“It is important for you–if you want to become an Italian citizen–to learn the language. We came to the U.K. and learned English, it should be no different.” The “flowing” woman (it was her layers of tulle that gave her that appearance) next to Aria chirped back at the man, “I just started lessons. Par-loh oon poh-kee-noh.” Her disgusting accent made Aria shudder, and she couldn’t believe that she had to stand amid this riffraff when her Italianness was bona fide. And yet, she had been summoned by the consulate in London. A consulate that was fittingly just a stone’s throw from the Central Criminal Court. She felt as though she was on trial already, and she hadn’t even met with the judge–in this case, a rat-faced woman with salt-and-pepper hair that looked modeled after the cut of a male Lego. Seemingly, it would take many hours more for that to happen based on the “breakneck” pace the two employees behind the glass were working at. To add to the bleakness, they were only open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., so she wondered how they would manage to fit in all the undesirables they had scheduled to dole out some form of “validity” to… that is, in order to remain in London.
Aria decided that she would take up the guard’s recommendation–insistence, really–to wait outside with the rest of the hopefuls until she was summoned. There was not much in the area apart from a Subway and a pub around the corner called Harrild and Sons. They would have done better to name it Hoi Polloi based on the clientele the Italian Consulate drew. For while Italy might have been built up in the press as a villainous force against migrants, the truth of the matter was that no other European country was dealing with the influx, happy to let the social problems brought on by the literal boatloads rest squarely on the shoulders of the boot. But this has nothing to do with migrants so much as Italy’s general tendency to possess a greater openness (in practice and figuratively) than other members of the EU with regard to bequeathing “legitimacy” a.k.a. citizenship or at least a temporary visa. That was why everyone with even the slightest so-called tie to being Italian milked it for the benefit not of living in Italy, but somewhere more “functional” like the U.K. Ergo, the “system” was at capacity, yet the country itself was seeing no yield from any of its purported citizens, as so few of them seemed to actually live there anymore.
As for Aria, it had never been her intention to stay in London for longer than the duration of pursuing her Food Science degree–though, of course she knew that in and of itself was a traitorous act: to pursue anything with regard to food in Britain when you were of Italian origin. It was her mother, Ana, who had been Italian. But after getting married to her and her brother’s Czechoslovakian father, she moved with him to Prague, where Aria was born. Ana died abruptly of lung cancer when Aria was eight. A year later, Lukáš decided to move her and Bruno back to Italy, where he got a job in Milan so that they might be exposed to a more diluted version of their mother’s culture, for Ana had originally been from the South. Although Aria might have counted living in Italy full-stop as her primary source of culinary studies, she decided it was time to expose herself to something completely different in the form of London. And London was completely different. Now never to be the same again in terms of being different. In fact, presently, it only prides itself on the sameness that the U.S. does, apparently wanting to emulate its “brother” in addition to licking his circumcised cock.
But while Aria lived in Vauxhall, at a moment when David Cameron loosely talking about a foreboding referendum wasn’t even a thought in 2010’s mind, it was glorious. Sure, Margaret Thatcher might have been responsible (like everything else terrible that’s come to roost in Britain’s modern incarnation) for the germinal idea of Brexit, but it was never concrete until Cameron came along. And in the months before July of 2010, when news of the Queen Anne strip pub owner Denise D’Courtenay being stabbed to death in the Dominican Republic would cast an ominous pall over Vauxhall, it was nothing but good times for Aria. She was having dalliances with a new man every week, and it was freeing–this anti-Italian idea that you didn’t have to settle down with a person just because you were with him. Just because he happened to be there and it was “immoral” to use him fundamentally for non-vibrator generated orgasms. Aria had to answer to no one’s opinion now. That was the anything goes nature of London, then. Now here she was at the end of 2019, having been summoned by the Consulate General about an issue with her status as it pertained to owning a business. Yes, she had opened up a restaurant in Kings Cross, bidding adieu to the once industrial vibe of Vauxhall and finding a flat in Camden Town that was close enough to get to work.
Yet now, there was no comfort to be found even in that easy “commute.” Everything had become an obstacle and a battle that no human being without massive amounts of money could handle. This summoning to the consulate was but a final cap on the infinite hassle Aria had suffered of late with the Brexit reckoning ever-looming–almost more painful because it wouldn’t just make its full-tilt severing, leaving everyone hanging off the bottom of a frayed thread that could snap at any moment. The psychological damage leading up to the act was becoming more detrimental than the act itself. Which was why Aria despised all this waiting for her appointment to start even more. She was tired of the buildup. Could they all just fucking get on with it and outright admit that they only wanted white rich men to live in England? As had traditionally been the case before all this “progress” came along.
Getting increasingly pissed (in both the drunk and angry sense of the word) at Harrild and Sons, she decided to order another Aperol Spritz and pay another 2.50 for a bowl of wasabi peas to trick her body into believing it was getting nourishment other than alcohol. She knew that if she could still resist ordering the halloumi fries then she wasn’t that inebriated. Looking over at the patron next to her as though her head might roll off, she smiled at him and slurred, “The next one’s on me.” He stared blankly at her and then spoke with the signature Italian accent that made English so much more interesting. “I cannot. I must get back to work. Maybe you want to consider doing the same,” he concluded with an arched brow.
Studying him closely, she noticed his dapper aesthetic. Some tailored suit that was likely Gucci or Armani; it was only after he left that she felt no shame in asking the bartender, “Who was that?”
“The Consulate General of Italy,” the bartender replied, replacing her empty glass with a new, full one.
“Fuck.” She knew she wasn’t significant enough for him to remember who she was if she walked into the consulate and happened to see him. Plus it wasn’t like he wasn’t at the pub, too. Then again, he had clearly only been eating, not drinking. But what did that matter? Drinking to excess wasn’t a crime, and certainly not in Britain. So why was she panicking? Maybe because it was in Italy, where said country’s rules of decorum were adhered to within the consulate walls.
She downed her drink and paid the tab, scuttling back over to the building to see if it was her sodding turn yet. The line remained unmoved. It was ten minutes to noon, and she knew they would not be able to receive her today, though they would continue to attempt imbuing her with the false hope that would incite her to stay. She would not. She had already lost too much time and money on this excursion and she had a business to run. Whatever the consulate had the gall to summon her for, they could inform her via email, that antiquated concept that was somehow still novel to them. It would take them months to do anything to her, whatever it was they had planned.
Standing on the platform of the Underground, she glanced over at the sign that read “WAY OUT.” She wished there was a way out of this whole thing peacefully and painlessly. That being, for all intents and purposes, deported back to Italy wouldn’t prove such a blow to her self-esteem. Such a setback to all the years she had spent working to cultivate this thing that could only flourish in London. She thought at last, after a childhood spent in constant fear that she would be uprooted yet again, that she had carved out something permanent for herself. A few weeks later she was summarily exiled from the U.K. Evidently, bureaucracy can work quickly when it wants to, and when you’ve suddenly found yourself without the “correct” magical papers (or the money for them) to be deemed a worthy citizen of owning a business. A worthy citizen of anywhere except the place from whence you came.