“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
“So…” Mauro exhaled sharply. “I’ve been married since I was 22, for 12 years. In the beginning we used to be quite happy. I don’t know whether our marriage was a mere rational decision or a consequence of our profound friendship, I didn’t actually care since it felt right. Me and Rebecca we were compatible, if you know what I mean. Same interests, same values, same desires, same life attitudes.
I grew up as an orphan and all I ever wanted was a family. She was constantly fighting with her parents and her elder sister, which kind of made her feel as an orphan with her family around. So, we got married and we’ve got two sons, but you already know that. The elder one, Andrea, is 12 now, while Stefano is 8 years old…” Mauro took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly.
When Love Counts
“Did you love her?” Serena tried to sound casual, hiding her face behind the glass. She realized it wasn’t necessary since all that Mauro could see in the darkness was her silhouette, while she could trace even the tinest expression of Mauro’s face lightened by the moonlight. “He is the devil, so you never know“, thought Serena to herself, trying to hide her emotions, her heart beating fast.
“No, I guess not. Or better, not the way I love you. I never loved anyone the way I love you. That’s why when we first met I got scared, I was shocked. I was unprepared for something this intense.” Mauro paused for a second, and then looked up, his face suddenly full of animation.
Passive Love vs. Love in Action
“You see Serena, in Italian there two ways to display one’s affection: active and passive. The passive love is probably the most frequent one, here in Italy, and is usually expressed by such a phrase as “ti voglio bene”. These words convey that you do care a lot about this person. This is a kind of platonic or familial love; it’s pure and sincere, deep and unfailing.
Yet, passive love doesn’t’ make your heart beat faster… It doesn’t make the butterflies bang their colourful wings inside your stomach… It’s different from when you say “ti amo”, Mauro pointed with his finger at Serena. “Ti amo” is active love.
His voice strong and clear, Mauro continued. “Ti amo” is all-embracing. It means: I care about you more than about anything else, I can’t live without you, and I don’t want to, there’s no point. Since without you by my side I can’t eat, I can’t breathe, I can’t taste. Without you I don’t live, I merely exist.
“Ti amo” is selfless, since without you I’m nothing, metaphorically dead. My life is yours. If you tell me to climb on the top of Everest, I will. If you ask me to fetch you the Moon, I will. There is nothing I can’t do for you, or at least, there is nothing I won’t try as hard as I can. There are no boundaries, no delays, and no hesitation.
“Ti Amo” or “Ti Voglio Bene“
“Ti amo” is real, it’s love in action, yet it’s never rational. And this is exactly the point that distinguishes “ti amo” from “ti voglio bene“.
In other words, when you say “ti amo“…it’s the moment you realize that inside your heart there’s no more room for yourself. You kind of self cancel yourself for the person you love. You can say “ti voglio bene” (love platonically) ten or thousand persons at the same time, yet there will be the only one person you say “ti amo” to. This kind of love is immense, all-consuming, burning.
Yet, unlike “ti voglio bene”, “ti amo” is hardly genuine since this strong feeling it is followed by constant sexual desire, there is no such thing as enough. Never.
So, love in action is like crime and punishment at the same time. You want to owe and to be possessed by the person you love, you want to be a half of one, not one of two.
That’s what I feel for you, Serena. Io ti amo. As for Rebecca, I used to say her “ti voglio bene” all the time, and I wasn’t lying.”
Mauro’s Side of the Story
Mauro stood up and poured some more wine into Serena’s glass, who remained silent, her heart pounding. With a swift movement Mauro assumed his previous position on the pavement right in the moon beam, drained his glass, and then continued his story, his face going darker with every word.
“With time things between me and Rebecca got different. My company was getting ever more successful and I was getting ever busier, yet I was happy. I was convinced that my hard work will provide a future for my children. I told you, Serena, I grew up poor, so I’d better die working than let my kids experience misery.” Mauro took a deep breath, and then continued his monologue.
“However, Rebecca wasn’t happy. In addition, she was constantly complaining that I was never home, that it seemed as I didn’t care about our marital life. We started fighting. Day after day, minute after minute. I admit, I couldn’t quite realize WHAT WAS her problem, but she was annoying. Yet, I forced myself to believe that that is exactly what marriage is about. And that this marital crisis will end finally up one day, and our lives will turn back to normal… The thing that wasn’t meant to happen.”
Mauro poured himself more wine, nodded at Serena’s glass questioningly. She shook her head and took another sip. “What happened next?”
For a while there was silence. Only the wall-clock was ticking. Serena noticed that Mauro’s black eyes lightened by the moonlight gradually went even darker.
“One afternoon, knowing that kids were at school, I decided to make my wife a surprise by coming home earlier. So we could talk, make peace, consummate marriage, you know, turn back to normal. I even bought her flowers.” Mauro took a deep breath.
“So, I parked my car, I unlocked my front door, went inside my house, and then I suddenly felt that something’s different. Nothing was different, everything was the same, yet something was different. So, I stood there for a while, and then I knew. You see, Serena, there are the moments for me, usually during my business meetings, when I just know what’s going to happen next.” Mauro drained another glass and lifted his chin, his eyes wet with emotions.
“So I went upstairs and as I was walking down the hall, I was trying to prepare myself to what I was going to find in my bedroom. A moment after, I noticed a man’s jacket abandoned on my favourite armchair. That jacket didn’t belong to me, yet it was a jacket I recognized immediately”, Mauro made an effort to smile, that made him sound even more desperate.
“So, the next thing I knew, was that as I would reach my bedroom I would not only see that my wife is cheating on me, but that she is cheating on me with Fabio. This son of a bitch happened to be my best friend, my business partner and my wedding witness.”
For a moment Mauro dropped his face in the palms of his hands. “This is so pedestrian and immoral, and unethical. I mean the cheating is dirty, yet the double cheating is harsh. It’s cruel. So I left. I didn’t explain anything to anyone. I just left. End of story.”
When Love in Action Is Not Enough
Serena glared at Mauro. “And then you met me?”
“And then I met you”, Mauro’s voice was soft and pleasant again.
“So, what am I to you? The girl you decided to screw to get over being screwed? The girl you think you have a right to imprison here by force or by lying, whatever it takes? Is this what you call “love in action”? What am I to you?!?” Serena’s voice was trembling with nerves.
“You are my oxygen, a breath of fresh air and a light in the dark. I was lost, I was spiritually dying and you’ve saved me.” Mauro’s eyes started to shine. “I’ve fallen in love with you the way I never ever imagined was possible. Ti amo, Serena. That’s all I know. Don’t you think it’s enough?”
Serena slowly approached Mauro, kneeled down beside him on the pavement, and looked right in his eye for several seconds as though scanning his mind. Then, she pointed on her empty glass. Mauro reached for the bottle and started to pour, when realized the wine was over as only few drops settled on the bottom of Serena’s glass.
“See”, Serena said penetratingly, as if reading some destiny signs. “It’s not enough.”
With this words, Serena graciously rose from the floor and went upstairs locking her door from inside.
Do you think Mauro’s story is true?
This post is also available in: English