“…e per lo ‘nferno tuo nome si spande!” –Inferno XXVI, 3
Being born in the glorious city of Florence, Italy, qualifies one for conscription into the city’s army of the self-obsessed. No one conceived “in the shadow of the cupola” has ever been more than momentarily troubled by the Christian virtues of empathy or brotherly love. Florentines rather see their fellow human beings as obstacles, conduits of disgust and approbation and—only very occasionally—as objects to be conspicuously consumed. Even in that instance, however, the refined materiality of the city’s culture means that flesh is more readily identifiable as succulent meat to be gnawed, or durable leather to be stretched and dried and worn with pride, than as living flesh to be cherished.
The cadets of Florence do boot camp with their mothers—the women of their wet dreams. Love is the hammer their mammas wield, her hand curled around their little-boy dicks like Achilles’s fist clutching the strap at the back of Vulcan’s shield. Mamma drills them in the kitchen, the bedroom, and especially in the toilet. She teaches them how best to despise and fear others—especially outsiders, especially foreigners, especially Pisans—how to act with sprezzatura, a studied contempt for the world around them, to be as cool as the cucumber she shoves up their little boy assholes to test their insensitivity and the healthy muscle of their cultivated anal retentativity.
In collaboration with his city and its self-image—as well as mamma’s training—studied lines of disappointment and disgust have been carefully etched into my wife’s lover’s face. He cultivates this mask of disapproval so as to feel extra superior to all the turds he’s forced to deal with on a day-to-day basis: at home, in the streets, and especially in the bank—his chosen workplace. Well, that and the apricot ascot of the adulterer; the short haircut to hide the bald spot; the touch of gray grown studiously at his temples. He cultivates the local accent as well—if in a soft-spoken, r moscia, vaguely Milanese manner. He implies with every word that all other dialects—as well as the national koiné, Italian—are crass and inferior by-products of the city of turd flowers, the cradle of humanism, Florentium, the Renaissance city, anal-retentium mundis.
At fifty years old his mother still washes his cum-soaked socks with her manipulative tears; she rips all emotion out of him with her left-handed compliments; destroys his self-confidence with her incessant suggestions for his social climbing and job betterment—as well as bothering his self-esteem with grooming tips. She maligns both his wife and mistress at every opportunity, making him doubly self-aware, guilty and proud at the same time. In sum, she has made him into the perfect Florentine.
The bank is this predator’s preternatural abode—his subterranean spider’s den. He sneaks through its hidden corridors, sniffing out pussy in its labyrinthine internal offices amid the stronger odors of day-old perfume and cigarette smoke, dry-cleaned skirts, and nail polish remover. My wife’s lover envisions himself a snake—sliding in and out of holes all the workday long. He wears a splash (a scarf) of the color of the season—viola next year—and all the black of the rest of his wardrobe makes it hard to tell if he’s a priest or one of Mussolini’s thugs.
My wife’s lover lives upriver, in the Val di Sieve, where the real Florentines are grown—the beefsteak, good ol’ boy, and prime minister variety. Here the accent is so thick with aspiration and serpentine s sounds it might as well be Arabic. Fundamentally, the community’s ideals are the same as a desert-dwelling, all-male, fundamentalist terrorist cell: infiltrate, sodomize, and humiliate the enemy in order to uphold the illusion of superiority in the most banal and immediate ways possible: sexual violence is best, for it’s both actual and symbolic at the same time. (In the desert they practice on sheep, in Florence on their younger sisters.)
This morning my wife’s lover arrives at the Santa Maria Novella train station in his bourgeois camouflage, blending with the rest of the smug and contemptuous commuters from Arezzo, the Mugello, and the Val d’Arno. Track 16. Florence’s train station is, effectively, run like a neo-fascist police state. They’re trying to stamp out the Romany traditions of beggary and pick pocketing. The mayor calls the station “the city’s calling card.” (Florence. Will show you a good time. Call me! 055 ***-****.) There are underground bunkers, cops standing around smoking in threatening groups of three. Their uniforms are elaborate, spotless, highlighted by many shiny buttons. Darkies are being escorted to the interrogation rooms. Everyone gets their papers checked. The Good Soldier—my wife’s lover—passes the monument to WWII Holocaust deportations at the end of the binario and spits on it for luck.
The underground passage from the station to the city center smells of gunpowder—he lifts his ascot to his nose. At the crosswalk, the Good Soldier shoulders his way through those already waiting at the curb so that he will be the first to cross when the light turns green. He strolls along slowly, forcing those behind him to push and shove to get past, acknowledging his power to obstruct and annoy, the greatest underpinning of his self worth.
The Florentines have gotten rich selling imitation leather, renting grey, airless rooms, and serving up shots of rum, tequila, and vodka to American marketing students—yet the citizens of Flowertown complain when the innocents abroad piss and vomit this economic gain back upon their historically cobblestoned streets. Who’s to blame for all of this degradation? The foreigners and the communists, of course—dirty traitorous Reds, according to King Berlusconi.
Every Florentine carries with him the Forza Italia little shit-brown book of capitalist truisms. They would have been Leghisti but the city’s too proud to join any coalition. The only people they hate more than the shiftless Neapolitan terroni are the stuck up Milanese polentoni. Florence, like its exiled poet, has always been a party of one.
Time to light his first stinky little Tuscan cigar of the day. My wife’s lover searches for a spot enclosed enough to fill with his exhaled smoke, but also just outdoor enough to be legal. Blowing his cheap stogy fumes into a bus enclosure, he ignores the old people choking on them. Rather he minutely examines both the imported and local talent passing along the sidewalk, making clucking and slurping noises at them, the collar of his Polo shirt erect at his ears. Bistecca, braciola, cotoletta, he whispers ominously at the American girls in shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops; porca, maiala, troia at the Italian girls.
As long ago as the Renaissance, the polite German euphemism for sodomy was “the Florentine vice.” Like all of the citizens of Flowertown, the Good Soldier is proud of his city and its grandiose traditions. And, like so many of the local teenagers of the nineteen-eighties, he once frequented a trans who lived in Via San Gallo. This chemical, chimerical, sexual hybrid used to dangle their boobs out their window at the passing men and boys. Open for business. Sometimes butt fucking felt as good as jerking off—when you reached around front and grabbed the trans’s cock as if it were your own. Such self-congratulatory moments were something of an egoistic/fascist apotheosis: self-love and domination in the same instant. Coming, after that, was a bonus. Squirting his seed into the trans’ anus, he often envisioned the Fiorentina soccer hero of the day, Batistuta—the trans was also Argentine.
Arriving at the bank, our Dutiful Soldier of Self-interest settles himself at his desk. There are a number of cell phones splayed across its smooth, plastic surface. They resemble the bodies of the villagers of the Mai Lai massacre. His fingers and hands spread across the desktop and the devices like the arachnid he is, his appendages touch-sensitive to any tiny vibration that might signal the presence of prey entering his web. He zips open his trousers and takes out his cock, letting it dangle and air out beneath Scandinavian pressed wood.
One of his telefonini buzzes. It’s mamma. She wants to know what he’s eaten today. He smiles, hesitating: how can he tell her that since reading the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, he’s taken to having turds for breakfast, pulling one or two of them out of his wife’s anus before getting up to shave and defecate himself? Today had been no different—his wife had hardly noticed his hawk-like face sucking the little morsels out of her asshole before she’d become fully conscious of the new day dawning. Besides, it had saved her a trip to the bathroom and allowed her to doze for another half an hour before getting up.
This particular morning, though, he’d been distracted; eyes closed, he’d rolled the turds around in his mouth, remembering better days, his youth. Back in ’89 the streets of Florence had been full of syringes—that fact had made life somehow more exciting, even dangerous. The world had been so much more visually, honestly hopeless in those days. Plus the infection of foreigners in town had still been something of a novelty. Back then, the Florentines hadn’t yet been so completely overrun by tourists, study-abroaders, and African and Asian immigrants, and thus they’d had no trouble squabbling among themselves. Now it was all about the interlopers.
Swallow. Tap-tap on his wife’s fat butt, signaling her to squeeze out another torpedo-shaped morsel a la Marquis.
In those days the youth movements of Italy had all been crushed in favor of discotheques and drugs. His 1980s generation had been utterly bereft of protest, of aim—of identity. They’d relished it when a journalist had dubbed them paninari (“hamburger kids”) because they’d come out in droves to patronize the first McDonald’s to grace the Italic peninsula. Back in ’86 he’d stolen 10,000 lire from his mother’s purse and taken a slow train to the capital to eat at Italy’s first American fast-food joint. Shit has tasted good to him ever since. And the memory of his first fast food reminds him of the bank where he now works, of the smell and texture of money.
“Cazzo, mamma, solo un po’ di merda e un café,” he says casually, balancing the telefonino on his shoulder, taking his cock in hand to jerk off to the first YouPorn video of the day—some Aretine wife blowing her husband—or her husband’s friend.
“That’s good, dear,” coos his mother. “I will jerk you off on the floor when you come to see me after work—it needs waxing.”
“Yes, mother, OK. Bye now. I must get back to work.”
The boss calls him into his office around midday. There are four lowly bank tellers, two male and two female, bent over the boss’s desk, pants down or skirts up. Judging from their swollen sphincters, they’ve been recently sodomized. The boss hands him a riding crop, sits in an easy chair by the window, and masturbates while our hero whips the tellers’ asses for him. Noblesse oblige.
The Good Soldier pays special attention to a fat, middle-aged male teller for whom he’s always harbored a secret affection. The guy is so nice. He tries to beat this niceness out of him with each stroke of the riding crop. He concentrates on his technique, his wrist action, the little leather spanking tool flexible in his hand—the boss has, no doubt, purchased it at the San Lorenzo leather market. Whapping. Whapping. Whapping. “Fuck your earnest attempts to do this shitty job,” he says to the square, hairy butt as its pasty white skin grows more and more inflamed. “Any more red and you’ll be a Commie, you fat fuck!”
He and the boss come at the same time. My wife’s lover wipes his spew on the fat teller’s now candy-striped ass. A tear that must be his own but which he neither recognizes nor understands falls beside the smear of opalescent semen. The droplets are practically identical. Does the Good Soldier weep for joy? Or does he have some small bit of humanity hidden beneath the hair gel, ascot, and the turned up collar of his polo shirt? If there’s any hint of brotherly love left in his Florentine soul, he forces it down as one resists vomiting. It would be a clear sign of weakness, roba da coglioni, and would spoil his workday.
Looking at the four sets of prone buttocks beneath his superior gaze he thinks of the strap-on he has at home in the drawer of his bedside table, imagines his wife sodomizing him tonight after dinner, when their middle-aged stomachs will be distended, full of their three-course dinner and bloated with gas. From behind is better because he can’t stand to look at her face much anymore.
The rest of the morning he alternates between filling out forms and watching homemade YouPorn videos. This is corporate efficiency. As long as you don’t come too much and squelch your continued horniness—you may need it later in the afternoon, for the board meeting.
During his lunch break, the Good Soldier strolls out into the Piazza della Repubblica. Fucking Americans: it used to be the king’s piazza, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, but the goddamned Allies came, let the fucking commies kill Mussolini, and re-named everything after this stupid, pretend democracy.
My wife’s lover stops at the edicola and buys a Salieri porno on DVD. The Flight From Albania. Soldiers and blowjobs, uniforms and ass fucks, old women in peasant clothes forcing young women’s heads down on soldiers’ cocks. So much for the memories of WWII in the Italian psyche. History has been reduced to a series of gratuitous sex acts. Michelangelo was queer. Filippo Lippi a cocksman with nuns. Cellini never missed a serving girl—and when he got the clap he cured himself with a mixture of sulfur, blood, semen, and spit. No shit, it’s in his autobiography—look it up.
Another Florentine, more or less the same age as the Good Soldier, in a suit jacket and mismatched slacks, is riding a bicycle in circles around an Asian girl casually traversing the piazza. Bicycle Creep clicks his tongue against his palate and makes lewd proposals he knows these foreign girls can’t understand—they’re for his audience, his fellow Florentines’ benefit, really. Everyone laughs. Some rompipalle of an American—too old to be a student—calls Bicycle Creep out in ill-pronounced Italian and the pervert launches into a racist rant in imitation of one of one of Dante’s invectives, extolling the evils of these Americans who come to our beautiful city and think they own the place and dare say whatever the fuck they want to whomever the fuck they please—well, fuck you, American, you can just go the fuck home to your stinking Yankee mamma! Bicycle Creep is in fine form today. He follows GI Joe through the piazza, screaming still in xenophobic indignation, circling around and around on his little one-speed old lady bike. A few minutes later, as the Good Soldier finishes his Tuscanello, he can still hear Bicycle Creep berating the American do-gooder, now out of the square and well down the street in the direction of Palazzo Vecchio.
The Dutiful Soldier of usury, egotism, and ill-will rises from his bench and walks to a bar for a cheap primo before his lunch hour runs out. He eats a plate of fat ravioli lolling in tomato sauce and bits of pig flesh. (Tripe, basically asshole meat, is really his favorite—like all Florentines—but, well, for variety’s sake, a little cheek flesh is okay too…) He smooths his hair—admiring himself as he eats in the mirror behind the bar—straightens his ascot, and blows himself a kiss. The women in the bar look the other way when he takes out his cock, forcing them to see it throbbing there beneath the table, under his napkin, sticking out of his Khakis.
Ultimately, this is all mamma’s fault. He imagines her asshole, which he’s never actually seen, under her granny panties and cums in his pants.
On the way back to work he stops to piss in a nook between side chapels at the hind end of the duomo.
After the afternoon’s boring paperwork—which he mostly dozes through—the Good Soldier goes back out into the Piazza della Repubblica, sits on a bench, and has another Tuscanello before abandoning the dying city for his commute home. There are children on the carousel now and buzzing all around the bench upon which he sits, but he doesn’t notice their annoying presence, noisy as it is. His removed and superior cool has been so carefully constructed that he has never visibly acknowledged the existence of a child—not even his own. How many does he have now? Two? Three?
A little girl, not yet completely trained to serve, wash dishes, clean up after her brothers, sweep and mop and scrub, to become a drill-Sergeant of a new generation of boys faithful to the failing Renaissance city, runs up to my wife’s lover on his bench in front of the carousel and asks him what he’s doing. There’s an instant of slave/master recognition when their eyes meet and her words unexpectedly penetrate his disinterested armor. Never having really spoken to a child—except to admonish his own children and tell them to listen to their mother—he isn’t sure, at first, how to respond.
“Well, mister—what are you doing?”
The Good Soldier jumps to attention as if answering the call of a superior officer. He takes the little girl by the hand and snubs out his Tuscan cigar on the back of her arm.
“Nothing,” he says, unheard over the child’s screaming, and marches back to work.
He’ll have to stop by mamma’s on the way home. Her floor needs waxing.