by Marina Gersony PHOTO Carlo William Rossi + Fabio Mureddu



Tessa observed the peeling walls and the pieces of plaster scattered a little everywhere on the old tiles. She imagined what it would be like after the renovation, a functional space that would reflect her sense of beauty and personality. The penthouse that her parents had given her as a present was in the old part of the city, on the top floor of a period building in the centre. Andrea, her husband, was in charge of restoring and renovating the property. In three or four months, the newlyweds would finally come into possession of that apartment with a priceless view on the Roman forums.

Tessa squatted on the floor and fantasized about how to organise the place careful not to trip over the bathroom fixtures. She leafed through a glossy furniture magazine, but nothing seemed to strike her in particular:

everything seemed banal, excessively glitzy, or uninspiring. She, who had lived her childhood and adolescence in a large family, had always found refuge in one of the four bathrooms of their large house, the most intimate place where you can find a little silence in an atmosphere of peace. She thought of her brothers who used to tease her by banging on the door with their fists:

"Tessa / the princess / staring at the mirror for hours / admiring her reflected face," they would sing out loud laughing like crazy. Tessa had paid no attention to it. In the bathroom she could isolate herself, dream and estrange herself from the world. It was the place of purification of body and soul, the temple of pure contemplation and recollection; only there was she able to shape her thoughts and reconnect with herself.

Diving into the clouds of steam that came up from the tub was a mystical experience, a ritual that reconciled her with the world and which she would never give up. In the bathroom she had made important decisions; she had spent hours trying to understand herself and others; she had made long phone calls with her closest friends, away from the prying ears of her family; always in the bathroom, she had confided in Cora, her best

friend, sitting for hours on the edge of the tub despite the grumbling of her parents who over time had resigned themselves to what they considered a childish extravagance to forgive. Tessa measured the space with her eyes and calculated that it was large enough to host an elegant and enveloping bathtub. She visualized several models she had seen on Google and imagined herself bathed in a fluffy, voluptuous foam. Meanwhile, her mind continued to wander, until it slowly slipped into the memories of two years earlier, when she had met Andrea at a memorable pool party.

September 2018, a villa by the sea, a light late summer breeze and a starry sky, Tessa and her friend Cora, a diehard fashionista, had spent the whole afternoon deciding how to dress for that "black pool party", where it was imperative to wear something black to be admitted. The young woman opted for an elegant 60s pyjamas in an optical black version, with trousers embellished with a thin white side band. The contrast between the black pyjamas and the long red hair had a striking effect.

The evening turned out to be fun right from the start. After copious drinks, wild dances, dives in the pool, improvised water volleyball games, let alone the water balloons that sparked the hilarity of those present, around midnight some boys gathered in a circle around the pool to play a group game. Some suggested the classic spin of the bottle, some others that of “spot the liar”, others instead playing charades; in the end, however, they all opted for a mime game. One of the boys applied to form the two teams. Each one, in turn, had to choose their team's mime and a word related to a place, a house or a city for the rival team to guess.

Whoever could guess the most words would win. After a brief consultation, Tessa suggested miming a bathroom, an unusual idea that was enthusiastically welcomed by members of her team who appointed her "official mime". Tessa initially scoffed. She was a brilliant young woman who did everything she could not to be noticed, that evening however, she had drunk a little more than she should, which made her feel more sociable, uninhibited and sexier than usual. After all, even children know that alcohol - in moderate doses - can dissolve inhibitions.

The girl straightened her shoulders trying to assume a correct posture. Unable to speak or move her lips according to the rules of the game, she improvised a series of facial expressions and gestures to try to make herself understood.

She pretended the walls were real, as were the sink, bidet, tub, and shower; she also pretended that the wall was painted in different colors; she imagined surfaces smooth, rough, damp, dry, cold or hot. Her body reacted as if by magic to the illusion while she was convinced that everything was real. She pushed gently towards the wall with her hands and as if in a trance she manipulated space and matter to create a place that did not exist except in her mind. She ran a hand along the imaginary edges of the tub mimicking the movement of the legs and then the feet ... first the left, then the right, to finally immerse herself with her whole body in a vaporous white foam. Without realizing it, Tessa had captured the attention of her audience by showing off unexpected artistic skills. Suddenly she woke up as if from a dream. She felt the bystanders' gaze on her. A girl from the opposing team announced triumphantly: "I got it! It's a swimming pool"; another boy echoed: "No, it's a waterfall high up in the mountains", while a third, staring at her, approached her and said with conviction: "You're really good, it's a bathroom."

His name was Andrea, he was a handsome boy in a tuxedo sporting an amused air. Tessa's eyes widened as if the young man hadn't been real. She felt her heart pounding. "Come on, guys, we won, let's all go for a nice shower and toast". Andrea took the girl by the hand and with a glass of Pinot in the other dragged her into one of the luxurious bathrooms of the villa followed by her friends. He threw himself into the tub fully dressed while Tessa couldn't believe her eyes. The mirror reflected a fully clothed man laughing as if it were the most normal thing in the world to do. This was how she met Andrea, the one who, two years later, would become her husband.

Tessa awoke from her dream. She was back in the present, leaning against the wall of her future bathroom in the attic where her new life with Andrea would soon begin.

She went to the window and looked at the Roman forums, magnificent in their imposing beauty. She smiled and thought that life is beautiful.