Escape
di Francesca Bellino
Translated by Gaoheng Zhang

Rome is particularly deserted when Lucia and Renzo are ready to leave. They are the last of the family to close the bar and get behind the wheel of their grey-color BMW to leave the capital. Usually their car is double-parked in front of their cousin’s gift shop, next to their bar. Today, however, in preparation for their departure they opted to park close to their place in order to load boxes and luggage more easily. They both wish to carry their most precious possessions with them. They don’t want to leave anything behind in Rome, except some clothes, bed linens, plates, glasses, and the fan, which they can always buy again at old Dong’s.

Since their arrival in Rome, Lucia and Renzo live in comfort. They have everything. In the space of only three years following the opening of the bar, they managed to buy a car and pay part of the mortgage on their home. Surely, at first it was difficult to start up a business in a country so different from theirs; but they did it with pleasure. They haven’t taken a day off or left the bar counter since the day they arrived in Italy. They have been hard-boiled workers who never felt working burdensome. Changing their names proved more annoying for them. Following their relocation to Rome, they put aside their real names and then chose two

new ones so that they could run their business better. “We do it for you, so you won’t make any mistake.” Lucia, or Pan Na Na, repeats this whenever someone asks why she and her husband adopted Italian names.

Their real names are difficult for most customers to pronounce and memorize. As a result, like the rest of the Chinese community in Italy, it was far easier for Renzo and Lucia to acquire new names than to teach every Italian entering the bar their Chinese ones. On the night of their departure, just half an hour before they rolled down the shutters, a man came in and asked Pan Na Na for her name. Upon hearing “Lucia” he began to laugh and insisted on knowing her Chinese name. Reluctantly she gave away to his push and told it. Ever since she started her life in Italy, she no longer took a fancy to her name. However, she also learned that the customer is always right and must be guaranteed maximum satisfaction.

Scratching his head, the man continued to sneer. He stressed that Lucia didn’t suit her personality and that Pan Na Na would be better. “You people even want to snatch Italian names. It’s just not enough for you to rip off business from Italian vendors. All right, can I call you Panna then?” He carried on half-seriously while sipping a ristretto with cream, which he orders when he isn’t in a hurry. She didn’t react to the silly joke immediately, but started to ponder a bit. After a pause for reflection, she replied him irefully while trying to remain nice: “How do you say it in Rome? Mind your own business?”