Painting by Giovanni Fattori
Narciso stomps into the pharmacy and thumps his walking stick on the floor.
We know Narciso. The Republican relic. The pharmacist puts on a smile that doesn’t touch her eyes and finds something to do in the reserve. Narciso takes up position in the chair facing the street to watch the girls go by. We try not to listen to his old man’s mutterings of appreciation.
Old ladies come in to collect their prescriptions and cluck in disapproval. They know Narciso too. He narrows his small, watery eyes, and barks at them in a tangle of Spanish and French, running his eyes up and down the bare summer legs passing outside, licking his lips.
He shouts his partisan anecdotes. His grasp on the language is slippery, facts slither from his grip, and incomprehension falls upon him as easily as deafness. But we all know Narciso and his story. The real one behind the heroic escape over the Pyrenees with Franco on his tail. We know why he has never gone back to Cataluña, and we look away. We know about the wife and baby he abandoned behind the crumbling Republican lines. And we know what happened to them.