By Sarah Cipullo
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, to parents who bear names of Roman texture. Her father is Valerio. He reads books on love. Her mother is Lucilla. She loves Greek mythology. They both call her "princess".
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and she lives in Sant'Angelo in Formis. Her mother Lucilla strokes her brown hair and gently kisses her blue eyes, her pale cheeks and her red lips. One day, Lara’s father Valerio takes her with him to the baker, who tells him: «Sir, your daughter looks like she is English.»
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, where she lives. Her father Valerio works as a plumber. Lara spends a lot of time with her mother Lucilla, who shows her books full of colours. Lucilla often puts her in a stroller and takes her to the station to watch the trains go by.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, where she lives. She’s five when the teacher in the kindergarten overhears a conversation she’s having with Fabrizio Guadalupi. They are evenly distributing the girls in their class into two groups: "Fabrizio's girlfriends" and "Lara's girlfriends". The teacher reports everything to Lara's parents. They listen, still.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, where she lives. One morning she wakes up and words are broken in her mouth. She suffers from stuttering.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, where she lives. When she learns to read, her mother Lucilla buys her the Aeneid for children. Lara reads it aloud by placing her index on the page, touching each fractured word. Her voice limps, but her finger is firm. One day her hand comes across Dido's illustration and Lara thinks she’s beautiful.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, where she lives. After she learns to read, a new teacher is introduced to her class. Her name is Paola and she says she teaches English. She explains that English is a language made up of words that are different from the words of the Italian language. «English is spoken beyond our borders. A border is a line drawn on the ground. Within the border lines is our home, Italy. Outside is the place where others live.» Lara does not know that she speaks Italian or that she lives in Italy. She never met the others.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She’s eight, it’s summer and she’s staying in Capua, at the home of her paternal grandparents. In the garage crammed with tools, she cuts her right hand with a knife as she tries to grab a hammer. «Your hand hurts, but the pain is not in your hand. It's in your brain,» her grandfather tells her while she’s crying.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She’s ten and she spends summer halfway between the shore and the communal garden of her apartment complex, where she plays football with the boys. That August she sits a private exam to test her English level. The results are expressed with shields. Out of ten, she is given one only. She thinks it doesn't matter. She lives within the border line.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She’s twelve when her mother Lucilla makes two decisions with irreversible consequences for her. One Monday afternoon they return home. Lara has braces and holds in her hands the documents that Lucilla signed for enrolment in a private English school. «It’s the language of the future. One day you will thank us smiling and when you do it, you’ll have wonderful teeth,» her father Valerio tells her when he sees her miserable and empty eyes.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. Her first competent English teacher is Mark. He’s from York, where he graduated in architecture. He has blue eyes, brown hair, pale skin and red lips. He does not know Italian. «We look alike,» he tells her, smiling. Lara doesn't understand and she doesn't care either. Mark is just a stranger within her border line.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. At the end of middle school, she’s happy. They removed her braces and her parents bought her a new bike because her English has improved.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. Her parents choose for her places across the border. Between the second and third year of high school they send her to Dublin for fifteen days. Between the third year and the fourth year they send her to Glasgow, again for fifteen days. Between the fourth and fifth in London, fifteen days once more. Lara will remember the dark and dirty underbelly of the underground in London. The asbestos dust down the throat in Glasgow. Francesca in Dublin.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She is still a student in high school when she meets Ursula. Ursula has tar black eyes, dark hair and thin lips. Her body is dry. The kiss that Ursula does not give Lara, she places it on the lips of a Croatian girl who comes from beyond the border and has crossed invisible lines drawn on the ground. She’s tall and thin. Her hair is short and dyed red and she is not foreign to Ursula.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She is still a student in high school when she meets Lavinia. Lavinia plays the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass. Her scores crawl with graphic signs Lara does not recognize, but which she touches with her fingers. «You have sea eyes,» these are the first things Lavinia tells Lara. «I'll die soon,» these are the last ones.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She is still a student in high school when words peel off the ceiling of her room, crashing to the ground like boulders. Her mother Lucilla tells her: «What do you think? That having a lesbian daughter is like winning the lottery?» Of all the words fallen like stones on the perfect parquet, her father Valerio does not bend to pick up any. He turns and leaves the room in silence. Lara tries not to think about Lavinia.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. She’s at his best friend’s place. His name is Patrizio. Patrizio understands that Lara has lost something. «Why don't we go to Brindisi to see the sea?» he suggests. They reach the Adriatic coast aboard a battered Fiat 500. While Patrizio takes a picture of a crab, Lara notices that Tirana can be seen from the rock. She wonders where that sea is, whether in Italy or Albania. It’s impossible to draw a border line on a mass of water. Lara tries not to think about Lavinia.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, Italy, where she lives. The only beautiful things she remembers from high school are: the trip to Siena and the one to Prague. In Siena she falls asleep in the exact centre of Piazza del Campo. In Prague she falls asleep on a bench. When she wakes up, she finds Patrizio's message on her cell phone: "Where the fuck are you? I can't find you anymore!". Lara crosses all borders and thinks: I am in Prague, in the Czech Republic, in the European Union, on the European continent, on earth and in space on the Orion arm. She replies: "I don't know". Lara tries not to think about Lavinia.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and she lives in Milan, where she studies psychology at university. She’s nineteen when Camille smiles at her while she’s going up the stairs in Cadorna station. Camille is twenty-four and she’s from Lyons. Lara tries not to think about Lavinia.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Milan, where she studies psychology at university. Camille's body is a worldly junction among the satin panties in the drawer, the fresh bread in the pantry, the wooden crate in front of the fireplace, Saramago on the desk. Inside her there is warmth and not even the shadow of a border. Lara thinks of Milan: this is the only place where I am truly happy.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Milan with her partner Camille. She studies psychology at university. She gets up one morning during her senior year and while brushing her teeth in front of the mirror, she decides to start over. Somewhere else. She enrols at the faculty of mathematics in Trento.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, she lived in Milan and is currently based in Trento, where she studies mathematics at university. She surprises herself when at the age of twenty-three, she surprisingly gets on a train in Trento that takes her to Milan, where she intends to surprise the surprised Camille by surprisingly proposing to her. Surprisingly, in Milan, Lara surprises Camille with Arianna. On the train that takes her back to Trento, Lara tells herself: the pain is in my brain. While she’s rolling a ring across her fingers, in the centre of her thoracic cavity she feels her heart turning into rocks and slabs like an ancient marble quarry. Lara thinks of Milan: I’m not coming back here ever again.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and she lived in Trento, where she studies mathematics at university. She spends a long summer with her parents before going abroad for an Erasmus year in Utrecht. One morning her mother Lucilla notices that she is crying in bed. She sits on its edge. She strokes Lara’s brown hair and gently kisses her blue eyes, her pale cheeks and her red lips. Lucilla tells Lara: «Your greatest love is the one that is yet to come. I’m sure she’ll be beautiful.» When Lara gets dressed, she joins her father Valerio who’s watering their plants on the balcony. «Can you take care of them so I can go to buy some bread?» he asks her. Lara grabs the hose and he adds: «Remember to talk to them. They need words to grow well.»
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, she lived in Trento and is currently based in Utrecht, where she writes her thesis in computational linguistics. On January 16th she is working on her PhD proposal. She opens a parenthetical element on a piece of paper and feels alone all of a sudden. That evening she brushes her teeth in front of the mirror and she’s seized by the anguish of knowing Lavinia is dead.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, she lived in Trento and is currently based in Utrecht, where she writes her thesis in computational linguistics. Juliet is her supervisor. She’s Scottish, but she’s lived in many places and her eyes are full of memories of unknown lands. Juliet is sixty-four when she absentmindedly hits her glass of water. It falls from the small circular table where she’s reviewing with Lara her PhD proposal. Before bending down to pick it up, Juliet’s lips relax into a smile. Lara is twenty-five when she falls in love with her. She decides not to tell her anything and she loves her in silence.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, she lived in Trento and she’s currently based in Utrecht, where she writes her thesis in computational linguistics. As she delves into a cognitively motivated algorithm in the university library, a Pakistani colleague who specialised in philosophy of mind asks her if she thinks humans have a purpose in life. «We evolved by natural selection, didn't we?» She tells him. He nods. «So how can we have a purpose in life?» Lara sees a sudden defeat in his eyes and adds: «I think we were born to be talked to. Everything wants words. Even the plants on the balcony. Words are the only things we have.»
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce, she lived in Utrecht and she’s currently based in Trento, where she is specialising in computational linguistics. The day after her graduation she gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom. As she brushes her teeth in front of the mirror, she moves her gaze to the withered flowers on the wall tiles and feels no passion inside her. She calls the administrative office of Utrecht University and tells them that she will not return in September to start her PhD. She writes an email to Juliet, at night. At night, Juliet reads it. She doesn’t answer back.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Turin looks like a different city to her, though it somehow reminds her of all the places she has been to. Her colleagues often speak of it as a city close to the border, but Lara no longer knows what it means.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Two years in the city, she gets a crush on the girl next door, Chiara. After their first date, Chiara tells her she is asexual. Lara longs for her very much and she’s immensely ashamed of it.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Three years in the city, she notices Felicia at the tram stop. Felicia studies astronomical physics. She was born in Madrid. During their first date they dine in an Indian restaurant. Lara mentions a universe without borders and Felicia comments aridly: «When you reach an altitude higher than one hundred kilometres, you are in the thermosphere, where air density drops dramatically. We call it the Karman line and it clearly separates the earth from space.» Lara tells Felicia she doesn't want to see her again for a second date.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Four years in the city, she develops a soft spot for a red headed photographer from Milan who after their first date writes to her: “I met Silvia a week ago. I saw a gecko on the ceiling this morning and thought I wanted to tell her, not you. I looked at the pillow on my bed and thought I can't wait to find out what hers smells like, not yours". Lara coins a single, exact message on Whatsapp: "Ok. Take care."
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Five years in the city, she falls in love with a colleague she has never met and who lives overseas. Her name is Emily and Lara can only see her head and torso on camera when they have meetings. Thus, she doesn't know if Emily has legs. The feeling Lara has for Emily is devoid of any foundation and for this reason, she tells herself, it can only be the highest of loves.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Her best friend Patrizia works as a biologist in Milan. She understands that Lara will not return to the heart of the infection and goes to visit her in Turin for a weekend instead. That Saturday it rains heavily and they order some Persian food. «Have you heard of Aubrey de Gray?» Patrizia asks Lara, who shakes her head. «He thinks he can treat death as if it were a disease. He’s crazy.» Lara claims to understand Aubrey de Gray. «The death of others leaves us alone,» she says.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. One day she emails Emily and writes many words to her. The important ones are: “Sometimes I think of you because you don't remind me of anyone else. I think this is my way of telling you that I like you though I don't know if you have legs.” Lara waits for Emily to respond the way one would wait for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Lara Schisa was born in Lecce and lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. When she returns to Lecce for Christmas she looks at the streets and the squares around her and feels no kinship with them. She is foreign to the place where she grew up. Her parents are suddenly old. She cannot remember when they aged. Before New Year's she confesses to them that she is considering moving abroad. «It doesn't matter where you go, as long as you always remember how good the orecchiette with tomato sauce your mom cooks for you are,» says her father Valerio.
Lara Schisa lives in Turin, where she designs voice systems. Six months passed and the Berlin Wall didn’t fall, Emily didn’t reply. Sitting at her desk in the office, Lara understands it’s time for her to find a place among the stones of that wall. In the evening she brushes her teeth in front of the mirror before going to sleep and the next day she quits her job.
Lara Schisa lives in Turin for a little while longer. «Where do you want to go?» asks her father Valerio on the phone. «Far. In an apartment full of plants,» she tells him. «Remember to talk to them,» he replies.
Lara Schisa lives in Tokyo. She doesn't believe in borders. She thinks everything asks for words.
Sarah Cipullo has lived in Brindisi, Milan, Siena and Edinburgh and is currently based in Turin. She writes both in Italian and English. Her work has been published in New Reader Magazine, Fantastico! and Hook Magazine. More is forthcoming in Crack. She was selected as a finalist for the InediTO prize.