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DIARY

OF

AN ITALIAN

BORDER

WORKER

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State Route 34, Lake Maggiore. It’s a beautiful day, finally. “Nothing to Declare” hangs from my rear-view mirror. Customs. Shift to second gear. The border guard looks me over quickly. “Ok”. I lift my hand a fraction off the wheel. Switzerland, Ticino. Second, third, fourth. 

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I drive a grey mouse Alfa Romeo 147. I don't take enough care of her, but I'm attached. Dusty dashboard, dirty windscreen and the metallized body is covered with salt. In the distance, the peaks of the mountains are covered in snow. I flip through radio stations, nothing interesting. Near the speed gauge a warning light flashes, I’m running on empty. I put on my blinker at the first petrol station. I park and get out of the car. The freezing air constricts my lungs, spring hasn’t arrived here yet. Is better do up the jacket. Open the tank flap, unscrew the lid, shove the nozzle into the fill pipe and squeeze the trigger. 

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The currency exchange kiosk has a new window display. A pedestal, in doric style, it’s capital sporting a plastic ivy pot plant. I realize that the window is bullet proof. Next to the entrance, leaning on a standing bar table, two construction workers drink a panaché, the staple beverage around these parts. Not bad. At the diesel pump a man in his seventies argues with his wife. They make an elegant couple. He is wearing a colourful tie, his wife a short jacket with prominent shoulder pads. They have an old Mercedes, eighties model, same as them. Beautiful.

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