By Massimo Usai
It’s 1982, and I still haven’t had anything so transcendental in my life.
I was still studying, no solo travel worldwide, and summer had just begun.
July had arrived a few days before, but that heat, typical of July, had been in the air for two or three months now.
I had taken my first swim in the sea in April that year.
July hadn’t caught me off guard with that suffocating heat.
I had to study, but I also had to go out with friends, and the hotter it was, the later it was at night.
I was a DJ on the local radio and being a DJ at that time meant having a bit of popularity and some girls around.
We grew up, in the suburbs, of a city of nothing more than a prominent suburb.
Sometimes, the sun was so high that you thought you were in Texas more than Europe.
Life in my area was challenging. If you worked in the field or in some factory in the industrial zone, I constantly repeated that I would never work in those sectors.
I never did.
I liked to play with words on the radio, I played with music, with the lyrics of songs, with what I saw from the bus window that took me to school.
I watched the girls; I wanted to conquer them; I was not a gym guy. I did not have the physique to stand out on the beach.
I didn’t have the car to be noticed. In fact, I didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license.
I had the voice, the convincing speech, I had the music.
I had the right taste of music that allowed me to stand out from the rest of the DJs with my music, but this was partly my misfortune. No radio director gave me prime time, always late, always alone in the studio.
Me and my technician, who was my best friend, even off the radio.
I lived in a calm city and life was so comfortable.
The family gave me everything. The weather was excellent, I had friends, I had no problems with what to do on Saturday night and not even the other evenings of the week.
I was basically trapped. I wanted to escape, but I couldn’t.
I wanted to play the guitar, sing, write songs, broadcast them on the radio, and go on MTV. Instead, the city did not offer any of this opportunity, only tranquillity.
In my head, there was only one idea: to leave.
“One day I wanted to leave”, always I repeat to my friends and parents, but in 1982 I did not have the strength, I was definitely cash short, and I miss the courage.
We lived in the shadow of the stories that came from the movies, books, and songs that filled our days.
We constantly dreamed a different life, it was beautiful dreams but painful at the same time, and now they are just memories full of remorse.
On the eleventh of July 1982, Italy won the World Cup in Spain.
My friends and I had stolen the tricolor flags from the light poles of our town on the night we beat Poland in the semi-final. We did our small crime around three in the morning.
From the roof of one of our cars, we reached and pulled down two big flags that the local council put for an international folk festival.
On the evening of the following Sunday, they were flaunted along the road that lined the beach, entirely blocked by crazy traffic as only a victory at the World Cup can cause.
I went home at dawn, got up just before lunch, ran to buy 3 or 4 newspapers to read about the game, and while I was eating at the table with the rest of my family, they rang at the door.
My mother opened, and two “carabinieri” handed over a sheet of paper that she handed under my nose, between my eyes and the newspaper.
The form had a clear inscription. It was the invitation to go, seven days later, to a barracks further south of my town, in another part of Italy, to perform military service.
At that moment, I realized that my idea of growing up and running away from where I was, becoming a rock star or a writer, would be paused for at least another year.
But that day, that evening, incredulous looking at that bare ministerial letter, I understood and realized that from my return, things would change forever.
That night I realized that the following year when I returned to my city, it would finally be time to grow up and become a man.