Read The Silence of the Wave Online

Authors: Gianrico Carofiglio

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers, #Suspense

The Silence of the Wave (10 page)

“Go on.”

“Well, I remember the chewing gum and I remember peanut butter. And Snickers, and marshmallows … and I also remember a time when my father took me to see a Lakers game.”

“The Lakers are a basketball team, right?”

“The Lakers are the best basketball team in the world. One of the Los Angeles teams. My team.”

He seemed to smell the popcorn, and hear the roar of the crowd in the Forum when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shot one of his famous sky hooks, and feel the paper Coke cup in his hand. He remembered his father’s tartan jacket, his moustache. He seemed to see him, as he talked to him with his smell of aftershave and cigarettes.

They were commenting on a particular play in the game, or maybe talking about something else. Roberto was following the scene like an outside observer and did not hear what the two of them were saying. After a while the man gave the boy a comradely punch on the shoulder, and Roberto didn’t think he’d be able to hold back. Very soon he’d start crying and he wouldn’t be able to stop.

“My father was a detective, as I’ve told you. We lived in the suburbs. From our house to the sea was ten minutes maximum. A few minutes more to Dana Point, which is a great place for surfing. My mother was a
translator. Early one morning, my father’s colleagues came knocking at the door and took him away. It was a beautiful day, a Saturday. We were expecting some fantastic waves that morning. A few days later, he killed himself in prison. I remember hardly anything about the following weeks, but six months later we moved to Italy, to my mother’s family’s apartment. She’d inherited it a year or so earlier from her parents. She and my father had intended to sell it. My mother never went abroad again for the rest of her life. I never went back to California.”

He said all these things in a flat, colorless voice. The doctor took a deep breath. Roberto felt a sudden anger rising inside him—aimed, unexpectedly, at the man in front of him.

There were a few minutes of heavy silence.

“Obviously you’re not going to ask me why my father was arrested,” Roberto said at last, still angry. “But if you don’t ask me I won’t tell you. I’m a bit fed up with playing a game where you’re the only person who decides on the rules.”

“Why was your father arrested?”

Roberto made an impatient gesture.

“He’d been taking money from the owners of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. If they paid him he left them alone; if they didn’t, he made things difficult for them.”

And then, after a pause: “I’ve never told this to anyone before.”

“You would have stayed in California, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes. You know something absurd?”


“I’m angry with my father not so much because of the offenses he committed, but because he killed himself and left me alone. Damn him.”

He stopped speaking. He twisted his hands for a long time, scratched his chin, rubbed his face.

And then the tears arrived.


Now Ginevra and I say hello to each other every day, when we arrive at school and sometimes even when we leave, if she’s not in too much of a hurry. Then yesterday, something new happened: she called me by my first name.

Her exact words were: “Giacomo, do you have a spare pen? Mine doesn’t write.”

We were in the middle of an Italian exercise, and put like that it may not seem like anything important. She only asked me for a pen, and what can you call someone except their name?

At school, though, we almost always call each other by our surnames, and we only use first names with those who are real friends. And that means it

I thought I ought to reply by calling her by her first name, which I’d never done before. In our class only two friends call her by her name. I couldn’t do it, but in the next few days I swear I will, one way or another.

I also thought I’d like to make a compilation for her of some of my favorite songs, which are all from before I was born. Things my parents used to listen to, like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits. I’ll put them on a memory stick and find a way to give it to her. Of course, it won’t be easy without anybody seeing me, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

I have to admit it: I think I have a mad crush on Ginevra.

* * *

Last night Scott took me to the lake, the one with the transparent water that’s like a swimming pool, and he told me we could bathe there. I dived in head first—now that I think of it, I was fully dressed—and glided like a fish for several yards under the surface of the clear blue water. I should say one thing immediately: I don’t know how to dive in head first and, even though I can swim, more or less, deep water scares me, like so many other things.

In the lake in the park, it was different. I felt safe and I swam a lot, with my eyes open even though I was under the surface, and I could see just as well as if I had a mask on. Scott also dived in and swam with me, we played, and it was all great fun. When we came out of the water, we were dry, which, seen from this side, may seem strange, but at that moment felt perfectly normal.


Yes, chief?

“This is a dream, isn’t it?”

I think so, chief

“I ask because sometimes it all seems so real.”

Scott sat down in front of me and looked at me, tilting his head to the side, waiting for me to ask him whatever I wanted.

“If I do or say something on this side can it have an effect on the … real world?”

I had the impression that Scott smiled before answering.

Almost everything that happens in the real world depends on what you do and say on this side, chief. And vice versa. Not many people know that, but that’s the way things are

What he said was a bit mysterious and I’m not sure I quite understood what he meant. I tried to concentrate, but the more I tried to grasp the significance of those words—and what they might have to do with me, and with Ginevra—the more elusive they were.

Then everything became blurry and in the end I woke up.


He got back home after his long walk on Saturday evening, had a shower, and made himself something to eat. As he was waiting for the pasta to cook he happened to glance at the package from the bookstore, which had been there in the kitchen for some days. Absently, he took out the book he had bought for Emma and read a few pages at random.

It didn’t seem bad, the story of the mysterious William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. Almost unaware of what he was doing, he started reading from the beginning and carried on until late at night. He resumed reading the following morning, and continued in the afternoon and that evening in bed. He finished about midnight and found that the experience had been unusual but interesting. He had read a whole book in one day, and it had all seemed quite natural. It was the very naturalness that was the most extraordinary thing about it. He had always considered reading to be
an activity that required commitment, planning, time. Something reserved only for those who could afford it. Now it turned out that reading was—or could be—like drinking, eating, walking, or breathing.

There must be a meaning to all of this, he said to himself, switching off the light and pulling up the blanket, and a moment later he was asleep.

When he woke up on Monday morning and looked at the clock, he realized that he had slept soundly for nearly nine hours, without interruption.

The last time that had happened must have been twenty years ago.

* * *

It started raining as he was on his way to the doctor’s office, and within a few minutes dark-skinned umbrella vendors had materialized on the street corners. Roberto bought an umbrella, thinking he would add it to the collection he had at home: one for every rain shower that had caught him out in the last few months, the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

He got to the office at twenty to five. He had anticipated walking up and down outside the front door until she came out. That seemed less natural with all this rain coming down. He thought of taking shelter in the bar opposite but immediately dismissed the idea. She would come out through the front door and, seeing the rain, would immediately run—toward her car or somewhere
else—in order not to get wet. So the only way to get to talk to her a bit was to wait for her in the entrance hall. The idea embarrassed him a bit, but there were no alternatives. He rang the bell for the office, nobody replied, and as usual, after a few seconds the door opened.

He waited for about ten minutes without anybody going in or coming out. Then at ten to five he heard someone coming downstairs. It was quite a nimble, almost masculine tread. Roberto was wondering if it wasn’t somebody else when Emma emerged from the last flight of stairs. She saw him before she got to the bottom and stopped on the stairs, with a surprised expression. Then she descended the last few steps more slowly.

“Hello,” she said when she reached the foot of the stairs.


“It’s raining really hard.”

“Yes, it came down all of a sudden, but I bought an umbrella.”

“If this was a screenplay, that last bit of dialogue would have to be rewritten. We can do better.”

“You’re right, but you intimidate me.”

“I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment.”

“I think so. May I ask you a question?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Are you a patient …?”

“Yes, and so are you, aren’t you?”

“Yes. But I must tell you I’m quite harmless, and not mad. Not very much at least. Are you mad?”

It had come out well. She burst into sudden laughter. A nice full laugh.

“Sometimes I think I am. I thought I was in the past, but now I think it’s getting better. No, I really don’t think so. I’m not mad, though the doctor says we all are.”

“Yes, I know, the difference is between those who can live with their madness and those who can’t.”

“Then you’re doing well. You’re almost cured.”


“The doctor only told me that when I was starting to get better, many months after the sessions started. At the beginning, I don’t think I would have understood.”

“Do you think it’s wrong of us to be so friendly?”

A new laugh, shorter but similar in tone.

“Why not? After all, we are colleagues.”


“Both psychiatric patients,” she said with a laugh.

“I have a book for you.”

“A book for me?”

Roberto took the volume from the pocket of his raincoat. What he told her was almost the truth. He had gone to a bookstore—he didn’t mention it was a new experience for him: that was an aspect of the matter that could best be left in the dark—and seen this book, which had been recommended to him by a friend, had read it and liked it and had thought she would like it too. Only much more than he did. Provided she hadn’t already read it.

Almost the truth.

She looked at him in surprise.

“I’ve heard of this book. I was planning to read it. Thank you.”

She reached out her hand and took the book he was holding out. And then after a brief pause, as if she really couldn’t hold back: “How strange.”

“What is?”

“You didn’t seem the type … I mean you didn’t seem the kind of person who’d read something like this. I may be putting my foot in it, as usual, but what I mean is you seem more like a man of action than someone who reads this kind of book. If you were in a movie, for example, you’d more likely be a policeman than a teacher.”

He smiled without saying anything. She looked at him questioningly. He kept smiling without saying anything.

“You aren’t actually a policeman, are you?”

“I’m a carabiniere.”



“But you look … You’re the first carabiniere I’ve ever met.”

“I’ve never met an actress before either.”

She gave a slight grimace. It lasted a very short time and she probably hadn’t even been aware of it. She moved her head as if to rid herself of a troublesome thought.

“I’m not an actress anymore. Now go, or you’ll be late.”

“Do you have an umbrella?”


“I’ll walk you to your car.”

“You’ll be even later.”

He did not reply, walked out, opened the umbrella, and nodded to her to follow him. The rain was beating down harder than before, so hard that there was almost nobody in the street. Emma leaned close to him to get under the shelter of the umbrella. The mere contact of her hand on his arm sent a quiver through him.

Identical—he thought, astonished that such a distant memory should well up so powerfully out of nowhere—to the quiver he had felt so many years earlier, on the bumper cars, when a girl the same age as he was—fourteen—had placed her hand on his leg.

They reached the car. She opened the door while he protected her and got wet in the process.

“Well,” she said, “thank you. Let’s hope it isn’t raining next Monday.”

“Yes, let’s hope so,” he said, feeling like a fool.

“Bye then, officer.”

“I’ve written my telephone number inside the book. Just in case.”

“Oh, good.”

“Bye then.”


* * *

“I’m sorry about last time.”

“There’s no need to apologize. It was only natural you should get angry with me.”

Roberto looked at him, bewildered.


“Why do you think it happened?”

“I don’t know. At that particular moment I was really angry with you. Afterward it seemed absurd.”

“It was quite normal.”

“It seems strange to me.”

“I agree with you, it may seem strange. But it’s fine.”

“I don’t know what to talk about today.”

“Let’s not say anything for a while, then.”


That was how the fifty minutes passed, with a lot of silence and a few words, in a suspended atmosphere. If he’d been asked, Roberto would not have been able to say if he was cheerful or sad, calm or restless, excited or depressed. He wouldn’t have been able to say anything about himself. He was feeling things he couldn’t give a name to. After a while it occurred to him that he was in the position of somebody who has complicated emotions to explain but is forced to express himself in a language he barely knows. That seemed to him a good intuition and he tried to develop it, but before long he lost the thread and his thoughts floated away.

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