The yellowish paint that had once been white was peeling off the wall, right there in the corner, in the gap between the bed and the bookshelf, where reposed the eternally half-read books, which would never be read to their very end.
There lay him, gazing at that piece of wall squeezed in that gap, with the flaking paint, struggling to hold back the urge to extend his hand to try and peel off a large piece of it. It was an urge like that of a child who, sitting in a corner for having unintentionally broken the vase with mother’s beloved plant, feels to invent mind games after a long time of punishment imposed by such an inconsiderate mother.
But he did not touch the paint. After all, it was too cold outside the blankets, even to stick a small finger out. Only the head was uncovered, otherwise he would suffocate. His expression was not easy to be read: it was a far-away look, making it impossible to distinguish either happiness or sadness. It looked much more like the face we have after having overslept and, when opening the eyes, stare at the emptiness, too lazy to wake up. Yes, that is what it was: the expression of someone emerging from slumber. From a dreamless sleep. And yet he no longer could recall his dreams, neither dreamt nor daydreamed.
Perhaps if he pulled off a flake of the paint he could remember something, as if to dig it from some time in the past. Memories, sometimes, must be fished out from our heads, otherwise they will sink in a lost marsh in our minds.
So there he remained staring at that flake of paint coming off the wall, wanting to pull it off, but not plucking the courage to do so. Dozing while thinking of not thinking. And when he opened his eyes and saw the flake he thought about it without thinking about it, wanting to pull it but not figuring out if he should.
Then the hand slowly crawled out the blanket. It was drizzling cold, but the hand went on anyway. It crossed the empty space between the bed and the wall, through the gap in the half-read or unread books on the bookshelf, and when it was about to touch the flake, a spider closed in —one of those mosquito-and-smaller-insects-eater spiders. For a while, a very short one, the hand move forward then suddenly froze. The spider did the same, at a distance it probably considered to be safe from that huge hand, which looked very much like a hairless spider. It observed the hand, frozen a few centimeters away, not feeling intimidated or aggressive. Indeed, it was studying that other huge spider with the proper calm of meticulous predators, that unexpectedly jump on their victims offering them no means of disentangling themselves.
For a long time they stayed like that: the hand going for the memory stuck in the time/space-lapse between the bed and the wall and the bookshelf, blind to the spider that attentively observed it, almost curious, as if evaluating whether it was worthy to charge that immense creature, if not to effectively attack, at least to learn its reaction. Suddenly the hand resumed the movement, almost faster than the spider itself could expect, or were. It became rigid as if to strike and dashed off behind the bookshelf, while the hand continued en route to the wall, to that spot, to the flake of paint, possessed with a strong disposition to rip it off, just to remember the time when, as a child, he was afraid of spiders, even a small one like that which now flew away from the frightening big hand that was actually completely unaware of it.
The hand took off the flake of paint and behind that piece of synthetic material there was another colour, older, more ancient than you could imagine. There were uneven patterns drawn on that fragment. Uneven patterns, sure. They were formed by the grooving left by the dried mortar behind it. It looked like the glowing surface of the full moon seen through a medium-range telescope. The lamp light shone on that tiny piece of the universe, where he now stepped on with his bare feet, feeling the cool granular texture on the sensitive spots of his soles. If he squeezed the eyes a bit, he could even see the earth down here. It was even possible to sit on the ridge of any of those grooves and gaze down at that beautiful blue round ball there. Forcing the eyes a bit more it was possible to see the area in the continent where his house was. An extra effort and there it was: the city, the neighbourhood, the house, the bedroom and the figure lying in bed with the arm stretched towards the wall, the hand stopping in front of the spider then suddenly moving on and scaring away the aracnid; taking the flake of paint off the wall, closing the eyes, feeling the cold ruggedness of the surface on his soles, the wandering over lunar soil of the flake of paint, seeing the back of that figure sitting at the ridge of the groove watching the blue planet down there, locating the continent, the city, the neighbourhood, the house, the bedroom, the bed, the hand, the fast fugitive spider, the flake of paint, the lunar surface, the back, the eyes, the dreams…