A shirt and tie, he thought as he rose out of bed.
He could smell the coffee from below, his wife pottering in the kitchen. It drifted up the stairs to the cold bedroom. They shut the heat off before they went to bed under their unusually heavy duvets.
The shutters, open. The morning was going to be bright. The moon was shifting to the northwest, over the distant mountains, the air was blue and icy, clear, clean.
Downstairs he peed. He put on a robe and ate a breakfast of toasted bread, ricotta and jam, coffee, and a glass of grapefruit juice which he hated but his doctor said was good for his health, which had never been bad, but he was getting up there.
The job wasn’t hard. It was actually easy. His wife was pleased that he had something to do during the day. Since he had retired a couple of years before, he had subsisted on books and the radio, riding his bike in the afternoon, and generally annoying her around the house. This was better. He was the mayor.
Across town, an alarm rang on an iPhone, the duck noise, and it jolted the couple out of bed. The dog was waiting at the door to the bedroom, already knowing what was going on. It was cold outside and the dog was ready to go down for his business. His tail wagged uncontrollably as he jumped and put his paws on the bed.
She makes the coffee while he takes the dog out. It runs next door, and he’s outside longer than he wants to be in house slippers. No one sees him.
Breakfast cookies, dry, not much sugar, he eats six, she has four. Coffee with added hot water — americano.
A suit? No it’s too much. A shirt and tie? No, just wear something nice that you’re comfortable in, she says. No dress for her, it’s too cold, instead, cashmere.
The bathroom is never big enough but they both manage to be ready on time, 8:15 out the door. The dog, looking confused, decides to skip his breakfast, he goes back to bed. He’s a good boy.
It’s 8:40 by the time they park and make their way to the door. It opens in five minutes. A few people pool outside. Masks are on. Glasses are foggy.
The mayor is snug in his office and his secretary brings him a second coffee which always triggers a need to go to the john, so he goes, and he feels instant relief. Today, two new citizens, neither of their names he can pronounce. Merda.
I’m sorry but she will have to wait outside, the woman tells us, COVID. We know, ok. He waits inside, it’s heated. She freezes outside, trying to use just one finger to scroll through her phone. I’m sorry he texts. She says it’s ok, we didn’t know.
Inside he’s called over to a desk, a plastic shield between him and the mayor. There are some greetings, it’s my great honor to do this he tells the guy, no, it’s me who should thank you. A woman appears with two very large pieces of paper, sign here, and here she says. These go into a very large folder, made especially for the paper.
He we go. It’s short, there are laws to read out, there is a pledge not to a god, not to a man or woman, king or queen, but to a republic, to obey the laws. I swear.
They both smile. They exchange pleasantries. The man tells his story, it makes the mayor smile. He says I wish you all the very best luck in Italy, but don’t forget your own country also, it’s not so bad.
The man has tears in his eyes. Obscured by the mask, by his glasses. Her, sitting outside, runs to get the car from the parking spot. A message, I’m coming around the corner.
He sticks out his thumb, hitching a ride home, a newly minted Italian, ready for an espresso, a few more tears, for trying to understand it all, where he is, who he is, where he’s going, how he got here.
It’s a loving blur.