giovedì, giugno 28, 2012

One city ruled out

I flatter myself, readers, that if there's one thing I know, it's when a place is a dump. And Reggio di Calabria is a dump.

I honestly can't even begin to visualize a parallel universe wherein I'd live there. I could manage something like a visualization of what life would be like if I lived in Delhi, for example, though I'm sure it's highly unrealistic. In a place like that if you're poor you're too poor to have options and too Indian to get a visa and go live somewhere else. And I could visualize what life would be like if I lived in northern England, for example. You can make an effort and make life livable there. Probably. Although I'd probably have shot myself by now due to the seasonal depression.

But Reggio? Sweltering in the summer, no insulation in the winter, the water only working when it wants to . . . the only civic differences between Delhi and Reggio is that Delhi's got more people in it. It's practically identical, down to the crumbling buildings and rubbish-fire air and stray dogs rooting through the garbage-strewn streets and colonial-era water and sewerage infrastructure. If there were as many people in Reggio as in Delhi they'd all be dead. That's it. It wouldn't be like trying to crowd the population of Australia into Shanghai, whereby society would descend into some sort of 28 Days Later-style gore flick with some possibility of survival. No. Whatever the mob wouldn't get, cholera would.

And if I grew up there - gosh. That is one parallel universe that feels, if not beyond my imagination, like something that I'd have to struggle really, really hard to imagine. I can't imagine a Jessica who'd lack the nous on her eighteenth birthday to pack up and get the fuck out of there. Who'd lack the nous to learn the language of a functioning economy, and go function in it. But there are thousands of women my age, who look frighteningly like me, who are there and who are staying there. European passports notwithstanding, language skills notwithstanding. There they are and there they stay.

Since it's a bit of an inside job for me, I understand why they stay when they don't need to professionally or visa-ly or linguistically. to a certain point. It's family. Family ties. Family fucking bondage. And it's not just the women; it's any halfway gentle and retiring personality; they get tied into the family in a way that I can only see and not understand. It's the women who bug me a little more though, me being one and all, and seeing those women my age who look frighteningly like me etc. deferring to some dumb-ass husband who wouldn't even count as "slumming" in developed countries or to male relatives who as good as they are at some things are just very fallible people themselves - women who aren't making their own mistakes and whose lives I just don't get - holy shit.

This is the first place I've been with Ren in my tummy where I've thought seriously to myself that I really, really don't want Ren growing up. Boy or girl. Or fuckin' dinosaur. Not here.