Ode a tudo


I always remember you. Not only the tourniquets, pipettes or finger-stingers. But the whole. The overwhelming presence that protected us as an aura. It was ever there, even if from afar. I wrote you in a newspaper, while in the kitchen I cooked you a delicacy of your paradise. From a trip to the East.

To Zélia *

I am going to cook for you. I know you like good things, typically simple, straight out of the earth. No matter from where, from whose land, just that they’re full of flavour. That’s what I’ll do.

The whole week I roamed these hot roads. I climbed the hills, from the bottom till half way from the top. Then went down to a colder part where I met again the horizon that flies away from the eyes in a counter-curve bend. There was the valley on the left, at the back, the tallest mountain in the south of the country. A bus stop to the right and maybe a dog barking, I’m not sure. It’s fresh again just for an instant. So much has changed I don’t know where to start. It will be a meat dish. It is good. Believe me.

When you came back inside that box, the size of your body, I spent the whole night in the garden. I slept on the hammock without swaying, waiting for the sky to fall once and for all on top of me waking me up from the nightmare. I tried to hide. From me and from the others. Hoping to understand. I ran to the bottom of the lane, to let myself go where no one could see. Lying on the ground, looking at the stars again and smashing my tears. Maybe there at the place where we used to pick wildberries. Now there aren’t berries there anymore. There aren’t berries anywhere anymore. They vanished. They are sold in the supermarket, without the thorns, in little boxes, and are very expensive. Can you believe it? Neither can I.

The day we took you we were all silent. Men and women came from all over. On their mules and their ox-carts. On their tractors and opened vans, which they parked carelessly unconcerned, with all four blinkers and the horns stuck to scream. They came drawn by the idea that the sun was trembling, spinning, jumping, sinning in a different way. Calling them. Telling them that that was a special day. Men and women that could never forget you, that in the live memory of you brought their large families along, and the cats, and the dogs. To say farewell to you. It was a day filled with light. We followed you following your silence. All of us. The people came from the country trails and steep streets coming together in total order as we walked. I can tell you it was a wonderful moment. Almost at the end we passed by your friend’s house, the poet, and he said goodbye to you from his bronze look. And then we left you. The cats didn’t meow. The dogs didn’t bark. Many flowers and a branch from one of your trees fell in that geometrical pit where they put you. You thanked. I know you did. The tree that was going to grow inside you. We all knew. When we left we were never the same again. The town was never the same again. It froze in that hot summer. Do you remember the gooseberries? There aren’t gooseberries anymore. The butterflies? They rarely go there and those who do are all of the same colour. There are no cats or dogs. Only weeds growing in disorder. Letting themselves swell tainted. For the lack of love. I’ll cook you a Goulash. The same recipe that grandmother cooked for you, do you know that? It was a recipe from a restaurant in Budapest where you had been. Do you remember? You went together to the kitchen, to snoop around, looking for the cook. I just called her to ask how it’s done. She still knew it by heart, of course. She even remembered the name of the man – he was called Lórand Kardos Ogúz and the restaurant was at the Franz Liszt square. But if you ask her if I called just now she won’t remember. She only remembers the essential. The most important. The day she saw you coming down the street for the first time. The colour of the shirt you wore, hands in the pockets, the look you threw her way and she changing temperature at the window. It became love at first sight. She remembers all the rest that is worth remembering. And that is all the days she spent with you, all of them, without leaving a single one out. But obviously now she hasn’t room for more. To know if she did or didn’t take the pills yet. If it’s summer or winter. Who cares? She knows what matters, which is a lot, which is so much. The endless times round the world.

You were always my model. Ours. And you still are. I would like to be happy like you are, to have that infinite ability of being always aware, aware of knowledge, of the winds of innovation, and be on the vanguard of time and while displaying a sun of knowledge, of life. I wish I could invent myself in the tiniest things and be happy like I never have seen anyone. As I’ll never see even if I’ll live for seven hundred and fifty years. Because you being happy was the happiness of all men, since man appeared on this planet. Two hundred and forty trillion years ago. One needs to know a lot to get there isn’t it?

[The man I met today on the street smiled madly, almost naked and toothless. I didn’t ask him a thing because his face was all smeared in happiness. And Love. Grand love. A headline from side to side of his forehead. He had no hair, the man. All is still possible in the petty world we live in. That was what I registered.]

In your lab I would go watch you work. I crossed the garden running afraid of the black swans that bit my backside. In those days cars were slower, people knew how to drive, and it was fast to get there without facing danger. I would come in. All the women that worked with you, all the time smilling, were there. Naturally happy. With their test tubes in hand. The papers, the droppers, the bands and needles. They pricked my finger and a bubble of blood came out. I kissed it. In the room next door you had your machines, big ones, like those all the doctors buy but are always shinny because they never use them. I stared at them, those space ships. and I drove them. Are they still there? They should. You sold everything for a pittance.

You didn’t arrive in time. If you want to know my family was beautiful too. But it melt together with some heat or with the corrosive humidity. I’d love you to meet some lil’ people. We’ll go there in a moment, when I leave the kitchen, okay? Do you know what love is? It is everyone of us to like you. Always. And for me to like those little ones. That is the definition of the word, the most simple I could find. The best I know. The one I’ll use on my master degree’s main answer.

We also used to go to the caffè to read and listen to the men that joined you immediately and ask you and asked you again and listened to everything. The men who learned with you, always thirsty for you words. For your simpathy. The newspaper man who had a bird name like yours. The two of you just chirped away. What was it that I used to order? Toasts, it had to be. With butter. And the taxis? The taxi drivers. Do you recall? They don’t exist anymore. They’ve all retired. It didn’t make sense to drive other people. They sold their cars for a pittance, left the town and vanished never to be seen. They came back the day your city paid homage to you, bringing back again their rental cars. Under the maple trees. Shining. Waiting for your arrival. They brought the book under their arms. The one about you. It weighs two hundred and twenty grams. They called it “Living Memory”. That is what I’m doing here in the kitchen, so you could remember. Now you also have a street with your name. Did you know that in Porto Alegre, in Brazil, there is an homonymous street, but of another person? Coincidence isn’t it? It belongs to a general.

[He woke up with stomach aches thinking he had the diseases in the world, but as he saw her by his side breathing like a fairy he calmed down and went back to sleep.]

I stormed into the hospital. Ran the corridors one by one, knewing all the floors. The space ships of all the doctors. Waiting with the patients. Looking at them, guessing their pains. Then I went in and there you were in white, counting leucocytes inside a microscope, counting white globes, talking loudly with a little piano by the side playing what you saw inside: the lymphocytes, monocytes or even the eosynophiles. By the end we had a gymnopédie, slow and painful.

Once in a while I disappeared without a trace, just because I wanted to run away from home or sleep on the roof and then you found my empty bed. There were no mobile phones at the time, how dull. But it didn’t upset you. You just pretended, but I knew you didn’t. When I wiped you from the tapes were you spoke about dodecaphonic music and replaced you with a radio piece about the Tour of Portugal you just became infuriated but not upset. When I replaced the name of Alban Berg with that of a cyclist or, further ahead, when you spoke of painting I replaced Vassili Kandinsky with the arrival of the group of runners to the finish line followed by a collective fall you just growled a little. Thinking that it wasn’t for real. That it was all destiny. Thankfully you knew nothing of magnetic tape theory.

To me two of your steps were enough, with them I could get wherever I wanted, to the Moon if needed. If I still have two of your genes I can try to go even farther. Where I’ve never been. And unwrap myself. Maybe you’ll visit me, another day in a colder country, where the sun never sets. Or in a city where you live in a humidity oven.

You may sit, there on that blue table. Don’t you mind it’s too small, I know. It will only be here next week, the other I’ve bought. Eat. It’s the best goulash that I’ve ever made in my life. Lórand Kardos Ogúz taught me. You’ll never forget him. It’s a living memory and its hot. All right. Imagine we are Gulliver’s friends. We are all little people. Innocent. And children again.

[* Zélia was my grandmother’s name, she could still read this text that was published in a newspaper, in July 2004, at the other side of the world]