FEMICIDE IN ITALY: MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR

By: CHRISTINE MODAFFERI

Tragedy always occurs when least expected. That’s what my mom says. That’s what I found out this summer.

A woman died. Her name was Mary Cirillo, mother of four. She was 31when her husband shot a bullet through her head on Aug. 18. They say her oldest daughter found her on the kitchen floor. A bloody mess it must have been. They say her husband was excessively jealous and began stalking her. They say she wanted to divorce him because the domestic abuse had become too much. Some also say she found a new man after their separation and this was what got to her husband’s head. The whole town begins talking when things like this happen. That’s the thing about small towns. News travels fast and everyone has their say on it. Articles from online journals and photos were splattered all over Facebook. All kinds of people were showing support; others, hate. I was silent.

Goosebumps creep up my legs and arms when I think she lived just ten minutes from my home, back in Calabria. It’s strange how tragedies touch you less when they aren’t your next door neighbor’s. For all I know, Mary could have come to my town that fateful morning to go grocery shopping. I might have even met her by the park. Or maybe she had gone to the beach to sunbathe. I might have crossed paths with a woman whose destiny was to die that afternoon. All of this gets me thinking. My eyes meet those of thousands of women every day. We all have our stories. How many other next-door neighbors have secrets we then see on the news when a gunshot catches people attention? Google gives me the numbers. According to La Repubblica, the famous Italian newspaper, there were over 177 cases of femicide reported in Italy last year. In 2012, 124 women were killed by men. At a press conference earlier in the year, Angelino Alfano, minister of Italy’s internal affairs, said that homicide decreased in the first six months of 2014, yet the number of femicides has not, compared to 2013. Rai News says the numbers of femicide are almost equal all over Italy and do not depend on the North or South.

Couples holding hands romantically explore Trastevere’s hidden vicoli, thinking they’ll have oh-so-many stories to tell their friends at home about all the street performers and charming pizzeria owners. Trastevere gives you the impression that time has stopped and evil cannot exist in this world. Couples, romance and ideals belong to Trastevere. I thought something similar about my home in Calabria until Aug. 18. Last year I changed my mind about Trastevere, too. When least expected, at 1 a.m., a tragedy caught my attention: banging noises, screaming and crying from the apartment above me. Man versus woman. I was sure. I called the cops that night, and now I live in a different apartment.

Six days ago, Alessandra Agostinelli was the unfortunate next-door neighbor of ours in Frosinone to be murdered at the hands of her husband. He tried to commit suicide after he realized he stabbed her too deeply with a kitchen knife. On Sept. 10, it rained in Rome. I want to believe that was the universe’s way of mourning Alessandra’s death. Everyone, after all, is the universe’s next-door neighbor.

When people ask me how my summer was, I tell them it’s been a great summer. Truth be told, I feel somewhat changed. I thought tragedy was intriguing. I’ve read it in books. I’ve loved it in Shakespeare, Goethe, Madame du Stael and Flaubert. Characters who lose their minds and souls are the ones who intrigue me the most. Tragedy now, has lost its appeal and I have changed. Calabria is not the same anymore. The town Mary was from is darker and quieter—even the people who live there speak differently now. They say her children are staying with their grandmother. When we read of tragedy or hear it on the news, it’s just a moment. We feel sorry, and then we go back to our lives. Mary’s town is not back to normal yet, and I’m afraid I’m not my normal self anymore either.

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