Twelfth Night

Viola, Befana and me on the Twelfth Night

Let me tell you a lovely story. I had this dream last night. She was coming my way, and when she got closer and smiled at me, I felt a thrill in my heart. She was old and sort of witchy, you see, black shabby dressed, with toothless mouth and a funny pointed hat. Also she was riding a broom with neither steering wheel nor engine.

She glanced at me, then winked at me and with her sweetest voice she said: ‘Hi honey, what are you up to? Climb on – get on board baby and let’s fly away’. Her words had the sound of music and I swear on my ancestors, she was an actual witch and it was love at first sight. Like Duke Orsino I exclaimed: If music be the food of love, let’s go. Oh, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets. I jumped on the broom riding it behind my unexpected heartthrob, and we took off for a magical mystery tour above Florence’s Twelfth Night. Are you Viola? ‘I am the Befana, darling’, she replied as we flew on.
“How old are you?” I asked, “Where do you come from?”. You won’t believe what she answered: “Young man, please! – I’m a couple of thousand years old, I come from all over the world and am on duty tonight to bring coal to the naughty children and huge pretty presents to the good children!
Well, she must be quite experienced and all, that’s what I said to myself while she was landing on a roof not far from Ponte Vecchio. “Bouge pas” she ordered and dismounted from the broom. “Bouge what?” I questioned, confused. “You do say some strange things” I added. “Oh, you are right, my dear that’s French, but aren’t we in France?”. I scoffed “Ah ah, No you are lost. Don’t you see where we are ?” I pressed. “Can’t you see the Arno? see the Duomo? see Palazzo Vecchio?”

“Just a moment she snarled – don’t move. “Work is work and I have to go down this chimney now!”
She parked the broom and disappeared. So I stood there like a pigeon, watched the moon glisten on the river. I soon realized how cold it was and how I wasn’t dressed for flying around on a broomstick in the middle of the night. I didn’t really know one is supposed to dress for such an activity. The city was asleep, still, noiseless, just car roaring far away in the distance. She took her time and when she reappeared after about an hour, guess what?, she was blind drunk. She couldn’t even ride her broom.
“It’s not my fault” she justified herself and opened wide her toothless grin: “Down there I found a gal dressed up as a Befana who said she was the Befana. But as you know there is only one Befana, and it’s me, I assured her. I also asked for her Union ID but of course she didn’t have it. In short, she was a fake Befana with a family to support. She said her husband was unemployed and had two young kid. I did pity her a little and else could I do? So I had a couple of bottles of champagne in my bag and we toasted our good health.”
I suspected it was a lie because I had heard the voices. There was a man, it was Santa down there with her – fake or real no matter. And they were giggling. I hear him ask “What about the guy on the roof?” to which she replied “No one really, just a friend”. Then there was a long silence while I was absolutely dying on that icy Twelfth Night roof.
Why was Santa hanging around almost two weeks after his duty was over? When I asked Befana blushed, she understood that I had understood. “You know”, she said, “there was plenty to eat and alcohol galore so we had a little party. He decided to work overtime this year in order to have days off next year and go on a Christmas holiday.
I was disaapointed. I looked at my watch: it was 25 o’clock, a very weird hour. I had never heard of it. Since when a day has 25 hours?
Then a long silence while I was absolutely freezing to death. I thought maybe I’d better wake up. In fact, forget the roof. I opened my eyes and I was in my bed. Mabel had stolen all of the covers as always and started to wake me up to get on with her day – well, a walk and food. I got up, had a coffee and went to drink it in the living room. And then I saw them: two gift packages on the fireplace top. I unwrapped the first one: a coat and a note, ‘for the next time’, signed Santa Klaus. Inside the other, a navy blue cashmere sweather and a note too, ‘SWALK’ from Befana. Sealed with a loving kiss.
Was it real or was it just a dream? We’ll have to wait until next to see if we meet again.