He doesn't even know how it started.
Well, he has been feeling low for a couple of days could barely get out of bed to eat something and shower but... It has happened before, and it has always helped to have Martino with him. Not lately.
Usually he blames the weather - it's worse when outside it's all dark and rainy - but he can't even have that, now. There isn't a cloud in the sky, as he looks out the window. It adds insult to injury, as if there was some kind of higher power telling him 'How can you feel so unhappy, when the sun is shining and everything is fine out there?' Rationally, he knows that it must have something to do with the exams fast approaching in June but it has never been so bad.
He is fucking tired of being told "Stop worrying about the future."
It’s not something he does on purpose, and it’s always too late when he realizes that his mind drifted where it wasn't allowed to.
Does Martino know how exhausting it is to persuade himself that his fears have no reason to exist?
How dumb his inability to take things as they come, minute by minute, makes him feel?
Sooner or later, he will have to choose what to do with this life. Postponing the decision doesn’t make it disappear. It’s always there, at the back of his mind. With all its potential downfalls.
He hasn’t even brought up the topic of moving to Milan, because he dreads both a positive (‘so you can’t wait for me to leave, uh?') and a negative reaction ('it’s my future we’re talking about, stop making it about you!’) from Marti.
He can’t see himself living in Rome for another year, but he can't be without Martino.
That's absurd. It's not healthy to be so co-dependent on someone. He needs to learn how to survive without him. Besides, Martino deserves better than dating a nutjob that keeps on dragging him down, with his weird moods and paranoid fears of being abandoned. And it doesn't matter how many times he will tell Nico that he isn't going anywhere. Eventually, he will walk away. Niccolò will do something to fuck this up, like he always does.
Martino will get tired of having to talk sense into him, of his love being doubted and put to test all the fucking time. Of fighting about money, of telling him that he can pay for himself and doesn’t need Niccolò to cover all his expenses.
He will soon understand that they don’t have much in common, that they rarely listen to the same music or appreciate the same movies, books or tv shows. That they don’t even work that well as friends.
He should speed that process up a bit, for both their sakes. So he doesn’t let him in, when Martino comes knocking on his door. He tells him how shouldn't show up if Niccolò doesn't ask him to, instead - Maddalena used to do that, barging in his room whenever his mother called, not giving a damn if Nico didn't feel like meeting her.
He can’t have Marti here, when he’s clearly not taking proper care of himself. Studying when he should be sleeping, eating too little, because babysitting Niccolò is a full time job.
It makes everything worse.
He hates that Martino turns down invitations from the boys just to spend time with him. Hates himself for letting that happen.
"Why don't you just go? Get lost. Stop wasting your time with a depressed fuck like me, Marti! There’s nothing you can do…”
It's a low blow, and he knows it. He regret those words as soon as they are out of his mouth, but it’s too late to take them back. Those are the very same words Martino in that bathroom, all those months ago, when he talked about his own mother. They are like a slap to his face, but Marti still refuses to back down.
“I was wrong, and you know it. Nico, please. Don’t shut me out.”
And he wants to open the door and surrender to his soft touch, to break down in his arms. Put his mind to rest for a while. But he can’t be that selfish.
“Go. I’m begging you, Marti. Leave.” He bites back his tears, holding tighter onto his pillow.
"As you wish." Martino chokes out, defeated, walking away.
Martino is persistent, and stubborn.
It's both a blessing and a curse.
He's glad to know that he cares, that he won't give up on him when things get tough. That he can sense when Niccolò is self-sabotaging himself and he won't have any of that.
It's a painful reminder of how little Nico is giving back, how he should be the better man and let Marti find someone who can hand him the world.
He keeps trying to reach out to him, with a few 'hey, call me when you feel better' and a 'thinking about you <3' here and there, and Niccolò doesn't know what tell him to get him to just stop.
'I know you’re trying, but... you're not helping.' He texts back, resorting to half-truths.
It works, but it doesn’t take too long before he starts to regret it.
It has been barely more than 24 hours since he last got a text from Martino, but it feels like a week.
'Well done, Niccolò. You drove him away. Mission accomplished.'He mutters to himself, throwing the phone against the wall so violently that its pieces go flying all over the room.
Giovanni is the first to show up. He doesn’t ask about their fight, doesn’t even mention Martino.
He sits in front of the door and starts making small talk, telling him about the last movie he has seen and the book he’s reading at the moment.
“I never thought I would like Nick Hornby, you know, but then Eva got Slam for me, because you know, she figured it was about skateboarding… it isn’t, but that’s okay, it’s good… and I actually liked it so much I went looking for more. I bet you’d love Juliet, naked. It’s about music, but it’s nowhere as pretentious as High Fidelity is. It’s a book against pretentiousness when it comes to art, really. I have it here, with me, if you want to give it a try.”
Niccolò doesn’t contribute much to the conversation, but Giovanni doesn’t seem to mind.
He moves on to the latest news from school, about Luchino and how disappointed he was to find out there are plenty of girls crushing on Gio and Elia but none interested in him.
“Can you believe he handed out an anonymous survey?”
“Well. It’s Luca we’re talking about…” They both laugh at that, and Niccolò finally feels comfortable enough to ask if Martino asked him to come and check on him.
“No, zi’… He didn’t have to. I am here for you, is that so hard to believe?” Yes. Yes, it is. “And I’m not leaving until you read this and tell me what you think about this.” He waves his latest essay in front of the yellow tinted glass. He’s just about to try sliding it under the door, when Niccolò finally gives up and lets him in.
“Wow, you look like haven't slept in a week.”
“Thanks.” He looks up, only to feel crushed by the weight of Giovanni’s concerned glare. How can he be calm, so composed, when Niccolò just broke his best friend’s heart again? “Would you like some coffee, while I read this?”
It’s good. Nico doesn’t agree with half of the things he wrote, but Gio knows how to make a compelling argument and make him go ‘Okay, you have a point there.” His essay is informative, never patronizing or sounding like the same old propaganda. It’s hard to believe he didn’t get a 10 for it. ‘8 for overuse of semi-colons, inconsistencies in style and voice.’
Bullshit. Galante couldn’t give mark that essay with a 10 because he couldn’t stand to read opinions different from his own, couldn’t have students thinking they should pursue writing as a career only to end up like him, teaching Italian literature to a bunch of idiots who couldn’t tell the difference between a metaphor and a metonymy.
“Ha! They keep telling me I’m projecting, that I’m the teacher’s pet but I knew you’d understand! He is lenient with those who can barely write down a coherent and grammatically correct thought, but God forbid if he actually acknowledges excellence! Not that I’m that good, but…”
Hey, hey, hey. No self-deprecation allowed in this room, unless it’s coming from Niccolò himself.
“You are. I mean, I’m no literary critic but I think you’re great. This is great.”
“Says Mr. 9/10.”
“I’m no better than you, I just mastered the art of telling people what they want to hear.”
“Ever thought about getting into politics?”
It’s Elia, next.
He doesn’t even knock, just walks in to tell him that he’s gonna cook him something because he looks like death warmed over.
It doesn’t matter if he’s not hungry, at the moment. He can save the food for later, and learn an invaluable life skill in the process.
“I can’t believe you’re losing your shit over moving to Milan, in a couple of months. I mean, if you are afraid you’re not gonna survive due to your non-existent culinary abilities, which is understandable, I am here to help.”
He isn’t bothered at all by Niccolò’s apparent lethargy and lack of focus, he shows him the ropes and then lets him take his time. He slaps his nape when he gets something wrong, but then he smiles at him and helps him fix his mistake. Encourages him to start all over from scratch, if needed.
So what if it takes them hours to bake a quiche, to make an omelette or a tiramisu? It’s not like they’ve got better things to do.
Elia talks much less than one would expect, content to spend an entire afternoon just giving out orders and tips to Nico. Fishing for some advice on how to improve his chances to get laid, by the time they are putting the tiramisu in the fridge.
“Take them somewhere romantic. Cook them a fancy meal. Show them that you never take them for granted and think about the two of you together whenever you are apart.” He has never been one for meaningless one-night stands, and it shows.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure that worked like magic with Martino.” Elia sighs, ruffling Nico’s hair. “But I’m not interested in making them fall in love with me… I’m trying to get into their pants, here, man.”
“I’m afraid I can’t help you, then.” He shrugs, grinning when Elia flops dramatically into the sofa and demands a FIFA match. If he assumes him to be worse than Luchino, at this game… Well, he’s in for quite the surprise.
“Well, of course. I don’t know what I expected from someone who can take their shirt off and have people falling over him.”
“Maybe you could come to the gym with me, next time?”
Luca storms into his room, with a bag full of junk food and a USB in his hand.
“I don’t know what you’re into, so I’m just sharing my favourite ones…” Of course, he would come bringing porn as a gift.
He’s got no filter, so he doesn’t shy away from a topic just because it would be inappropriate to ask Niccolò if he’s got a food kink – no, because there’s a lady on Twitter that could fit an apple in her ass and that got him wondering how does it feel… - and looks a bit disappointed when Nico moves on to another topic without giving him a proper answer.
It’s probably the first time he found someone willing to hear him out, because he can’t shut up for a second. Mooning over Slivia, moaning about his 4 in Physics - “I know you’re gonna tell me that being held back a year isn’t the end of the world, but… My mom is going to kill me, if I fail” – complaining about his little brother and the lack of a girlfriend.
Niccolò finds it invigorating, to finally have a friend who’s like ‘I’m telling you how pathetic my life is and if you wanna share your woes you’re more than welcome to. If you don’t, I can talk for both of us. We’re not here to compare who’s got it worse.’
When Niccolò think he’s done, that he’s run out of things to say… Luca recalls the last time his mother almost caught him and Martino smoking weed and he had to hand him the joint and hide him under his bed. Only for his mother to say ‘Say hi to Martino for me’ before she left.
“Now she thinks I’m dating him, but that I feel too uncomfortable to come out and she’s dropping hints about how she wouldn’t love me or my brother any less if we were into boys… And I can’t bring myself to tell her the truth… But yeah, I’m glad you find this entertaining.” He huffs, but the smile on his lips tell a different story: he’s quite proud of himself, for making him laugh.
He’s the first not to tiptoe around Marti, to say be brave enough to say “You’re miserable. He’s miserable, so why don’t you both apologize to each other and get it over with?”
“It’s not that simple, Luchì.”
“Yes it is. Now give me your phone.”