• Salvatore Difalco

Selected Prose Pieces by Salvatore Difalco

Photo Source: PxHere


Spring rains had kept me shut inside for two weeks, but with a break in the weather I sought to replenish my exhausted food supplies and take in some fresh air. My affection for the outdoors diminished the moment I left my flat. Spring has its felicities, most certain. The fleeting charm of its spring shoots and blooms weren’t lost on me as I struggled not to lose my shoes on the muddied shortcut to the main street. Others, wiser and more cunning, had maneuvered around mud traps I overlooked, distracted as I was by the flora flanking the trail. The trees could’ve been maples, they could’ve been elms, what difference? I yanked my feet out of the mud, one at a time. My Timberlands were ruined. Also, I wrenched my left knee, and found myself limping along, gnashing my teeth, and wishing I’d remained couch-locked, watching TV. After a solid year of practice, loafing had become my forte. What had others been doing with themselves? Many, clearly, had developed expertise at eating. People wore vast masks to cover their expanded faces. Sweatpants and elephant pants now were commonplace. I’d gained no weight during the past year. Indeed I’d lost a few pounds, judging from the looseness of my jeans. The muscles of my buttocks and thighs must have atrophied. The lockdown had punished my machine. It needed a tune up. I sluggishly sprinted back to my flat. After a rest, I did calisthenics on my living room floor. Within seconds I was winded. I rolled a joint and smoked it on my balcony. The weed went right to my head, a feeling I enjoy. But sometimes vertigo sets in and I’m forced to lie down until the vertigo forces me to rise again. Sometimes a good retching will rectify that problem. I noticed a man in the seniors building across the street watering a slim plant on his fifth floor balcony. Optimistic, I thought, for a multitude of reasons. I live on the eighth floor. He looked up and made a fist. I didn’t gesture back. He was wearing a mask. I was not. Then he said something harsh, but I couldn’t make it out. I turned my back to him and looked at my reflection in the balcony window.

Functions of a Mask

Nothing masked the smile in someone’s eyes. This was interesting. Albeit the smiles were rare. Most people looked aggrieved, alarmed, bombarded. That is, their eyes did. Their eyes spoke loudly, savagely. Their eyes protested, condemned, and sought vengeance. They raised their brows and lowered them with menace. They wept tears, sweat, and blood.

“What the hell are you looking at?”

“I’m just walking here.”

“Yeah, well walk somewhere else before I punch your lights out.”

I took to walking swiftly with my eyes aimed straight ahead, ignoring any sotto voce slurs or condemnations, all too common pre-contagion, still peppering the fabric of encounter now and then, sidelong and sly. Something in my person angers others or invites their arrows of diminishment.

“You got a problem, asshole?”

“No problem at all, man. I’m just walking.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

Not to grouse. I don’t think it’s personal. And I give as I receive. But I have grown weary of these undeclared hostilities. No longer can I abide them, nor should I.

The mask offered some degree of cover. The onslaughts diminished.

“I’m just walking here.”

“Who the fuck asked?”

In retrospect, it must have been my mouth that gave them problems, these people — the uneven teeth, angry lips, razor tongue. I have never been afraid to voice my thoughts, to speak my truth as I perceived it; yet lately I have nothing more to add to everything already said. I cannot but repeat myself and others.

The knowledge that I cannot but repeat myself and others makes it difficult to start and impossible to finish.

Deep Noir

The black chiffon mask, long neck, and ink-black eyes evoke nocturnal rendezvous and calls for Gallic cigarettes. Seamed nylons drape the back of a wingback chair. A phonograph plays the scratchy songs of Maurice Chevalier. I breathe into my palm, afraid of what my words will smell like if I choose to speak. Alas, no chance arrives to test my pitch; she steps off on seven — a lingering essence of Zéphyrine Rose teases my nostrils even after I step off on eight and after I enter my flat. Then my flat smells of Zéphyrine Rose — I am not sure how this plays for me, touchy as I am with scents. I pile up the corduroy cushions in the living room and stretch my legs, sore from walking around all day. Nothing better to do with my time. Below me, she languishes, unaware of the little movie playing in my head. How can she know she is star of that movie? How can she know the stage lights and the spotlight are trained on her? My breathing first quickens, then slows. In my movie, manhole covers blow when she passes them. Helmeted men whistle from scaffolds. Then a sudden rainstorm comes on like the applause of polite giants. Fade to black.

Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto. His short work has recently appeared in Cafe Irreal and Gone Lawn.