Letter #9 (or, Beautiful Losers)

Caro Ale,

your words spoke about losers. Beautiful ones.

So before diving in your review of The Great Beauty – and confute it, with my humble opinion – let me tell a story about losers: mine.

I was living near Rome at the time. On the Bracciano Lake. I was heartbroken, a condition that has been very often present in my life.

Because hearts are made of glass and I let people handle mine with no gloves.

I was heartbroken over a girl I’d broke up with and another one I broke up with and a whirlwind of cheap dates and threesomes which left me with no good taste in my mouth and holes in my stomach.

And then Filippo came live with me. You know, our common friend since high school. He moved out from Naples and came to live with me in my house on the lake after a very sudden decision. It was my first time living together with someone which I didn’t bed.

He found a crappy job in Rome. It didn’t last. He was too smart for the rat race, too uncompromising to just pretend. He kept living with me, and to pay rent and bills, he would simply bet on sports events; races, football games, darts tournaments. If there was an event to bet on, Fil was on it. That’s how he made his living. In my mind, he resembled pretty much the main character of my first book. Playing poker and betting on horses and drinking and smoking.

The archetype of the loser.

And there was me. Heartbroken but in love with love itself. With a crappy job which required me to suit up in and sell expensive English courses to people who would never have learned English this way. Jumping from a relationship to the other and waking up with strangers in my bed, which I loathed because I loathed myself.

Another archetype of another loser.

So picture the scene, my friend. It was summer, it was Italy; we had a lake to bathe our bodies and our souls, we had pocket money for cheap whiskey, and a house to ourselves. The good days we would cook steaks and drink wine with our friends and play guitar and discuss the meaning of it all under a blanket of stars. The bad days ended up with whiskey and movies and silence. We were often drunk. We would wake up in the mornings and if I didn’t have to work that day we would play darts. We bought professional tungsten darts, we chain smoked cigarettes and other less legal alternatives, we kept complex spreadsheets with our average per shot and such. We drank cheap beers. We went to sleep. Wake up. Repeat.

But our hearts were strangers under the same roof.

Because you can talk about the universe and hide your soul in the infinite. And that’s what he did. He didn’t share his soul like we did when we were teenagers, at the bonfires on the beach.

He didn’t seem much into looking for romantic adventures at the time. I was. It was in my nature. And I did commit one mistake here. I fell in love with a common friend. You know by now that I fell in love way too easily, especially when I was heartbroken. This common friend, let’s call her Emily, we were friends since we were kids. The three of us. I never knew she had a crush on me. I discovered it in Parma, when I had her as a guest in my small, small house, when sharing a futon as friends became something more. That was the first time that I knew my heart was still there after the story with the mother of my kid ended – shattered in a thousand million pieces, but still there.
The embers of life.

But nothing really happened there.
So when something did happen between me and Emily, we kept it a secret for a while. We knew in our heart of hearts that Fil shouldn’t know.
So I was playing darts and getting drunk and high with my friend Fil, while loving Emily, in secret.

But loves that are born out of ashes are doomed to die soon.

And that was the time when the woman of my life entered the picture. And I discovered the meaning of soulmates and how could you not end up changing your life?

Love came again; and it became death, destroyer of worlds. Because it did destroy life as I knew it, and so I broke up with Emily, and possibly Fil discovered it, and among all the tears that came during that time I also found joy and splendour.
Did I hurt people? Yes I did. And I feel incredibly sorry for that and I ask for forgiveness every day. But life is not for the faint of hearts and suffering is part of it.

I went away for a week and when I came back, Fil’s room was empty. He left.
I never saw him again.

I know he came back to the same town a couple of times, but he didn’t try to contact me. I remember one thing he said to me, he said, I love you as a brother, but you cut people. You cut them and dissect them like frogs, and then combine them in something that doesn’t exist, characters walking in your head ready to jump in your books. I can’t bear that. I’ll see you at the premiere of your books.

In retrospective, that was good foreshadowing.

So here it is, the story of two beautiful losers. People who were too fragile not to hurt each other.

And that’s also why I didn’t like The Great Beauty. It’s pretentious. I get the style and technique and all, and I loved Servillo and his interpretation; but his beautiful loser had no soul, no purpose, no desire; he wandered aimlessly around the Great Beauty, but didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, and I didn’t connect with him.

Beautiful losers. You should read the book by Leonard Cohen. That one, or The Favorite Game.

“nothing smells more like a slaughterhouse than a graduate seminar. People sitting around tables in small classrooms, their hands bloody with commas.”

So, I’m gonna go and wash my hands now. Too many commas. And I don’t have the age of a poet anymore.

Talk to you soon,




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