People’s fear is like snow

A contribution by Ubaldo Sagripanti, psychiatrist

I work a stone’s throw from Leopardi’s house, half an hour away from mine and, every day, I drive through the hills in the morning to get to my “mad people”. I am a psychiatrist. Today is a beautiful but surreal day, along the usual route we are few and there is no morning bustle of the schools: no queues; free crossings; no cold watchful to raise the paddle… Silence!

I continue amazed and unhurried, like a foreign tourist inside the Pantheon, I understand that I will arrive earlier than usual, the fear of the virus has cleared the streets and widened the time available to me – Am I afraid of the virus?! I don’t know, not yet – and parking. We are joking, nobody has been closely touched, here, the health alarm is limited to the precautions dictated by the Ministry’s circulars, and in short, it means attention. The word is always the same but not the one who reads it, and that’s when it changes shape.

Form and meaning. It is clear from the eyes before they speak from a free face; from above the mask; from mask, gloves and cap; from a meter away or three. My “mad people” don’t, they have the same eyes as ever, on the contrary, they feel less different from the others now that fear is a common good, and among us, there is more confidence than usual – I would like to smoke a cigarette with them, I have stopped long, but today I really have a terrible desire: mads, tobacco and yellow fingers are almost one thing – we feel closer, today, me and mads. My Service is located in the old hospital of Recanati, now transformed into polyclinics, offices, a First Aid point and other health offers: I take a tour.

Generally, along the crowded corridors you have to stop, ask for permission, get out of the way, be patient and continue as usual, but today you could play football; there is hardly anyone there. I stop at the concierge, we have time, they tell me that people ask for information by phone, but they don’t come: they are all at home. I also go to the Emergency Service: empty waiting room; masks lowered on the neck; young doctor looking out; 118 drivers who talk leaning on ambulances.

People’s fear is like snow: it falls all over white, without edges, soft, cold and silent – I always want a cigarette – today it snows a lot even with the sun, also if it already seems spring and the mimosas splash yellow on the gardens. Some argue that Giacomo Leopardi often came here in Recanati and that perhaps the famous infinity hedge was here, in a corner at the back of the hospital, where the kitchens are now. It is an isolated place from which the panorama is gorgeous, and the sharpness of the paradox of that hedge that excluded him from the boy’s gaze penetrates the soul. It is a refuge where silence is superhuman and sweet – I needed refreshment from the frozen stillness of the fear that snowed everywhere – Giacomo’s hedge is gone, then, I closed my eyes to the panorama, I leave the skin to the warmth of the sun, and I grant the brief abandonment. I thank the nice guy one more time and go back to work.

Happy shipwreck at all

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