Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

As the young Mr. Licata turned to face Fernando, he clenched both fists and assumed a defensive stance. Apparently, Fernando's introduction had been inaudible. As he drew back his right fist as if to throw a punch, Fernando jumped back, placing his open hands facing the Sicilian. He broke into a broad smile, attempting to diffuse the tension.

"Cu'sì e chi voi?"

Licata angrily asked Fernando who he was and what did he want.

Fernando was able to recognize that Licata was addressing him in Sicilian but wasn't sure of his exact words. He wisely assumed that a quick explanation was in order. In Spanish, Fernando again introduced himself, explaining that he spoke neither Sicilian nor English. Once again, he extended his right hand as a greeting. The young Sicilian appeared to understand him. He relaxed, lowering his fists and reciprocating with a handshake. Fernando was aware that they were blocking the sidewalk and gestured to Licata to join him in the entrance alcove of a closed business. In the relative quiet and privacy of this space, Fernando continued to explain that he had witnessed the scene at the Centro Español, and a friend had identified him as possibly being a Licata. 

"Si, soy Salvatore Licata, me llaman Turiddu"

In broken but understandable Spanish, the Sicilian had confirmed that he was Salvatore Licata, and is known by the Sicilian diminutive for Salvatore, which is "Turiddu". 

Gaitero was relieved that Turiddu's demeanor had quickly changed and found him to have a certain charm. He went on to ask if he knew of a young woman called Giuseppina Licata and might they be related. At the mention of Giuseppina, Turiddu appeared to tense up.

"Comu si canusci a mè soru? Allura, mi dispiaci....Como conoces a mi hermana?"

In a frenzied mixture of Sicilian and Spanish, Turiddu questioned Fernando as to how he knew his sister, apologizing for initially asking in Sicilian.

Fernando quickly explained that he had never met her, but that he worked at the same cigar factory. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable continuing the conversation in their current environment, he invited Turiddu to join him for a drink, asking him if knew of a quiet cafe nearby. The Sicilian, having trouble standing erect, welcomed the invitation and pointed to a bar and cafe across the street. Fernando gently guided him by the shoulder as they made their way across the crowded La Séptima.

As the two young men were taking their seats at a table, Turiddu, somewhat slurring his words, began apologizing for initially misinterpreting Fernando's behavior. Beneath the veneer of anger and suspicion, Fernando detected an affable young man. The Spaniard diplomatically suggested that they might both be wise to avoid any additional alcohol. Turiddu laughingly agreed. They both ordered coffee and pastries.

Fernando, remembering Ignacio's description of Giuseppina's father and his admonition to proceed cautiously, decided he would take his friend's advice to heart. He gave Turiddu a brief summary of who he was and how he ended up in Tampa. The Sicilian appeared to be interested, but Fernando wondered how much of this was due to his partially inebriated state. Just as Gaitero was wondering how to get to the main point of this meeting, Turiddu mercifully did it for him.

"Allura, te piaci a mè soru e voi canusciri a idda. Sugnu giustu?"

Turiddu asked Fernando if he was correct in that that he liked his sister and wanted to meet her. Since he blurted this in Sicilian, the Spaniard remained silent with a quizzical look.

"Te gusta a mi hermana y quieres conocerla, verdad?"

In his limited Spanish, Turiddu, with a smile, repeated his assumption. Fernando, with a smile, slowly nodded his head, reaffirming Turiddu's suspicions. The Sicilian smiled. He went on to tell Fernando that if he had a dollar for every time a young man told him this, he would be extremely wealthy. Apparently, Giuseppina's beauty was as legendary as it was obvious. The conversation had become rather awkward, not just linguistically but also due to the subject matter. Not wanting to mention Turiddu's father, Fernando decided to use a different approach. He remembered Ignacio explaining the importance of respect within the Sicilian culture. 

"Quiero respetar a tu familia y tu cultura. Por favor, cual sería la manera más respetuosa para empezar a conocer a tu hermana Giuseppina? Te pregunto sinceramente y de mi corazón."

Fernando, speaking slowly and looking directly into Turiddu's eyes, had told him that he wanted to respect his culture and his family. He also asked what would be the most respectful way to begin to know his sister Giuseppina. He concluded by saying that this request was sincere and from his heart.

The lack of response from Turiddu concerned Fernando. Had he proceeded too quickly? Had he violated a time-honored protocol embedded in the Sicilian culture? The young Spaniard felt as if he were trying to navigate a floor full of eggs without cracking any shells.

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This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020