The man from the south (southern Europe, it should be said) strolled along and warily reflected on what lay beyond certain windows of certain houses. In school, many years earlier, he had been told that there were no shutters, roll-ups, Venetian blinds, or shades in Holland: that there were windows with curtains, and that was all. He had been told that this went back to the fact that in the northern countries the pretenses of the south did not exist: there was no morbid concept of private space, interior and exterior did not exist as a moral dichotomy. Who knows what there is to hide, men and women as we all are, from the beginning of time, amen?
What lies behind the window? The provincial man hesitated at the edge of this question, but in the end he turned away. What was the point?
The man crossed the canal, strolling over the bridge. All of a sudden — as if until that moment he had been staring at the ground — he spotted a procession of balconies, all open, all washed by the warmth of the day. Women sat on many of those balconies wearing very little clothing, lounging, enjoying the sunshine, the fresh air, and the fine day. To the man they all seemed exceptionally beautiful and above all disturbingly sensual. In his imagination, he felt himself being lifted off the ground and cast onto each balcony, the better to get to know the female manifestation that lucertolava, basked there, like a lizard.
Lucertolare was a verb used at one time in the restricted region in which the man happened to be born. It meant to remain motionless on a rock, absorbing the sun, sucking up each ray. Like lizards, lucertole, do.
I must have flipped through the passport too quickly back then to notice that someone had got my eye color wrong; it was only when I opened it thirty years later that I picked up on the mistake. What this taught me was that, contrary to what I’d believed, a passport is not a document that tells us who we are but a document that shows what other people think of us.
As we flew into Geneva, our new passports in…