All synthetics are man-made
Shima Katsumi is a 29-year-old student, currently on holidays in Milan, Italy. She explores the narrow lanes taking snaps of the picturesque sights. The pull of the fashion houses acts like a magnet on the young woman. Inside the store, a rich array of designer creations, mannequins dressed in richly embroidered fabrics. Exotic materials, asymmetric skirts, dresses printed with brightly coloured motives, flowers and patterns of abstract art. Some collections restraint, other labels as “sexisimo” as Milan has always been.
Signora Bettucini’s hands feel the fabric of several dresses, as she flicks through the stand. A very young, slim and weakly looking male sales assistant brings another garment to present to the middle-aged lady.
”Signora Bettucini, this is a very similar design, but made of synthetic fibre. If Madam would like to try this on, please, it’s only half the price of the other one.”
“What do you mean ‘synthetic’?”
“It is man-made. It’s manufactured.”
“And how do you know this?”
“All synthetics are man-made, Madam.”
Isabella Bettucini is a full-bodied woman, proud and almost imposing. She is dressed in black, converses very vocally, in an expressive, gesticulating manner. Her arms have a long reach and it is not advisable to stand too close to her. She lets out a short laugh.
“Man-made,” she calls into the store, “did you hear that? ‘Manufactured, he says.”
“Who made the man? Tell me this, Bambino, who made the man?”
The raised voice of Mrs. Bettucini ensures the clientele becomes aware of the conversation. Her raised chin emphasising her words, which do leave the sales assistant somewhat intimidated.
She slaps her belly, “This, look here when I’m talking to you, this… made the man, you see this, Bambino, this belly made the man. Your mother made the man, she made the man,” as she points to passers by, “and so did she.”
Shima Katsumi withdraws towards the rear of the shop and aims her small camera unnoticed at the couple, taking several snaps.
“And she made the man, and so did that one, little Bambino.”
“All you can do is keep filling this belly, and … you can make synthetics, man-made fibres.”
“We made the man, bambino; we wiped your bums, bambino. We brought you into this world. I made 8, how many did you bring into this world?”
“Tell me, how many did you birth out of your belly? How many did you feed with your breasts?
“But, Signora …”
“Do you think I want to be seen with man-made rags in the fashion capital of Italy?”
“And don’t call me Signora.”
“In this here belly is Bambino number 9 growing, and then this no-good bastardo left me for a young, hot Bella from Palermo, a giovane, this, number 9, at my age, mama mia.”
“It’s all synthetic, isn’t it?”
“Madam Bettucini, please calm down.”
“How can I, you’re taking over the world. What you pull out of the ground is manganese, what you eat is mango, the fish live in a mangrove, oh my, Manchuria, they built a place named Manhattan. You are giving me mania and you are even in that word. If I need pills to cure me, your name is in the manic depression pills as well. Man is everywhere.”
“If I get my nails done, it is called a manicure. Men’s manifestation is all over the place. Man-made manipulators you are. Oh my God, you are even in mankind, and in humanity. Who let you in?”
“The Belles in Milan are mannequins, you are in manners, can you belief this, a man in manners.
You are in my house, my mansion, even if it is just an old shack, and when the manta bites your head off, you are in her. If I wash the dishes, you’re in my hands, in manual.”
“You are in manure and for all I’m concerned about, you can stay and rot in there. You are in so many, many, many things, even in many. There is hardly a word left without you in it. Your men-made world is all you care about. You pass your power through the generations using manuscripts.”“Just look at this,” she pulls the newspaper from the desk, “Ten men gang raped a young girl, and then killed her. The judge in his wisdom gives them a combined punishment of 80 years. What is this divided by 10? That is eight years each, for killing the poor Bella. He calls it manslaughter. Do you want to know how I read this, man’s laughter? The men are laughing, while they are killing us. It ought to be called, ‘man’s slaughter’, or ‘men’s slaughter’, because that is what they did to the poor bambino. Men slaughtered her.”
“We cannot even call ourselves women, without you having your name in it. You control the world with your power, your language, your manipulation, your management and if…, and, are you listening to me, bambino, if… one woman comes close to being your match, what do you call her; tell me, what do you call her?”
Isabella Bettucini holds the sales assistant by the tie and pulls it closer.
“Tell me Bambino; what do you men call such a woman? I want to hear you say it.”
“Madam, please calm down, I’m only a salesman.”
Isabella Bettucini breaks out in a loud laugh, “…did you hear that weasel. He even has a ‘man’ in his job description. ‘Amen’ to that, ‘A men’ to that,” I say.” she signs the cross, “Forgive me, father.”
Her face turns serious again, as anew she pulls his tie closer, “I want to hear it from your mouth, what you call such a woman?”
“I honestly don’t know, Madam.”
“Then I will tell you what you call such a woman, you call her a man-eater, don’t you, Bambino.”
“A man-eater, isn’t that so?”
“And tell me this, Mr. Salesman, how many men has she eaten? Has anyone counted them? Are there any men missing? Are there any men missing, anywhere at all? Are there anywhere on earth the bones of men, that this man-eater is supposed to have devoured? Can you answer me this, Mr. Salesman?”
“Madam, perhaps I could get another few lire off the price for you, for the dress, I could ask the manager.”
Isabella Bettucini eased the pull on the tie and burst out in laughter, “It had to be a manager, because there are no ‘womagers’ anywhere on earth.”
“Just once in my life I want to parade down the avenue, wearing a dress in the fashion that this city is famous for, and all you offer me is man-made fibre.”
“But Madam, you can have any dress you want.”
“How can I, Mr. Salesman, how can I afford them? How can I even afford a single rag, when I have eight bambinos to feed?” she says, in the resigned tone of hopelessness.
“How can I possibly do that, when my no good husband left me with nothing, while he is Lord knows where, getting another Bella into trouble?”
“One day, just one day in my life, I want to feel like a queen, instead of a queen bee, that spits out Bambinos like a manufacturing plant. Ha, ‘man’ufacturing.”
“Can’t you understand that? Is this too much to ask?”
“Look at me,” she tugs on his tie, “I want you to look at me. Can’t you see that I am all worn out? Do you see what eight kids can do to a woman’s body? What do you think you would look like, if you had to bear them? Look at me, Bambino. You would never think of running away with me, would you? The thought is repulsive; I can see it in your face.”
“Don’t panic, I took a holy vow. I could never run away with you, even if you paid me.”
Through the shop’s window, Isabella Bettucini notices a young attractive girl walking by. She drags the sales assistant towards the widow, “Look at her, the one in the yellow skirt, what would you give to have her?”
Isabella Bettucini looks at the sales assistant. Her face is nearly touching his. She whispers in his ears, “What would you give to get into her knickers?”
She waits for an answer. The girl nears a fruit shop, as a small stack of oranges collapses, spilling oranges across the footpath. She helps to help pick them up. Both are watching her bending over.
“She is beautiful; she even offers you a peek preview. That should give you an idea of what she is worth. You can almost taste her, can’t you?”
“She stirs you, doesn’t she? She moves you already.”
“How much?” she whispers.
The sight had an impact on the sales assistant, searching for words, “Madam, this … this is not appropriate.”
“Hogwash, you are a man, it’s in your blood.”
“You wished she was closer. My eyes are not as good as they used to be, but you are much younger. Your eyes are sharper. You can see her sweet, soft-fleshed, moist peach, can’t you, she is a succulent cherry.”
“What is she worth to you? There is not a man in the whole country that could withstand her charms, if she sets her mind to it. She does not even have to tease. Inside her is more juice, than in all the oranges of Italy.”
“I can see the pearls forming on your forehead. Tonight, you will rewind your memory tape of this moment and think of her, regardless of who is with you. Am I right?”
“She is already driving you crazy, and all she does is picking up oranges. She looks very much like I did then. That was 100 years ago.”
“Come on, how much?”
Isabella Bettucini whispers very slowly, her lips nearly touching the sales assistant’s ear. Both have their eyes fixed on the girl’s movements. “Come on; tell me, no-one can hear us. How much does the man in the salesman offer?” as her hands briefly grab his crotch.
“Oh, she’s got you stirred pretty good.”
He could only respond with a short, vacant “Madam.”
“She fascinates you, you are mesmerized by her. You are already undressing her, aren’t you? You are unable to speak, as your mouth is full of saliva. I can almost hear your heart pounding. She can do all this, without even trying. She does not even know that we are watching her.
Is she not a sweet ripe apple, ready to burst with the sweetest juices? Is she not the finest gazelle, you ever did see? Her legs go all the way to heaven. Her heaven is magic, her whole being is. There is not a wrinkle on this beautiful child. She is as fresh as can be.”
“Would you not give the earth to have her? Would you not give her the moon? Would you not climb the highest mountain, pull down all the stars and give them to her? Would you not promise her everything under the sun, to have her for one night? And what would she give in return?”
“She would give you everything, her whole being. She would give you her whole life. She would give you her fire and passion, as hot as the core of the sun. She would love you, mother you, and be the mother of your blood. And even when you’re long gone, she will still slave for them for all her days.”
“She would give you the unconditional love of a dog, for a handful of crumbs. She would follow you to the end of the earth. But, for what? So you can abuse her, beat her, waste her youth on you, waste her breaths, waste her womb, waste her worry over you, so that you can one day abandon her, feed her to the beasts. So you can kick her, slap her, humiliate her beyond belief.”
“And what can you give her? You do not have any stars, you do not own the moon, you cannot even climb three steps, let alone the highest mountain. You do not have the earth to give, Bambino, isn’t that so? You have nothing, but hollow words. You promise everything, but you have nothing worth giving.”
“And you know what; she wouldn’t even care about that. You could have her for nothing, this precious, beautiful girl, untouched and pure, I am sure. She could be yours with the wink of an eye.”
“She could be yours for any pittance at all.”
“But do you think you could ever satisfy her. Do you think you are good enough to take her to heaven? But you don’t know what heaven I am talking about, do you, Mr. Salesman? It’s all synthetic for you, your heaven is man-made, Mr. Salesman.”
“Your loins do all the thinking, isn’t that right, Bambino? Relax… I’m not going to touch you there again.”
“This is the most beautiful of God’s creations, her skin as soft as feathers; her lips can quench any man’s thirst. Her voice is angelic, her hair as silk, her fire for life still burning, her joy as unspoiled as a child. Her dreams full of hope, her heart is as pure as the day she was born. Her eyes have the warmth of the sun itself, her soul so deep you will never fathom its depth. Her scent alone is enough to loose your head, how much for a drop of her nectar?”
“How long would it take you to spoil her? How long before her eyes become as a spring that feeds a river with her tears? How long before you infect her with your glorious manhood, tell me this, Mr. Salesman, how long would she have?”
“How long before you bleed her dry and even her blood carries your name, men’s-truation, ‘men’struation. Men and man are in everything.”
“Is it not she, who will carry your shopping bags, despite you having three times her strength. She will ruin her hands with your dishes, doing your washing, hanging up your rags, day in and day out. She will slave her whole life for you and the ones you plant into her belly. She will settle your debt; she will even sell herself to do it, to keep you out of trouble.”
“She will beg for you, she will sacrifice all she has, for you. She will sacrifice her honour, dignity and self-respect, all for you. You can slap her face, kick her like a dog and she will still be faithful and obedient, as any dog I know.”
“All her needs are a pat on the back, sometimes some crumbs from your table, or less.”
“But you have no comprehension of who she is, or what she needs. You do not understand woman, women, any of us, do you, Bambino?”
“It just will not go into your heads, will it? You are incapable to comprehend us, isn’t that so Mr. Man? You, who can vow before God the biggest lies and we believe each time you crawl and beg.”
“You will demand more, and even in that word is the man. The man is everywhere. He rules the earth.”
“How long before you call her a whore, before you turn her to despair, how long before you break this fragile Bella.”
Isabella Bettucini’s anger turns to tears, “Romantico.”
“Can you believe it, smack bang in the middle of romantico, ro…man…tico, rosynthetico.
They are everywhere, he is everywhere.”
“I will tell you why that is, Bambino, it’s mandatory, man-da-tory.”
Isabella Bettucini’s’ resigned mood turns quickly, climbing in intensity. Her grasp on the sales assistant’s tie renews, pulling him along behind her, heading towards the store’s doors.
“Come on, bambino, synthetico, I’ll show you where you belong,” she adjusts his tie, pulls harder, cutting off some of his air supply.
“This is your world, man in commander, command, and in synthetic fibre.”
Both are stepping onto the road. The strength in Isabella Bettucini is now overpowering, her voice strong, with purpose.
She pulls the tie hard, holds the sales assistant’s chin and jolts it upwards. Her fingers dig deep into his cheeks, “Look up there, Bambino. You, men, explored the black holes of the universe,” as her arm points skyward.
With a hard jerk, she pull his face level, her arm points to the girl across the street, around to groups of women who gathered to watch this spectacle, “You, men, explored every conceivable hole and crevice in us.”
Her fingernails dig hard in the man’s cheeks. His skin cut, he bleeds. She drags the sales assistant two steps forward, holding his tie and with a firm hold on his cheeks, she rips hard downwards, stamps her feet, screaming, ”This, Bambino, is this not of your making? Do you not call this a manhole? Why,Bambino, why are you covering it up with a manhole cover that no-one can lift, why, Bambino?”
She lets go of the sales assistant and swings her handbag hard to unleash a barrage of hits. “This is your home, Bambino. Crawl into your manhole, drown in the sewers, there is your home.”
The sales assistant loosens his tie, gasps for air, “You are mad, Madam, with all respect,” he utters.
“Of course I am mad. Synthetico drives everyone mad,” the barrage of her hits does not lessen, she kicks and both her arms keep swinging her handbag, to land heavy blows on the stumbling sales assistant. His head shielded by his arms. He is loosing balance and falls.
Many of the passers by have formed into a semicircle around the couple. No one assists the struggling man.
“I am mad. With all respect, you say. Where was the respect when I needed it?” She spits on the sales assistant, “I have gone crazy, I have gone insane, I am mad, because none of you syntheticoes have ever given me any. How can we not go mad?”
Her strength in her arms is leaving Isabella Bettucini. She kneels next to the man, with a few more tiring blows she gasps, “How can we not go mad, synthetico?”
She collapses over the sales assistant, her body shaken by a cry of relief.
Shima Katsumi captured many pictures during this visit to the store. She opens her notebook to mark down in pencil the words, ‘synthetic man‘. She walks up to Isabella Bettucini, embracing her. Other women help her up. The group slowly moves away, consoling Isabella Bettucini. The sales assistant left behind, still crouching on the manhole cover.
“All synthetics are man-made” is one chapter from the book “Barren Seed”, pages 55 to 68. The book’s main theme are gender differences, but in the process touches on many issues relating to us all, such as environment, resources, overpopulation, inequalities, victimisation, minority groups, domination and many more.
In this section, ‘Shima Katsumi’ is the one that will develop her photographic interests much further, later in the story.
This Chapter word count: 3108
Barren Seed (Super Novel) word count: 83362
Book is available as download, paperback and hard cover. Please see link “Books” in my profile. Any comments welcome, thank you.