How a Nuclear Accident Can Melt a Mixtape in Verona in 1986

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Twenty Seven

Marco is the coolest boy in school. He wears a bomber jacket he bought on holiday in Los Angeles, and his hair is as shiny as Michael J. Fox’s. When I grow up, I will marry Marco. That is unless I marry Michael J. Fox first.
I bump into Marco at the library after school. He says Hi. Lucia says he definitely likes me, and I should leave him a message somewhere. Where? I ask. In a book, she says, it will remind him of where you met. And what should I say? I ask then. Like, just say hi, she says. So I leave him a message in his history book: I just say hi, and forget to sign it. I cry all night. He’ll never know it’s me.
XO. That’s all Marco says in his note, which he leaves in my history book, and he signs it too, because he’s so cool. And assertive. Lucia says this definitely means he loves me, because boys are not as bold as we are with our feelings. Like, this means something for sure.
Today I was planning to show off my new leg warmers, which are red and white like Marco’s bomber jacket, but there was no school. All schools in Italy are closed because of an accident in Chernobyl. It’s all over the news. They say we shouldn’t eat salad, or drink milk. For how long will schools be closed? I ask mum. She says for a few days, and I sob. She says she is proud of my dedication, and that I shouldn’t worry, we’re distant enough. I don’t tell her I don’t care about school or Chernobyl. It’s Marco I want to see.
A week later, schools open again. I have a present with me. It’s a mixtape I made with songs that remind me of Marco. I spent hours by the radio, trying to catch the song the moment it began. There’s Manic Monday, and Caravan of Love, and it ends with Take My Breath Away and I hope he’ll get that I would like him to kiss me just like Tom Cruise kisses Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. I’m holding the mixtape in my hands, and I’m wearing gloves because my hands get sweaty and because mum got me these new gloves which don’t have fingertips, just like Madonna’s, but then I see Marco talking to Francesca in front of school. Francesca lives next door to him, so even with Chernobyl they must have spent some time together because why else would he be kissing her now?
Pretend he doesn’t exist, that’s what Lucia says. Like, ignore him. I tell her I cannot. We are meant for each other, and can’t she see I’m devastated? Can’t she understand my heart is broken FOR EVER?
Enrico is the coolest boy in school. He looks like George Michael and one day I will marry him. Unless of course I marry George Michael first.

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