Here is the story my grandmother told me; I call it la storia della costanza (the story of Consistency), but she preferred to call it “la storia di Felice, Anno e Nuovo.” These were big families of Rome at the time that distinguished themselves in commerce and industry. But it was not always like that.
Once upon a time in Rome, there lived three close friends called Felice, Anno and Nuovo. The three friends came from humble backgrounds and met often to discuss the happenings in the city and tales from other countries that were once under the Roman empire. At the time, Rome was a much more peaceful city than it is now, according to my grandmother. There was less traffic, less pollution, and more sane people; the sense of community was high, and children’s playgrounds abounded.
This evening, the three friends decided to take a walk along the banks of the River Tiber while discussing their usual topics.
“This river is gradually going down. Before now it overflowed its banks,” Felice said
“You are right. I recall my mother saying that you hardly allowed kids to come to this place alone many years ago.” Anno added.
“Why was that? Were parents afraid of losing their children to the water?” Nuovo asked.
“Yea, it was terrifying. The water spared not any kids it saw its legs a few metres into it.” Anno responded.
“Seems things got worse since the days of Castiglione, the beast of Ostia,” Felice added.
While they walked on the bank and talked about politics, reminiscing over the victories of the ancient Roman empire, Nuovo seemed to pay less attention to the issues raised, unlike other times.
“Hey, what is the matter? You seem not to enjoy our discussions today.” Anno quizzed.
“Nothing really. Just one of those times that you all talk more than me.” Nuovo responded, trying to refocus his friends away from his personal issues to what they were discussing.
“If thou say so, but thy face does not agree with thy lips. Your face tells me your heart is sunk in deep thoughts.” Anno remarks.
“Thou knowest us well, and whatever troubleth thine heart is our concern as well. We are in the last quarter of the year, so whatever the matter is, we can join hands to fight it before it defeats thee, our dear friend.” Felice commented, gently rubbing his friend’s shoulder girdle.
Several months have passed into the new year and Nuovo was ready to share something that has been in his mind for several months now, if not years. He had thought about saying it several times since the beginning of the year but thought his friends were not ready for such an audacious suggestion.
Nuovo came from a humble background. His parents had passed on as a teenager, so he grew up with his uncle who lived in the campagna (outskirts) of the city. Although he had received a fair share of education through the aid of his uncle, he was interested in building something for himself, something more lasting, something for his future family. Having seen the difficulties a poor child goes through, he was determined never to see his children go through such tomorrow. If he could have enough for himself and his generations, he would be satisfied. Maybe he might even become a senator someday and help revive the dwindling glory of Rome.
So, as they met to discuss and desired to know what troubled Nuovo, Nuovo decided to let them in on his thoughts.
“It has been a series of rough years now. In fact, I am having a rough year now. I have tried doing a few things as you know, but none of them seem to thrive, and I am concerned that I might become a beggar soon. I might end up around the corners of i mercati rionali (the local markets). I do not want this to happen. That is why I am in deep thought. I must change my life this year.”
As he spoke, Anno and Felice nodded gently in agreement. They understand their friend’s plight and on some occasions have helped. Another thing happened in the hearts of his friends as Nuovo spoke. His friends each had been keeping certain difficulties to themselves. Although they always talked about their struggles, there were particular aspects of their lives they were not ready to be vulnerable about.
So, when they heard how broken Nuovo was before them, they decided to open up about their decaying situations.
Felice had money, could afford great food in the best cuisines in Rome and around the world, he could travel to the Mediterranean and enjoy the peaceful environment. But he lacked something – happiness. Despite the wealth he had amassed, he was not truly happy.
Anno on the other hand, has experienced numerous failures in life that he has simply resigned. “Whatever life offers me is what I take. I do not wish to bother myself anymore.” Among the three friends, Anno was the oldest, although of the same age bracket as the others and the people around the city mocked him because his name sounded much like the ano, which in Italian language refers to the body part called anus. So, they always described him as one who would ever experience darkness and remain in the lowest stratum of society.
While they aired their lives to each other, Nuovo was astonished at what he was hearing. He had thought that they all fared better than himself – he had always admired Felice’s entrepreneurial capabilities and concluded that he had no problems whatsoever. Anno had always exuded an unrivalled confidence; he was the one everyone runs to when in need of encouragement and inspiration. But to hear that his close friends from childhood also had serious issues troubling their hearts was shocking to him.
When they were done talking, there was a pin-drop silence as each mused on their lives, thinking about what the solution to their predicament could be. The few minutes of silence were interrupted by the splash caused by a pebble Nuovo had cast into the river.
“I know you will be wondering why I decided to open this much to you to tell you all my predicaments,” Nuovo said. “Yesterday, I was at the local market in Piazza San Cosimato to get a pair of trousers. After my purchase, I decided to sit in a corner of the square to have gelato. It was while having my gelato and pondering over my life that I met someone. Pleasantries led to deeper discussions and soon, I saw myself telling him the story of my life. Curiously, he listened with great interest and when I was done, he asked if I had friends I could share this story with. I responded in the affirmative and he counselled me to share it with you. This is why I decided to open up and tell you my ordeals.” he concluded.
“And why did he ask you to share your story with us?” Anno asked.
“I do not know. Maybe he felt I was keeping so much inside that I needed to pour out.”
“Truly, we were all keeping so much inside. We did not know the deepest challenges of each other.” Nuovo added.
“Where did you say you met him?” Anno asks.
“In Piazza San Cosimato. He asked me to come back to see him later today if I tell you. You can come with me.” Nuovo chipped in, desiring that his friends would agree to come along with him. To his delight, Felice and Anno agreed to meet the old man that evening.