I look back and find three copies of me. They smile, smile affection and pride in building a common past. Children who carry among themselves the illusion of protection from the invisible structure that should support us. I step back, trying to extricate myself from strangers in search of a better view of the altar. Plastic flowers. Paralysis. The ornaments around the saint cause nausea. Smells fade from the rites of passage that marked beginnings, renovations. Thirty-five years later, in that same place, I find myself in the decoration adornments, with the mirror of someone who exchanged fertilizers, fertilizers of affection for the latex of disappointments. The date represented a milestone. We had arrived there alive, healthy. After all, isn’t that what matters to us?
On the steps of the hill we climbed before we reached that altar, I saw the origin. My place. I mentally built a map with the names of the surrounding streets, the commerce, the school, the dirt football field. He knew that there, in the midst of those recesses, was a copper roof, protected by the leaves of a hose, which covered faded walls with pink paint. I’ve always been there more than anywhere. Thirty-five years later, on the same thirteenth of May, my gift was still a constant return, the memories as a refuge, the hug between the legs that occurs when we are in a room without light. Food is scarce, present once a year at Christmas.
I’m called. The twins carry me by the hand while Joana goes ahead with her father. At each step that was overcome there was the strangeness of the confrontation with the sound background of that happiness. The best of me was focused on that past. Record player and visit on Sundays, coffee in the afternoon, the clothes in sauce in the aluminum buckets, the smell of watered earth from the garden beds in the backyard. He invented the life he wanted, the limit was the rusty gate and almost toppled by bougainvillea.
The four bet who will arrive first on the stairway to the church. When I transposed it for the first, and last time until that day, dragging the bars of my white syrup I felt, in firm and consistent steps, that the future had embraced the present. The jugs received me on the crossing to Our Lady. They bet who would arrive first in the challenge of taking him to the altar. At my side, thirty-five years earlier, he was.
Everyone is healthy, that’s what matters. The four run amused and panting on the slope of the stone steps. They complain about the distance that formed between me and them. The geographical point of the past seduced me to return to before all of them. The joyful excitement of the future at 18. I supplicate a time machine to the image at the top of the church.
I don’t want to recall the day that took us there. The moments of that climb hand in hand with my father. I want him back so that together we can go to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament to thank him for our food and family and, on the way back, win a hug with a love apple. They shout my delay, sitting on the benches around the sanctuary. What would Augusto advise me at that moment? Each step that was overcome confirmed the need for a farewell from the one he would like to become again. I make a mental list of pros and cons on a balance of the race against time that today can end.
He waves. Children and their boyfriends too. Who were those people? Why am i here What is my name? I belong to the suspension of time, to the cataloging of each one of those years that were lost and won. The many that I am, I went and left. I keep my jeans and T-shirt on. You still have life ahead of you. I climb in a breath just so that it will soon end. Everyone complains about hunger. The special day would be closed with dripping blood skewers, red-hot hearts. French fries to finish off.
Something has broken, gone from me where the groom can kiss the bride. The flowers could never be made of plastic, I refused to believe what I saw. The petals thrown on the bride and groom should decorate wedding albums and stain pages of life’s nectar. The children would grow up proud of the archaeological record of the rite; who could, perhaps, present it to their children, the zero point of consequent existences that day.
Plasticized, I looked back and the three still smiled. Incredulous eyes from the frontal and posterior views of that instant. Two births, three children, all the time of life dedicated to each one, so that they were full of the invisible structure that they would one day know would never support them. They would be mothers and fathers, they would cross the rite and understand plastic flowers. They would love him and me, who gave them everything but the meaning of life. My repertoire of memories has been drained. I needed to compose myself, reinvent meanings, he was still waiting for me. Who was he? The kids would take the time at matches. The leftover love in the rubberized heart would shape my new birth. It still pumped and pulsed shapes on command, graced my interior when joy flashed in cracks in veins and arteries. I would twirl the short skirt with blunt hair braid to the middle of the coast. He would twirl the short skirt with a deconstructed cut on the dance floor with him, or whoever the application sought as a prescription and treatment.
I hug everyone at the feet of the saint and I congratulate Faust. We are there, healthy, everyone smiles. That’s what matters.
Text by Renata Frade. Today, Valentine’s Day, we publish a selection of texts that resulted from the initiative launched by SAPO24 and The First Chapter, signed by new names of those who have a form of expression in writing.