Yesterday a woman called me from a debt recovery company, on behalf of Sky. She tells me that according to the records I haven’t been paying Sky since September 2009. She asks me why. I tell her that I left my house on April 4 last year and I never went back. Because of the earthquake. My Sky decoder lies crushed somewhere under the ruins.
She is struck dumb. Then she apologises and tells me she will pass the information on. Then, kindly, she asks me if everything is allright now, after a year. She tells me she loves my city, she was lucky to visit it a couple of years ago. She was fascinated by it. She remembers in particular a flight of steps in flintstone, that from the Duomo went all the way down to the Collemaggio Basilica. I suddenly feel a knot in my throat. I tell her that’s exactly where I lived. She is dumb struck again. Then she asks me to tell what my city looks like today. And I tell her.
I tell her of the militarised city centre. I tell her I can’t even go to my house every time I want. I tell her that the thieves, however, go there whenever they want without problems. I tell her about the buildings left there to die. I tell her there isn’t money to re-build. And there isn’t money to help us survive. I tell her that, from July 1 of this year, we’ve started paying taxes again even if we don’t work. I tell her we’re still paying mortgages and Council taxes for our crushed houses. And we’ve started paying back our loans. Even people who have nothing left.
I tell her that, from July, an earthquaked with a gross salary of 2,000 Euros will only get 734 Euros net after taxes. I tell her that not only we’ve started paying taxes for this year, but we also have to pay for last year. I tell her the state doesn’t even give that little housing benefit of 200 Euro to help pay the rent for all those homeless people who manage on their own (27,000 where I live). I tell her the rent prices have tripled. Without any control. I tell her I pay for my house in a little town of 500 souls what Bertolaso used to pay for a flat in Via Giulia in Rome*. By now I can hear her breathing heavily. I tell her of the new neighbourhoods and their luxury residence prices. I tell her about the lives of the people who live there. Like in beehives with no soul. There isn’t even a newsagent or a cafe. I tell her about the elderly people who’ve been uprooted from their land, kilometres away. I tell her about the professionals who left. About the decline of enrolments to secondary schools. I tell her about a city that dies.
And she says, her voice shaking, “It’s crazy nobody knows about all this. You can’t carry on like this. Call the TV. You must tell them. Call the press. They must write it about this”.
Thing is, they don’t write about this.
* Guido Bertolaso is head of the Civil Protection National Service. What the writer is referring to is a money-laundering scandal that has recently been on the news. Bertolaso lived for a year or so in a flat (offered to him by a cardinal!) in a prestigious area of Rome but claims he never paid rent. Investigators think the money was actually paid and laundered.