I wrote this short tale for a friend of mine, Avelino. It tells of my city, Naples, and of an ever actual topic: the sexual exploitation of young women. Some women do it for pleasure, some others are obliged by misery. In any case, prostitution degradates a person to an object, without dignity. I know this is a hot topic and there are different opinion about this. It is true there was a time in which, here in Italy, poor families were used to sell their young daughters to unscroupolous people who didn’t hesitate to prostitute them. Unfortunately, in too many placed this is still a real condition! In the past centuries, such young women didn’t have a long life because of the lack of hygiene and the bad life conditions. In the following story, I liked to imagine that one of those misfortuned girls had a different destiny…
The music was deafening. The streets were always crowed during “La Festa di Piedigrotta”, an ancient festival occurring on summertime in Naples. The man was elbowing his way through the dancing people. Avelino Martorel was a medicine doctor on duty on the “San Fernando”, a Spanish vessel trading in different kind of goods between the Spanish Coast and the Reign of Sicily. It was a warm July of the A.D. MDCCLII. The San Fernando had been in Naples for 2 weeks, waiting for sailing again firstly to Barcelona, then to South of Spain. The crew was enjoying the last two nights in Naples, He was trying to join his friends just few meters distant from him when, suddenly, some people started dancing on the right side of the street, pulling Avelino in a lateral dark lane called “Salita Piedigrotta”. He turned on his side and realized he couldn’t keep on walking along that way, so he decided to go on that lane. A smell of dampness mixed to fried food filled the hot air of September, while the music still was laud at his back. At the light of a lampion, a seller of fried food were shouting, calling the passers-by which were still numerous even at that late hour of the night. Some kids were running playing a sort of little trumpet. He was almost arrived at Chiaja street, near the seaside, when he saw two sailormen belonging to the crew of a French vessel. One of them was plainly drunk. He decided to follow them. The narrow lane finished in a more wide street skirting the vast sea. The moon was high on the horizon and its light was shining on the waves, silver coloured. On the left side, the houses with their dim lights, the port with its ships and more far than them, the shape of the Vesuvio volcano. In the course of the time, the fertile plan gained the name of “Campania felix”, where climate is mild and fruits sweet and where, in the ancient Age, Parthenope, a Neptune’s daughter, died. Avelino couldn’t realize how people was so crazy to live near a such dangerous mountain. He kept on following the French sailors as he didn’t see his fellows anymore. In the street there was a procession of allegorical carts with musicians, dancers and statues. The port was still quite distant and he was thinking to take a coach when he noticed the French going into another lane, leaving the street along the sea. Curious, he followed them. They were walking for about 10 minutes when Avelino realized they entered in a brothel. He stopped. He wasn’t used to such places. His heart and his body belonged to a only one woman he married some years ago. He was retracing his steps when a voice called him “Uè, signò!”* Avelino turned his head on the right side. In a main door of a falling building, a man was motioning to him to come towards his side. Avelino, distrustful, approached to him. He stopped when he realized there was a girl nearby the man. She was dressed with a white but stained vest. She could be about 14, with black long hair. On her face and her arms some signs of a recent violence. “Look at her… she is nice and clean. No maladies in her! I proved her for the first time some days ago!” he said with a naughty smile. Avelino, who was able to understand that language not so different from the Spanish, didn’t pay attention to the man but to the girl. She didn’t move, no signs of life from her side. Her eyes were lowered, her face was full of grace: an innocent “poured to the wolves”. “Look at her legs, they are beautiful, to don’t say about the rest…” the man smiled again, winking and lifting her vest. “Stop! It is not necessary!” said the Spaniard.”I like her. How much?”. “a 1/2 Carlino* would be enough”. A sneer appeared on the man’s face. “I’ll give you 2 Carlini for the rest of the night” Avelino answered smiling “she must be very sweet!”. The man didn’t believe to his ears. “Of course, Sir! Follow me, I have a room where you can…” – “No! I’ll give you 2 more silver Carlini to take her with me. She’ll be back at the sunrise”. The man thought a bit, watched at Avelino attentively. “That’s fine, but I’ll come with you and I’ll wait till you’ll finish with her.”-The girl looked at that gentle man with her eyes, but no light was in there. Resigned she followed the man, her exploiter at their back. The Spaniard accompanied the girl to a friend’s house, an Italian merchant he knew some years before. Avelino was sure he could help him in his plan: save that girl from a bad and, probabaly, not so long life. “Wait here. Don’t worry, at the sunrise I’ll take her to you”.He gave 4 carlini and a half to the man and took the girl into the building. Then, everything happened quickly. Avelino knocked to a door. A sturdy man called Luigi, who was openly sleeping, appeared on the threshold. After all it was about 3.30 a.m. and he doesn’t like the din of crowded streets. The man smiled to his old friend but was puzzled after seeing the girl at his side. Avelino told everything to him, asking for help. A very gentle woman went out from a room and her husband tell her about the girl. “What’s your name, dear?Don’t worry, you are safe here”- She didn’t answer-“Come with me, you need a bath to restore yourself”. The woman was openly moved. After they left the room, Avelino asked to Luigi to help him in his attempt to take the girl away from Naples. “They could find her even outside the city. She could
leave from Naples but to go whereabouts? She needs some cures…”- Avelino had an idea “I’ll take her with me in Spain. My house is big enough. I’ll explain everything to Maribel. She won’t say no as she has a great heart.” – “You must be crazy” said the other “but, probably you could save her..”. In less than a hour, the girl wore male clothes and had short hair . In silence. Luigi’s wife gave a kiss on the girl’s forehead “Gook luck, child”. The girl’s glance enlighted. A little smile appeared on her face. All together, they went out from a back door. Luigi guided
them through a series of steps till they arrived in a place where he talked to some guys playing at “a’morra” a traditional play.. Then, the group took a coach till the Port. Before entering, Luigi took a sack of flour from a store and some preciuos materials, hold by the girl. The sky started enlighting. “Don’t worry, he will take care of you. He is a good person” Luigi said to the girl. In the meantime, Avelino’s fellows arrived at the Port making some din drewing the guards’attention.
This way, Avelino and Luigi took the girl on the ship. It sailed few hours
later. I won’t tell you what Avelino said to the captain to convince him to take the girl till Spain and I won’t even tell you what some Luigi’s friends did to the girl’s exploiter… After about a week, the beloved Catalan Coast appeared at the horizon. At the Port, Maribel was waiting for his husband. She saw that boy accompaining Avelino and looked at him puzzled. “Who is he?” – “Maria” said a gentle voice. The first word in a week. The beginning of a new existence. Avelino took his wife’s hand. “I’m back my darling. Let’s go home”.