I felt content; I was home and regression was starting. I heard my sister Orsala's voice in the background; she likes to talk and was rich in dictating the interactions of the day. Usually I gave the appearance of listening. This was not difficult with her as she liked passivity on the part of her listeners. The name Lina Petrina alerted me."Grazia told me that she ran into Lina Petrina at the train station. Lina was arriving in Naples from a visit to her family in Acerra . They had not seen each other for some time and greeted each other with kisses and affection. In their conversation , my name came up and Lina showed interest about us. She wanted to know how we were doing, asked for our phone number and promised that she would call us. " Did she?", I interrupted. "Not yet," was the answer. "Can we contact her?" "I don't have the number." "What about the phone book?" "Well she must be listed with her married name and I don't remember it. "Her husband died a few years ago and I don't think she resumed her maiden name." Suddenly I felt adrenalin rushing in my blood: I wanted to contact Lina. I found my glasses and rushed to the phone book. A few Petrinas were listed. Was one of them the right one? I tried in spite of the poor odds . My hurried question ,"is Lina home?", was met with ,"sorry, no Lina here. You must have the wrong number." Orsala saw the disappointment on my face ."Don't worry, I'll ask Grazia. She's in Massa for a few days. She told me that she would contact me when she is in Naples so we can spend some time together,;perhaps a movie. "OK", I said and left the room. I wanted to be alone and the best bet was to go out. In the house, privacy was a prized commodity.
I had arrived in Naples with my wife two days ago. We live in the other Naples in Florida. At least once a year I felt the pull to return home. My 93 year old mother was alive and well probably because of my sisters, Teresa and Orsala who lived with her in the parental home. My mother used to say that her cross in life was those two girls not having married. The cross had resulted in my mother being taken care of by two loving and devoted daughters. She ,however, was obstinate in feeling that as long as the girls would not marry she was obliged to keep alive. She felt necessary to them as her death would mean lack of security for them. And so it went.
In the street I was walking fast but careful not to step on the Neopolitan dog's gifts to their owners. All shapes of brown were represented. Form and consistency varied. Rarely somebody would follow the city rules and bag it. Police were too busy to enforce the rules. Fortunately rain would wash the dog's production's and for awhile people could walk more relaxed.
What was aggitating me? Lina Petrina. evoked so many memories and feelings. I was young again; fourteen or fifteen. Difficult age, blood rushing fast, easy hard-ons, what to do with them? Lina was my inspiration and justification. Masturbation could be accepted if it was inspired by the desire toward an elusive woman. And elusive she was in spite of sleeping in the same room. I was in a single, noisy bed against the wall by the door. She slept in a large bed placed in the center of the same room. She shared that bed with Orsala and Teresa. We were students at the prestigious " Liceo-ginnasio Giordano Bruno" in Maddaloni. Our parents had decided that daily commuting by train from Acerra to Maddaloni was too stressful. In fact the train left "A". station around 6:30 AM to arrive in Maddaloni . around 7:00 AM. School started at 8:30 and we children were left in the cold winter streets waiting for the school to open.It was dark and windy. At that time we were poorly clothed and fed. Frostbite was taken for granted and did not seem to be such a big thing. It would come and go, not much fuss about it. It was part of our ordinary life with shoes we had outgrown in spite of poor nutrition . Lina, however, was well fed and protected against the frigid air. She was a princess to me. In the afternoon, all four of us would wait for the train at the M.addaloni station to return home. It was a long wait and somehow we were supposed to do our school assignments. It did not work. My father understood it. He felt strongly that his first son had to do well in school. One Sunday morning he went to Maddaloni. with his son . He was able to find a widow- teacher who might rent a room to a student. My father charmed her into accepting his 3 children into her house. She promised a large room through which she had to pass whenever she wanted to go to her room. This rented room was used by her son Pierino, who agreed to sleep in the marital bed with his mother. Pierino , around 8 years of age, was excited to have in his home three children who were older and coming from a distant town. La Signora agreed to cook the food provided by my father. It was not too much but immediately after World War 11, it had to suffice. Transportation. Electricity, water ,availability of goods, were compromised by the ravages of the war which had devastated Naples and it's surrounding towns quite severely.
Lina felt left out. Suddenly she had lost her friends and companions of the daily adventures of going to school. We invited her to spend after- school hours with us. La Signora objected weakly. Lina convinced her father that she could not continue the arduous day's routine without her good friends. We convinced La Signora that it was OK to have Lina sleep in the same room with us. Lina promised to bring more food from her family's ample pantry. They had extensive land -holdings which provided them with produce.
I was proud. I was ecstatic. I could not believe it. I could not believe that Lina would spend days and nights with us. I did not say much about it. My attitude seemed to indicate to others that I was putting up with another burden to please my sisters. I was supposed to be a nice kid; attentive to the desires of my mother and sisters They believed me innocent about sex My eyes did not betray my impure thoughts. Whenever I confessed to the priest I was unable to say the truth. I would mask my masturbation activity by saying that I could be dirty. The priest understood that I did not wash enough and would encourage me to be cleaner in spite of water restrictions. The priest would praise me to my parents. My reputation was solid and Lina's parents did not consider me a source of trouble. Only a few years later I had the courage to admit my impure acts to my confessor who also happened to be the bishop . It was unusual for the bishop to be available for confession and I thought it would not do harm if I let him know. His response at the end of confession was to look at me and say ,"ask your father to buy long pants for you; you are growing up." At the time my short pants would easily reveal the sculpture which needed to be hidden.
Lina sleeping in the same room with a boy was highly unusual for the times notwithstanding the presence of my sisters. The culture back then, kept members of the opposite sex quite separated. The right side of the church was for men while the left was for the women. A girl walked on the the streets only with other girls. The sight of a boy and a girl walking together was scandalous. The school structure was rigid in discouraging boys mixing with girls. This is not to say that there were no occasions for the mix. Parties were opportunities for socializing with the other sex.. They were supervised by parents and under their benevolent eyes, youth could dance but not too close. Games were played and good food was eaten. No alcohol ...perhaps lemonade. The following day boys ,among themselves ,would describe the joy of dancing and the most daring of them would boast about feeling the breasts. I never said much. My friends considered me sexually naive. This allowed me unusual contact with the girls who were friends of my older sisters. Not that I could do much in a real physical way but all these girls enriched my fantasy life to the point of becoming sexual partners. However masturbation could not be fully enjoyed. There were too many taboos against it. First of all, it was a sin. It could ruin the brain. It drained energy from the body making me weak and inept. If my father would have discovered me doing it the punishment would be very severe. I had to be secretive and this was not easy. The household was crowded with no privacy. The only bathroom was always busy and I could not stay long enough to do it. At home I slept in the same squeaky bed with two younger brothers. In school it was easier . I raised my hand and obtained permission to go to the lavatory. There I took my time to enjoy my body ; five against one. How good it was! From that ecstasy, the return to my desk was disconcerting. My mind was clouded obtunded by all the pleasure. The desire to sleep was urgent. My head moving back and forth, eyes wanting to close. "I have to keep awake. God help me!" Although I was aware that I had disobeyed God, I still wanted his help. I felt the Devil laughing at me. How torturous! My fear was that my sin was written on my face and that I had disgraced myself. Again I would repeat to myself,"no more; perhaps in some other places but not in school." The bathroom on the train was a good possibility . The noise of the wheels on the tracks would cover the yelling of my pleasure; this was the only place I could express ,to the fullest extent ,my joyful activity. Being sleepy was to be expected after a long day so that I could doze off without fear of being discovered. The problem was that a regular train car with a bathroom was a rarity. Most often we traveled in box cars with benches .for sitting and certainly no bathroom.
Getting back to Line; it was extremely stimulating to sleep in the same room with her. I was allowed in the room after the girls had undressed and made themselves comfortable in bed. The light was off and I had to prepare myself for bed in the dark. I could hear Line's breathing and her moving around. I felt as if we were together touching each other . The best I could do, however ,was to touch myself . I had to exercise restraint . I could not let go. I would try to conceal my heavy breathing by putting the pillow over my head. I kept the squeaking of the bed under control by keeping my body immobile and moving my hand slowly. This was a real problem. The best I could do was using the handkerchief which day after day would become hard as leather. I was given one handkerchief a week. On Saturday, after school, we would return home to spend Sunday with the family. I would bring a small amount of dirty laundry at home to have it washed. Often ,I thought I should request an extra handkerchief. I never did because I was afraid that my mother would immediately understand the reason for my request and my secret would be revealed. Oh no! I had to use my imagination to overcome the problem. A way of doing it was to delay going to bed. The room had a large window with heavy beige -colored drapes. While pretending to look at the lights of the street I would find a release of my love by coming in the drapes part of which was draped around my,"little brother". It was hard as I had to hold my breath as long as I could and try to cover it up when necessary with sudden coughing to which my sisters would react with,"are you getting sick?" "Oh no!" (Oh yes! ) my legs trembling unable to relax and wishing to die. Why could I not have some privacy? The bathroom was located in a corner of the kitchen by the window. It consisted of a sink a toilet and a bidet. The walls were made of plywood not high enough to reach the ceiling. Every thing going on in the little cubicle could be heard all over the house. Perhaps it had been built in a way which would amplify the sounds. Lack of sound could signify troubles. The mythology of the times describes the meeting of physiological needs as dangerous to the health. How many people had died of a heart attack sitting on the pot ? Many including my grandfather when he was 61. The given reason was the strain accompanying defecation. The few times I tried to use the little chamber with water running to cover the noise, were unsuccessful as the voice of La Signora would be heard saying,"don't use too much water; that's enough!" Although it was unplanned , I soon was to take my revenge on her. One afternoon no one was home. This was the rarest of opportunities. I could take my time in the most private and forbidden room belonging to La Signora. I sat on the lounge at the feet of her marital bed. A huge mirror was facing me. I let my "little boy" spring free. I could see him in the mirror my good and beloved friend, I was teasing him letting him go when he wanted me to stay with him to completion. Suddenly , through the mirror, I saw La Signora entering the room. She saw my image in the mirror. Without a word she closed the door. What now? It was too late. I gave in to his urges and used the handkerchief then relaxed a few minutes and left the room La Signora was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Nothing was said. I decided to believe that I had imagined the encounter. Probably she did the same. After all , that was life.
I don't know if Line Petrina understood what was going on in our shared bedroom. She was smart and could have been aware of my desire for her. How this would impact her balance is a mystery. She had a tranquil facial expression denoting very little of her inner perturbation. She used to smile in a sarcastic way when she felt anxious. With me she never smiled. She seemed to be secure and self confident. Of course her apparent indifference would make me more desirous of her, In my fantasy , she would cry for my affection ; she was a slave of my love. I was happy in those times. This translated in excellent grades. It was easy to perform well in school now. It seemed as if my brain quickly absorbed and retained information. My father was comfortable with the results and congratulated himself for having moved three of his children to Maddaloni.. I was flourishing, Lina was weakening. She had always been a solid student. Not brilliant but conscientious. She had always been a part of the high average group. Now something seemed to cloud her motivation.. In the classroom she was distracted and self absorbed. Grades fell down;teachers alerted her father that she was not making it. Perhaps, they said, she needs a private tutor but nothing seemed to help Line who that year flunked miserably and surprisingly. No one understood why Lina Petrina could not pull herself together. My sisters had tried to motivate and support her in vain. The next year Line was enrolled in a different school in another town and in this way my romance ended.
I didn't say much but I felt responsible for her demise. My love for her had been destructive . You see, in my mind, lust for a girl would diminish and corrupt that girl regardless of her participation or awareness. A girl simply should not stimulate a young boy's sexual fantasies and acts. If she was doing it she was sinning and punishment would follow.
As I was walking in Naples, These memories crowded my mind. Perhaps Lina Petrina had liked me and felt rejected by my lack of attention toward her. Perhaps Lina Petrina had loved me and was tormented by her feelings toward me. I was a bright and handsome boy who was never conscious of being able to inspire loving feedings in the friends of my sisters. Perhaps I had expanded the incest taboo to every girl who befriended my sisters. I wanted to see Lina and reminisce upon our youth. Perhaps she could give me a clue. Perhaps I would be able to unravel this mystery of my past.
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