I’m in a living room; or maybe I’m in a 1990s movie. The environment is gray and baby blue, with a reddish tinge from the light of a summer sunset filtering through the half-closed blinds. In the room there are three men: one in his fifties and two that are younger, about the same age as me. I observe them seated, or rather sunk into a sofa. The older man reminds me of a lawyer I was once introduced to: a guy of means, a guy who “invests.” Leaning against the door frame, he looks at me from behind his oval glasses and smiles like a clown. One of the two younger men is standing in the room. He’s a friend. I tried to set up a company with him some years ago but in the end he went solo. He’s a brilliant guy, a hustler, a certified asshole. Today he doesn’t look any different from how I knew him years ago – dopey, with a Brit-pop haircut and flushed cheeks. The other guy was my best friend when we were kids. He’s dressed in a pinstripe suit and sports a pair of sunglasses, perched on top of the sofa across from where I’m sitting. Now he’s a chemical engineer and we only ever see each other occasionally at the bar in the main square on Sundays, but as children we were very close, we built dozens and dozens of huts together. In the living room no one speaks, no one moves, no one even smokes. We could be making important decisions, or at least talk business, but it’s as if we’ve been crushed by a lifetime’s failures and are being forced to watch a continuous sunset…
Then I’m with my ex-best friend in the back of a luxury car. He’s still dressed in the pinstriped suit and sunglasses. We take a dirt road, but the car glides along smooth without the slightest jolt, as if we’re on a railway line. The landscape beyond the windows is arid and wild. The car stops near a hut. “This is where we sold the weapons,” my friend says. The hut is an assembly of corrugated sheets, Eternit and wooden boards – a bizarre house of cards, light years away from those precise buildings made of recycled materials we built as kids. An old lame man who I don’t recognise exits the hut. He says nothing and hands me an assault rifle. I grab the weapon, religiously, and then I wake up.
I’m in the office of my start-up company, a filthy room on the ground floor of the farmhouse where I store all the farming equipment. It used to be my grandfather’s office. And in fact, it’s still a mess of papers and things and smells. I’d burn everything if I could. But there’s always some unresolved issue. And so my father and I get down on our knees to rummage through all the shit, hoping to find another piece of that mosaic that is a life built on a fault line, spent putting together dilapidated properties and unstable lands, and half-broken things, and inconsistent human relationships… When my grandfather died, everything fell on us.
Inside the house, I found a table that wasn’t particularly noble but nevertheless well-made – out of solid wood and with refined legs. I cleaned and polished it. I threw the plank that was my grandfather’s “desk” into the back of the garage, and put my table at the centre of the office. Today I sit on a folding chair in the middle of all the shit, but at a nice table. I also have a laptop, a stack of Post-its and the Mont Blanc pen that was given to me at confirmation – a snazzy blue Mont Blanc.
My accountant told me about some phantom regional funds for young agricultural entrepreneurs. I wish I had never told my parents about it because it’s become another thing they nag me about. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: have you looked into the regional funds? Have you looked into the regional funds? The regional funds? The regional funds? Let’s check out these fucking regional funds! Google: r.e.g.i.o.n.a.l.f.u.n.d.s. Scrolling the announcements is a joke: “adoption of nanotechnologies;” “demolishing the workshop/market gap;” “development of space technology;” “open scheme of disruptive innovation” – “open scheme of disruptive innovation”? What do you even want to disrupt when everything here is already broken? I don’t know where to start to put the pieces together. I don’t know what to do with this land, with this house, with the emaciated and drooling strays that live outside its doors. I don’t know what to do with the fruit that grows on the trees and that in one way or another I have to collect, process, transform – into wine, into oil, into money, and again into earth, into plants.
I wonder whether a fund for reprogramming this cyclicality exists; to make sure it doesn’t become a spiral of fatigue and dissatisfaction, but rather a pattern that opens up, that moves forward… I need some air. I climb onto the roof of the house. It’s a bright morning, but the air is still fresh, and the coolness makes the landscape appear almost crunchy. I contemplate the countryside around the house; and then, further on – the highway, more countryside, the sea. The dogs stare up at me from the ground, panting. One begins to bark. “Shut up!” I yell; but he continues. “Shut the fuck up, I told you!” but he continues. Then, Jesus Christ, I take a tile and throw it at him.
I’m at the gym. I started a new intensive program called “Shortcut to Size,” because I want more muscles. The program was developed by an Italo-American bodybuilder with two hundred pseudo-PhDs – you get the app for free and then it fills up with ads of its protein drinks. The routine involves decreasing rep ranges but increasing weight each week. You do this for four weeks and then start over. In twelve weeks, you’re a champion and people on the street won’t even recognise you. In practice, it ensures that your muscles don’t get used to the same ratio of rep/weight and stagnate. If you keep them confused, they activate and grow.
A guy I’ve known since I was a kid is training in the room. We went to school together. He’s a farmer as well. But he actually bought the land which he works. His family didn’t have anything at the beginning. They worked like donkeys for others and now they have their own land, all for them. I respect them; they’re serious people who have serious goals in life.
The guy gets on the bench. He’s loaded the barbell at 30 and 30. He lies down, grips the barbell and centres it by sliding a few centimetres. Then he unlocks it from the support, slowly brings it to his chest, and pushes it up – and so on, for fifteen smooth repetitions. He’s like a machine – inhales, brings it down in two stages, exhales, pushes it up in one go. When he’s finished the set I ask if we can swap. I hold the same weight, I follow the same procedure: I lie down, centre, unlock, I go down, I go up. On the tenth repetition I have to close my eyes because I feel that my pupils are about to burst their sockets. The guy comes behind the bench and grabs the barbell. He says: “Give me two more.” I give them to him with all the strength that I can muster from my arms to my toes. On the twelfth repetition he grabs the barbell a second before it falls and rips my sternum. I get up from the bench and thank him. I need to throw up. I sit on the first piece of equipment that I find. As I see him loading another 5 kg on each side for another set, I think of that thing my father said about the guy’s family – he called it “the revenge of the sharecropper.”
I won a grant for my start-up. The fund was called “stimulating potential for innovation of SMEs for sustainable agriculture.” My project was to open a holiday farm. My father wanted to open a winery, but I did my accounting and a winery would have cost twice the amount of the prize – I’ve already put all of my money into this and I don’t want any debts. The holiday farm is perfect. I renovated the rooms on the top floor of the house, in two I even managed to put in a private bathroom. Downstairs, I cleaned up the kitchen, where I’ll have the reception and breakfast room. I then levelled the ground under the olive trees, maybe some hippy will want to pitch a tent there. I don’t want trailers though; they’re too much of a hassle. You have to build discharges, bring electricity, etc. And then there’s not even enough space. I should replace a part of the vineyard, but fuck that, there’s no way I’m doing that. Instead, if everything goes well, I’ll renovate the garage and put in two more rooms.
I’m with a photographer. He’s an acquaintance of my brother. I hired him because I need professional pictures of the house, inside and outside, for my website. The photographer seems like an alright guy, dressed cool in Nike runners and a baseball cap. His photos are beautiful – I mean, the house is beautiful, the countryside around it even more. You need balls to photograph the fucking dog. When he’s finished, we sit down at the office table to take a closer look at the photos on his computer. He tells me he’ll photoshop them over the next few days, that he’ll make them even more beautiful by bringing out the colours, and that people will think that it’s Greece.
I take him to lunch at a restaurant by the sea. Then he says he wants to see the town. We go uptown. It’s stinking hot and there’s not a soul around. He sees that there are lots of houses for sale and asks me why. Why? Because no one wants to live in town any more. They all have mansions in the countryside. And they put their houses on the market hoping that British people will come and buy them. Wait and see... Some hovels caked with pigeon shit. Even the building in the main square is for sale – the entire thing. If you look at the façade you see windows in parts of the house covered by blinds and you can imagine that the family that lived there closing the house up bit by bit. Judging by the two well-placed windows, the last tenants probably only lived in one room. And now? Who knows, maybe they’re also in the countryside…
I take him back to the station so that he can catch the train back to where he came from. As I say goodbye, I tell him to email me the invoice and that I’ll transfer him the money. He replies, “Well, since I’m giving you a special rate, I thought we could maybe come to some sort of agreement…” “Ah… I hadn’t realised you’d want cash…” Where can I find a fucking ATM now? The station barely has two platforms. And then I can only withdraw 250 euro at a time… “Well, what should we do then?” “I mean, I don’t know what to do then.”