Today I would like to introduce you to another Elizabeth, a character in the short story Pets* who is having a cultural moment. The italics on the side are my running commentary.
Elizabeth is Canadian and a new arrival in Rome together with her husband and young daughter. She is talking to her friend at the pet shop. He runs the shop with his mother who has announced that she is going to retire and hand it over to his uncle.
“But if it’s your shop, just say no.” (seems to her that this would be the obvious plan of action, direct, to the point)
“Yes, it’s my shop. But my mother owns it.” (seems to him that obviously the question is more complicated. Oh course he would have just said no if that had been possible.)
“So it’s her shop. She’s the owner.” (she seeks clarification, simplicity, direct, clear relationships, and measurable facts)
“No, its mine. But she is the legal owner.” (he seeks a way to navigate unclear waters. There is history here lurking beneath the facts, and that history makes the facts more ambiguous.)
She concludes, “There was clearly some cultural nuance that I was failing to grasp, so I let it drop.”
Sounds like a good idea. She can think about it later and, after peeling off a few layers of the onion, find interesting new ways to see and understand the concept of ownership.
(*by Megan K. Williams in her short story collection, Saving Rome).