The reader in the bathroom


I've always hated telephone polls, I don't know about you. I wonder how they managed to get my mobile number, but they got it. A few days ago, while I was getting ready to go to work, I received a call from a certain Carla from the Lou & ParTnersOnline publishing house: "Good morning, are you Miss Elena? We are editors specialized in the field of guidance and training. This is the first in a series of surveys on literary tastes for under 30: Tell me where you read and I'll tell you who you are..."


ILLUSTRATION ANDREA MONGIA STORY MARINA GERSONY

..."The survey will allow us to learn more about the readers’ tastes and wishes. If you accept, you will receive a complimentary two-colour diary and your name will appear on our website along with that of the other distinguished interviewees ". My first reaction was to send it straight to hell, Carla and her publishing house I had never heard of. But then the idea of being part of an elite of opinion makers flattered me after all: "Okay - I said to buy some time (I really didn't know what to say) - if you don't mind you, should call me again tonight when I'm back from work.’ Absorbed in the paperwork at the office, I forgot about the phone call, however, once I got home it dawned on me. After all, hers was not such a silly question. Since I was a child, I have been reading a lot, especially during my retreats to the bathroom; I was what insiders like to call “a voracious reader”. I would hole up in my parents' bathroom, where no one dared to disturb me. As a student, I used to spend entire afternoons studying while sitting on the porcelain throne; hours and hours of reading and rereading everything, university lecture notes, comics, magazines, newspapers, short stories, novels and essays, including texts on the history of toilet paper or Japanese bathrooms. It was my “hide-away”, the classic long-awaited moment, away from family members and nosy cohabitants. Even later, when I was working in a bank and went to live by myself in a rented apartment, I kept this sacred habit. When I happened to go to dinner with friends and the conversation would get heavy, I would get up using the formula my aunt had taught me, "I'll join you in a moment, I just need to powder my nose". In the bathroom I can concentrate, it is the place to forget the outside world with all its ugliness. I don't think about the tensions in the family or at work and the daily grind. Coming home means peace, rushing to the bathroom is sheer happiness. I furnished it according to my taste, with suspended bathroom fixtures that look like flying seagulls, the vintage bathtub, the lacquered ivory walls and the green plants scattered here and there to create a contrast. As a final touch, four fruit crates that I recovered from the market. Following a tutorial on YouTube, I painted them the same colour as the walls and stacked them one on top of the other. The result, a bookshop delight, ready to be filled with books. Sitting in my porcelain armchair, with the windows opening onto a graceful flowered terrace, I wander and sink into Balzac, Singer, and Roth and rediscover Leopardi.

I dive into a book on the disappearance of Atlantis and then immerse myself in a pamphlet on reincarnation picked up at the hairdresser’s … and again: from Eugenio Montale's poetic collections to Paulo Coelho's esoteric stories; from the ethological essays of Konrad Lorenz to the sentimentality of Charles Dickens; from Barbara Cartland's romance novels to Stephen King's horror stories; from Alessandro Baricco to the rediscovered comics of Intrepido who used to read my grandmother as a child ... in short, a bizarre assortment of authors who have nothing in common with each other, but who have the power to make me dream, excite, vibrate, enter wonderful worlds and live different lives. "The time to read is a time stolen from the obligations of life, it is like the time to love," wrote Daniel Pennac. Moreover, the bathroom is my reading room, the space of my soul. The aroma of cinnamon, the background music, the scent of the paper (of the book) and the rustle of leafed pages, what could be better in life? While I was musing, my cell phone rang. It was Carla of the Lou & ParTnersOnline publishing house. Then I knew how to answer her question.