, with walkways on the walls, cycle tracks under the walls, traffic flows separating open spaces one from the other. Then, you can see the town park, children running after their last kites, resigned balls kicked by professionals wearing outfit.

This situation lasts for an hour, then everything changes. Some streets are atrophied, the traffic is thinning out, the light begins to fail, while others come to life again after the shower break, people crowd and the smell of lime and mowed grass is replaced by post-gymnasium high quality fragrances: artificial spring starts.
Artificial spring breaks out with all its smells, glances and hormones, but it actually started long ago with people looking in the mirror of the gymnasiums, slipping through library rooms for frivolous talks, replacing student one room flats.

The library is not merely a study hall, but it is also a place for doubts and plans: people complain and make plans for the afternoon, for the evening, for holidays, for the future.
After having spent one day in the library, people generally take an aperitif. This tradition has been introduced in town after many years of obscurantism, spreading across the town centre.

There are new routes between a bar and another, counters are full of canapés and customers. Even in this case, there are roads and ways to follow, which are different one from the other, spreading beyond the curtain, outside the walls in fictitious places, finally without tradition.

Just like town centre bars, these places are full of strong aperitifs, with a sort of relax consisting in talking without saying anything, hearing without listening, in a sword of voices and sounds which are always the same, evening after evening, with growing expectations which are inversely proportional to what is really interesting, culminating during the weekend, with its funny intrigues. When joke is a serious thing.
On Saturday, in spring, at 8 p.m., I am standing on a circus beam on the mountain which is located on the north-eastern corner of the enclosing walls with my friend Joued.

We are silently watching the town. He tells me that, from this unusual height facing the town, you can see all the things Ferrarese people do not think about Ferrara, that is to say walls are just a drawing and not a boundary. The town stretches further on and it is transformed, changing its rules and customs.
Then, Joued removes his gaze from the network which appears on the horizon and tells me: "What ARE we doing, tonight?".

My suggestions are all based on my first impressions of the busy town and the behaviour of its inhabitants. They are all part of a system of aggregation culminating during the weekend, after having felt this necessity each time in five days.
Warning: it is not required to visit all places on the way; sedentary people often make two stops; perhaps there are other tacit rules, which are broken when most people's gaze rests on those who give them a sensation of strangeness.
There are no deviations from these ways. The only possible deviations appear to those who take the roads branching off from the town: the Seaside, Bologna, the territory around Mantua and Veneto.

Joued does not agree: there are possible deviations. According to him, I forgot that there is a bar in via Saraceno, in the town centre, which is mostly patronised by people coming from other countries.

On Saturday, in spring, at ten p.m., Joued and I are taking the second spritz in this bar in via Saraceno.
I feel uneasy, I think I'm forcing my hand, staying here. I feel that not only the people coming from other countries are staring at me, but also the old men who learnt to share with them card game and sports paper tables. Feeling excited, I suddenly turn towards some young boys who are sitting at a table - are they Maghrebian? Are they Palestinian? - and, holding an half-empty glass, I say: "Today, let's celebrate, you are my guest".

After a brief silence and after having exchanged sideways glances, one of them speaks in the other's NAME, telling "Thanks". I order WITH emphasis a bottle AND several glasses, Joued looks AT me a little BIT stunned, softly asking "what do we celebrate?". I pretend NOT TO hear him AND I beckon them over.
After half an hour, we are already talking about women, after three quarters of an hour we are talking about the shield and after an hour we are even talking about politics. Finally, we decide to take the car and go with two of them. Go where? Deviation, Joued answers. All right. I drive the car, taking the road leading to the seaside. I turn off along the trunk road which leads to Portogaribaldi, taking the waterway.

I stop the car and I take them to the bank: in front of us, there are the fresh water canal, two branches with the relative sluices, owl sounds, the smell of the sea and bright stars.
The others seem to be very struck by the landscape and silently share it. We come back to the car. We hear loud sounds and noises coming from lights nearby: there is a party.

After twenty minutes, we are dancing with strangers who have just offered us a drink. I think that, sometimes, in the country, it's everything easier.
When we come back, an happy silence reigns and we feel we have spent a wonderful day.
The radio is silent and the suggested music is the sound of our thought.