So I’ve applied for my residency here in Terracina. It. Has been. A wild pain in my ass. This, despite being an Italian citizen. This, despite speaking Italian. This, despite making the request with my native Italian mother in tow. Sorry, the man you need to speak to isn’t here today. Oh, well, actually, he is but, sorry, this office is closing in about an hour for siesta so you’ll have to go to the other office. No, we meant the other one – all the way across town, in the antique city, so you’ll have to climb up the big hill. What? Who told you that? You have to go to the province’s capital to get this done. I mean, the hospital. I mean, the province’s capital. No, we don’t have the phone number of that office, but we do have the address of the financial bureau in another town; here it is. Listen, just be grateful I gave you that information at all. Were I to write an article about the bureaucratic system in Italy, I’d call it: Does Anybody Fucking Work in This Country?
But the request gets made. Eugenio, my neighbor, used to be a CPA so he says he can help me get my codice fiscale – the equivalent of a social security number – so that I don’t have to go to the province’s capital or the hospital or whatever. However, I’m supposed to wait at home all day, every day, until someone from the city comes to my apartment to verify that I do, in fact, live here. That’s great, says my mother. Good to know that there’s some control about who comes in and out of the city. I agree – it’s awesome that I’m housebound until who knows when. Good thing I work from home, although this does mean I’ll have to actually put on clothes just in case the city official pops in. The sindaco, that is. I’m waiting for the sindaco.
That’s a new word for me – sindaco. I learned it from a puppet show in the town square last summer. Gelato in a cone; twinkling stars; kids kicking a soccer ball around the popcorn machine. The dialogue wove in and out of standard Italian, local dialect, and old-fashioned phrases, so I didn’t catch all of the action, but I could see that on stage there was a pulcinello in a black mask, a damsel in distress, and then a sindaco tramping around the scenery, holding a briefcase and smacking heads. A government official; what else could he be? Someone from the city, like the guy I’m now waiting for in my apartment prison.
So I wait and I wait and I wait for this sindaco. Even though I’m supposed to be inside anyway, writing, I find myself growing resentful. And I tell everyone I know – that is, all 10 people – about my pain. I say: I’ve been waiting for this damn sindaco forever. They say: The what? What do you mean you’re waiting for the sindaco? I say: The sindaco! You know, the guy. I applied for my residency a week ago and he’s supposed to check out my claim. They say: You mean you’re waiting for a poliziotto. That sounds ridiculous to me – why would a policeman come to my apartment? Nonsense. They just don’t understand.
And I wait some more. By now, I’m also waiting for Leone to come and install my heater – the termosifone. The weather is dropping quickly and – surprise – we asked for the termosifone months ago and they say: We’re coming Friday but then Friday passes and Leone hasn’t come and I complain to Eugenio and he says: A ha, he said “Friday” but did he say which Friday? No. No, he didn’t. Maybe after the sindaco comes I’ll be able to leave the house and hunt him down and, as another friend says, break some balls.
Myself: I’ll do that. I’ll get a hammer and busht Leone’s nutsh. That is, after the sindaco comes.
Himself: The who?
Myself: The sindaco. The guy who’s checking out my residency claim. I have to stay home until he shows up.
Himself: … what do you mean the sindaco is coming to your apartment?
Myself: To check my residency claim.
Himself: What are you talking about? The sindaco isn’t coming to your apartment.
Myself: Do you know something I don’t?
Himself: The poliziotto. He’s coming.
Myself: Why would a policeman come to my apartment?!
… and I’m tired now of Who’s On First so I get out my Italian-English dictionary. I look up sindaco. I realize that for the past two weeks, I’ve been running around telling everyone I know that the mayor is coming to my house. Furthermore: a poliziotto is not a policeman; it’s a government official. My whole life I’ve been hearing my mother talk about poliziotti and just assumed she was talking about the police.
Today the poliziotto finally came – thugged out in a suit and reflective sunglasses like an extra from the Matrix. I offered him a glass of water. He said: You’re too kind. I said: Hardly. He said: You’re not kind? I said: I’m joking. He asked me the same questions people have been asking me for months: where I’m from, what I do, how long I’m staying, and if it’s really true that I live all alone, all alone, all alone here in Italy.
I answered his questions. And then I ate him. I ate my poliziotto. Today was also Friday but Leone still hasn’t come with the termosifone. Friday, January 14, 2011, then. I see how this works.