Eugenio took the new cellular telephone out of the packaging and read the instructions. He put in the batteries, then he tried it: he dialled a friend's number. He heard the dial tone.
"Ciao Dario, it's me, Eugenio."
"Oh, ciao! Where are you calling from?"
"I'm at home."
"Did you finally put the telephone?"
"A lot better: I bought a nice cellular telephone, big as a cigarette box. I just bought it and you are the first I'm calling."
"What an honour! The voice is good. How are you?"
"Fine, and you?"
"Very well." Dario answered.
"And with Fulvio, is all okay?"
"Yes, we made peace, and now it's better than before."
"I'm really happy."
"And you? Nothing new?"
"No. One night stands. Nothing serious."
"But move on, Eugenio. Time passes and..."
"Hey, don't treat me like an old man! I'm only twenty six, after all!"
"Yes, yes, I was just joking, come on! Listen, Eugenio, would you like to come to our place next month? We're organizing a party for our eighth anniversary, and we would be happy to have you with us."
"Sure, it's April 27th, right?"
"You remember the date?"
"How could I not remember it? It was Carlo's birthday. He invited both of you to his party, you met there."
"Yes, it's true. And you were a delicious boy. Poor Carlo..."
"Yes... Well, I leave you now, Dario. See you soon."
"Wait, tell me your number!"
Eugenio finished the call and thought again about Carlo. They became lovers when he was seventeen, then they lived together for three years, until Carlo's death... He still had the telephone at his ear, while thinking about that, and he heard a voice.
"Dario? Are you still there?" he asked, stupefied.
"No, I'm not Dario." the slightly metallic voice said, "I'm your new telephone, so to say."
"What? Come on, stop it! You are Dario!"
"No. Try to cut the line."
Eugenio shook his head, smiling. That jester of Dario, he thought. He cut the line and put the telephone back to his hear.
"You see? I'm still here."
"How did you do that? Who are you?"
"The telephone, as I said."
"Come on! What's that, an interference?"
"No, Eugenio, I'm really speaking to you from inside your telephone. I'm a soul."
"Right, now even telephones have a soul!"
"Not really, I'm just a temporary guest, for a few days. Until I'll reincarnate in a new being, in a new body."
"Come on! I never believed in reincarnation. Who are you?"
"I don't have a name and I have lot of names: those of all the people I was. You can call me with the name of my last incarnation, if you want to: John."
"John? And who's that John, an American?"
"No, an Englishman, the technician who tested this cellular. He died while testing it, so I had to enter the cellular."
"Because when our body dies we are attracted by the nearest noble metal, and here inside there is a little bit of platinum."
"Ah, and how do you feel in there?"
"How do I feel? I'm here, and that's all."
"You have a lively fantasy..."
"Why? You have to know that souls can never tell lies. I'm the soul of the late John."
"And now you are prisoner of this phone."
"No, not prisoner, just a guest, until I'll reincarnate again."
"I don't know. After the death of the previous body, at least fifty days have to pass, sometimes more. Twenty nine days have already gone by, so..."
"And how do you reincarnate?"
"When a spermatozoon penetrates an ovum, it's like the nearest available soul is sucked in."
"You are naive. How do you want me to believe to such a bullshit? Moreover, if it was like you say, the world population would not be in continuous growth, would always be composed of the same number of souls."
"No, there are also new souls, who have never incarnated. They are the competitors we fear the most, because they are very fast. Sometimes a soul remains without a body even for years."
"So, you pretend to be the soul of John, a phone tester."
"And hundreds of other people. The first time I incarnated was about ten thousand years ago."
"Hey, but then you are old!" Eugenio said, laughing.
"A soul doesn't become old, just matures little by little, and learns something from each new incarnation. And a soul doesn't forget anything, even the most trivial things that his body could forget. So it is more and more enriched..."
"And then? Will it all come to an end?"
"I think so, but don't ask me: I know just what I've learned until now."
"And... tell me, does god exist?"
"If you want my personal opinion, I think so, but on that subject I don't know anything more than you do. On others, I know a lot more than you: I have the experience of thousand lives, but..."
"Hundreds or thousands?"
"You're trying to catch me red-handed, right? Hundreds, thousands, they're just numbers used to say many, aren't they? If you want to know precisely, I reincarnated three hundred and sixty one times."
"And you remember all of them?"
"So, my soul could remember also..."
"But I don't remember anything."
"When we enter in a new body, we temporary lose the memory of all the preceding lives, otherwise they would influence our new life too much. But when our body dies, we recover the complete memory, enriched by the new experiences. This, at least, is the theory I formulated."
"You always refer to yourself as masculine. Are there male and female souls?"
"No, souls don't have a gender. However, I've always incarnated in men who were gay like you are. That's why I felt like speaking with you."
"A gay soul! This is really a thought-out joke!"
"No, it is not a joke, it is a fact. Probably we are attired by certain gene combinations..."
"So, according to you, being gay is a genetic problem?"
"It is probably. I've never reincarnate in a scientist, so I don't know exactly, but my experience makes me think that way."
"So, someone is gay because he receives a gay soul?"
"Or vice versa, possibly, I don't know."
"Never reincarnate in a straight man?"
"No, at most in a bisexual man, so to say."
"And never in a woman?"
"Never, at least until now. But three hundred and sixty one times are not so much, I think."
Eugenio thought that the joke, whoever was doing it, was amusing, so he continued in his colloquy: "So, would you tell me about that John?"
"If you want me to... I incarnate 13th of March 1950. I am the son of a Wales countryman; I'm grown in the country. From my childhood on I'm strong, lively, curious, buy shy. A little after puberty I begin to feel attracted by my elders, but partly because of education, my religion, various reasons, I always resist to temptations. To tell the truth, there are not so many occasions either: I live in a small, puritan community, very strictly controlled. But when I feel those indefinable states of excitement, I dream to be in the arms of a beautiful, strong, passionate man companion. Just dreams, but I'm deeply ashamed of them afterwards. At seventeen I go to study electronics in town. I live in a boarding school. Here, one of my classmates, one year older than me, starts to court me. But I refuse him, and keep him at a distance."
"Didn't you like him?"
"Sure I do like him, and a lot. When we are alone, studying together, and he caresses me, I'm strongly aroused, but I reject him. I'm scared by my very desire. He tries several times, but is not too insistent, so nothing happens. After graduation I find a job quickly, and after some time I meet a nice, likely girl, and we decide to marry: I want to be normal."
"It's a mistake that several closeted gays do. I was lucky, I accepted myself at once."
"I don't. We marry. I love her, and I think it can work. But on the contrary... From the wedding night on, it doesn't work. I feel okay with her, I like to caress her, to be caressed, but I'm not aroused at all. She is patient for a while. Then she advises me to see a doctor, a specialist, but nothing changes. At the end she wants the divorce, poor Mary Ann... I remain alone for three years. I feel more and more attracted by men, but I still resist. Until I meet Nick. He is an Irish boy, three years older than me. He is beautiful like the sun..."
"Who knows why nobody falls in love with an ugly person?"
"Because the concept of beauty is completely subjective, and because, at a certain point, you can see a beauty that eyes cannot discern. Don't be so naive!"
"Bah, I just know that in all tales the protagonists are always splendid..."
"Do you want me to continue, or not?"
"Come on, don't play the offended now. Yes, continue, your tale is rather interesting. So, you were saying you met Nick..."
"I never felt attracted to anybody the way I am attracted to him. Moreover, as he never makes sexual advances to me, I feel completely sure with him, I don't feel like running away from him. Together, we go to pubs, to horse races, to walk, to see movies. We talk a lot and we become more and more intimate. And I understand that he is gay too, so little by little I open to him, I tell him my problems. Nick listens, asks me questions, but never gives me answers, he makes me find the answers myself, little by little. He is a splendid person, Nick. With him I feel more than okay, I can be myself..."
"Did he work with you?"
"No, he does... he is a primary school teacher. Nick belongs to the IRA, as I discover later. That summer we go to the seaside together. We book a two beds room in a delicious bed and breakfast, close to the beach. One evening, as we go to bed, he sits on the edge of my bed. We chat. He caresses my hand. I caress his hand. He caresses my cheek, with tenderness. We don't talk anymore; we look at each other, in silence. He lowers to kiss me. I return the kiss. He starts to undress me, I'm aroused, I let him undress me, quivering while waiting. I know what he wants from me, and I feel strangely ready to give him what he wants. I feel great in his arms. He gets undressed, comes to me, kisses me, I kiss him, our tongues play hide and seek, I'm all quiver, I'm ready to follow him to the end of the world. We explore each others' bodies, we learn to know each other, and finally our mouths find our throbbing erections and we unite in a pleasure circle..."
"You do a sixty-nine, don't you?"
"Yes, sure. He starts to lick me between my buttocks, my reaction is terribly strong, an intense pleasure. I understand what he desires and I readily offer myself to him. He puts my legs onto his shoulders, and he smiles at me inquiring. I nod yes. He takes his time to prepare me then I feel ready. And finally he leans on me, and looks at me with his sweet smile. I nod again, he starts to push and I receive him in me. And finally I fully realize: I did find what all of me needed. He darts on me, in me, with youthful ardour, I answer with fervent enthusiasm. While he takes me, he kisses me and I feel that I have nothing more to desire from life. I feel I belong to him, that he belongs to me. His strong member inside me is part of me. He and I are realizing the dream of all lovers: to become one united thing. My first night of love. It is splendid, I feel like being in paradise. I feel I'm in love with him and tell him so. He is happy, he tells me that he has loved me for ages. It is me to make him happy and knowing this fills me with joy. I like feeling his desire, his tenderness; his passion conquers me; I let him drive me on the roads of love. I want to blend with him..."
"Yes, I can understand you. I too experienced that. I think that the bodies want to blend, because the souls want to blend..."
"You are perfectly right. Two souls can communicate just in flashes, in moments of peculiar intensity, and the sexual intercourse, inspired by love, at times makes this happen. The morning after, when we wake up, he asks me to be his boyfriend. I accept at once, without hesitation. In the months spent together before that night, he had transformed me, he had brought me to accept myself, my love and his love. So our story begins. Just one thing from time to time dims our relation: I would like to live with him, but he doesn't agree. And yet I know he loves me. The fact is that he doesn't want to involve me. Even if I don't know about it yet, belonging to the IRA means a very dangerous life..."
"If he loved you so much, he had to tell you, hadn't he?"
"I don't know, I'm not him... Anyway, even without understanding, I accept. I love him with all my self."
"You never cheated on him, I bet."
"No, sure, it doesn't even pass through my mind, for he's the only one for me. All others are simply... others. I can like them, I can feel very good being together as friends, but the idea of having intercourse with other people doesn't even barely touch my mind."
"I loved Carlo very much, and yet, at times, the temptation came. And twice I did actually cheat on him; afterwards, however, I regretted having done so. I didn't want to, but..."
"Each one is different, right?"
"It can depend on my soul." Eugenio said with a smile.
"No. The soul, when it is in a body, blends completely with it and what results is something completely new and original. And today, I am the essence of everyone I ever was, can you understand this? But I will reincarnate again, and I will have completely new and different experiences. Not all my "I"s were faithful, on the contrary... The spontaneous faithfulness, I think, is something rather rare."
"Go on. You were with Nick..."
"Yes, then, I am with Nick..."
"But, why do you always use the present tense? What's that, a historical present? A question of literary style?"
"No, to me memories are like reality. Like in a movie, I am all the time all my personages, talking in present tense comes spontaneous to me. Being incarnated, a soul lives in the time, where there is a present, a past and a future. But this is just an illusion of the entity soul-body. The body lives in the time..."
"Yes, all right. Too difficult for me. Go on, rather."
"If you don't always interrupt me... Then, I feel really good. I am perfectly well, with Nick. Even if I am Protestant and he is Catholic, I am Welch and he is Irish, nothing separates us."
"By the way, what did you do about religion? It seems to me that neither Protestants nor Catholics welcome homosexuals, right? Did you have an easy conscience?"
"Yes. Both of us made a distinction between our faith in God and the sermons of His churches. We don't have problems. We know that the love that unites us is holy, so we live up to it without problems. Each church, each religion preaches different things, occasionally even opposite things. Therefore each church is fallible, even if they affirm the opposite. This is my conviction, as well as Nick's."
"And as a soul?"
"Not so different, even if perhaps more articulate. But do you want to talk about theology and moral or about John?"
"Uh, how impatient, touchy you are!"
"No, a soul is neither impatient nor touchy. I just don't understand what you really want to talk about."
"About John. I like the way you narrate."
"OK. So, everything is all right. I already imagine a long, serene life together because I feel that, even if we are not united by a rite, we are forever joined together in love. He is my husband and I'm his husband. Therefore I am happy. When we can be together, be it a few hours or some complete days, for me it is a feast, the paradise. It is enough to look into his eyes and read in them his love for me, and I'm filled with emotion. It is enough if he brushes me, to feel the desire in his fingers, and I want to be united with him. I love to feel his desire, undress him, be undressed by him. I love the long preliminaries, the growing but hold back desire, the taste, the scent, the consistence of his member dancing between my lips, the warmth of his lips on my member, the pleasure we give each other at full hands, until both of us are no longer able to hold back and I beg him to take me, oh, without words, and he finally enters me with his virile and fresh impetuosity and makes me feel that I'm completely his. We pass a splendid period whose intensity and fullness of emotions never end to astound me. I feel fully man, fully realized, in one word: happy. But one day, watching TV news while waiting for him, I hear that there has been a clash between the IRA and the police, not far from the church of Saint Martin on the Fields, and that the IRA left behind three of their men dead.
The newsreader says the names: one of them is Nick! He, my Nick, is dead! Killed. Oh I feel like I'm dying. My life, all at a sudden, has no more meaning. I don't consider killing myself, this is not part of my mental schemes, but I ask myself what I live for, and I pray God to call me to him, to reunite me with my Nick. I work then shut myself home. Nothing interests me, nobody. Just the sweet memory of Nick. And at the end, on the 12th of November 1994, while I'm testing the umpteenth cellular telephone, a heart attack stops my heart. So I part from the body that was John and enter in this cellular."
"And now you are speaking to me. Well, whoever you are, you have a lively fantasy. I like the way you build your stories."
"You still don't believe me, eh? Bah, for me nothing changes. You don't believe me, but you talk to me..."
"And you, soul, why are you talking with me?"
"Because it amuses me to do it. Before I never could, but now, thanks to modern technology... And, well, it amuses me that you don't believe me, you know?"
"It amuses you? Souls can be amused?"
"I use the words you can understand, the concepts you know, nitwit! Do you know that you are a funny chap? I would have liked to be your soul... but then you would have been different from what you are..."
"Well, OK. But now I have to leave you. Can we talk again?"
"As long as you like, and as long as I have to remain in your cellular."
"What number do I have to dial to talk to you?"
"Number? Don't be silly: it's enough to open the cellular at any time and then you tell me you want to talk with me, OK?"
"Right, a soul doesn't need to sleep, I think." Eugenio said with irony, "Well, ciao, soul. Now I'm busy."
The young man closed his cellular and asked himself who could be that witty fellow amusing himself in that way. An interference... or somebody who found a way to hook to a line... and who had thought of an original and harmless pastime.
Anyway, it had been amusing.