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Words Without Borders

To Everybody, He Is Someone Else

Once in a while, my godson and his mother come to stay in my apartment for a week to ten days.
Besides some obvious side effects: no movies, no reading the newspaper, no extended conversation with adults about anything but children and reproduction, I slip into the role of a father figure during this period. Or, maybe I should say that I'm forced to slip into this role.
It's not because I have hidden desires. Wherever I go, people assume that I'm the child's father. The boy doesn't look very much like me--his father is from Bolivia--but that seems to be a minor detail. After all, there is such a thing as adoption.
This weekend I read Luigi Pirandello’s novel One, No One and One Hundred Thousand, about the son of a banker, Vitangelo Moscarda. One morning, his wife says to him that his nose is not completely straight. From that moment on, he realizes that he is someone else, at least he is not the person that he thinks he is.
He lived all his life with the idea that while his nose was maybe not the most beautiful nose in the world, it was definitely not monstrous. And yet other people saw something quite different.
Vitangelo Moscarda understands that hundreds and thousands of Moscardas exist. To everybody, he is someone else.
While walking to the Kitano where I have breakfast every morning with my godson in my arms, I cannot help thinking of Pirandello’s novel.
The others see a father with a boy who is, especially in the eyes of older ladies, a cutie.
Or maybe not? Maybe they just see my nose.
And then I begin to see ladies holding their bags tight when I pass them.
In their eyes, I’m not a father nor a godfather, but an ordinary pickpocket.
To avoid this misunderstanding--I have many desires, and some illegal ones, but none of them has anything to do with being a pickpocket--I try to avoid ladies with bags.
I don’t come close. I concentrate on my godson. He is the proof that I’m innocent. At least that’s what I hope.
And then I begin to understand what Pirandello meant when he said that you cannot live when you see yourself living.

(Words Without Borders, November 9, 2006)