EPISODE 2: Anna Vaniglia

Lu Cafausu
May 1, 2016

This is the second episode in Lu Cafausu’s series of five stories. Read Episode 1: A Mirror For Five, Episodes 3a and 3b: The Screen Will Be White, Episode 4: The resurrection of the wizards, and Episode 5:Battle.
The female off-screen voice has a French accent and a slight leaning towards the dialect of Salento. The voice is heard over closeups of a woman in labor, a perspiring tattooed body giving birth at night in a poorly lit domestic setting.

Anna Vaniglia began talking on the threshold of a public restroom, at the intersection of three completely empty corridors. The timbre of her voice was tight, muffled, punctuated by coughs and the sickening odor of her sweat. The monologue cloned itself, bouncing off the ceiling in a subtle multitude of echoes. I shut the door (it seemed to be made of cardboard) leaving her outside. The restroom stank of ammonia. Her words slid in through the gaps in the doorframe. The sound filled up every space. She was six months along, intestines twisting into inextricable tangles of feelings and thoughts loaded with contradictions. I was on the edge of a finitude, only apparently of birth, a start that had all the symptoms of an end. Or vice versa, I can’t remember so well anymore.

What I do recall with certainty is that those sounds that emerged from Anna’s mouth paralyzed me, taking me back to when I had listened to another case of incoherent confabulation under the portico of an apartment building in Bologna. It was the place in which I had decided to live: Ennio the boozer tossed and turned restlessly, muttering through the night, spitting out diphthongs, vowels and saliva; only at times, when the three factors came together, did he make any sense. There was a difference though, namely that Anna Vaniglia seemed to be flailing in an attempt to swim. Yes, that’s it: her words issued from her mouth like cotton batting laden with water or powder. Technically speaking, the fact was that Ms. Vaniglia was supposed to state, that very morning (in an infinite variety of possibilities) her “position of neutrality” regarding the contract presented in front of a full house of labor union reps, employees and associations of extinction-threatened managers. Everyone knew that she wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise until the bitter end.

It’s no mean feat to take a dump while someone – someone you don’t even know very well – is shouting, nervously trying to get your attention outside the bathroom door. I had become constipated as well. I was tired, exhausted, and it still wasn’t 10 o’clock in the morning.

"lost", Lu Negro (2015)

“lost”, Lu Negro (2015)

From this point on the scenes overlap, coinciding more or less with what the voice narrates in a caption-like way


and then


Having said this I flushed the toilet and began to wash my hands, trying in vain to throw up.

Instead, I heard Anna thrust her words with a fist on the door, dragging on with that suffocating soliloquy, from which increasingly uncertain and, towards the end, even abstract concepts emerged. I could sense it from the monotonous sound of her voice, its paralyzingly boring lack of prosody. It was like entering a labyrinth you never would have imagined finding inside the restroom of a public institution on a bright, sunny day. Like being back inside one of those recurring bad dreams I used to have on early summer afternoons in my parents’ house. I would melt into a sofa with scratchy upholstery, gaze into the garden and benumb myself thinking about the exams I still had to take. I drowned, plunged into mazes of currents and long watery wavelengths, trying to say something to someone, my ears filling up, but not enough to let me step back from the words. Nevertheless, undaunted, I continued to the point of suffocation. It came to mind that just a few moments earlier I was so young that I still sniffed bread and listened to the Cure in the nude. In the bathroom I often made faces at my reflection in the mirror; I remember licking my own skin, which in the sunshine had the taste of incense. But only in the summer; in the winter it was like licking the skin of a sick lemon. Now when I’m in front of the mirror I avoid swapping gazes with someone I barely know. Now when I’m in front of a mirror, in a public restroom, for example, sometimes I throw up, and more often I try to weep. Though I can tell you something: it is really not that easy to do.

The shouts of Giacomo Vinci, trade unionist from Reggio Emilia, could already be heard in the elevator; ritual, useless, recited shouting, a collective enactment where everyone was forced to pretend to represent something, to be interested in something.  Most of the players seemed to be copying each other in terms of attitude, tone, loudness. The others seemed like onlookers, by chance or by force, all dreaming about being somewhere else. I was one of them, though actually I never stayed long in that hall, I hadn’t the slightest obligation to be there, but it was no worse than my usual state. The room I was forced to stay in was mysterious. Every morning it reeked of detergent, though it looked as if no living soul had ever been there. The dust had gathered for months, I left it there on purpose, for my own investigative curiosity. I stared all day at the computer, interacting with it a little, but most of the time I stared at the wall out front; in the spring the sun joined forces with the blinds to make the form of a penis. Otherwise I must say there was no appealing reason to even look out the skyblue window that faced a busy traffic artery; when I wasn’t listening to the desperate wail of the cars, I was enthralled by the histrionic flights of Giacomo Vinci and his imitators. At that point I put on my headphones and listened to The Wrong Child by REM. A depressing song, but the only one available offline.


I’ve watched the children come and go
A late long march into spring
I sit and watch those children
Jump in the tall grass
Leap the sprinkler
Walk in the ground
Bicycle clothespin spokes
The sound, the smell of swingset hands

I will try to sing a happy song
I’ll try and make a happy game to play

Come play with me I whispered to my new found friend
Tell me what it’s like to go outside
I’ve never been
Tell me what it’s like to just go outside
I’ve never been
And I never will

And I’m not supposed to be like this
I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay

Hey those kids are looking at me
I told my friend myself
Those kids are looking at me
They’re laughing and they’re running over here
They’re laughing and they’re running over here

What do I do?
What can I do?
What should I do?
What do I say?
What can I say?

I said I’m not supposed to be like this
Let’s try to find a happy game to play
Let’s try to find a happy game to play

I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay, okay

Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo

Lu Cafausu

Lu Cafausu is a collaborative art project initiated by Emilio Fantin, Luigi Negro, Giancarlo Norese, and Cesare Pietroiusti in 2006, then joined by Luigi Presicce in 2010. Lu Cafausu, an old coffeehouse located in a small town in the south of Italy, has become the inspiration for stories, performances and actions in different European and American cities.

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