Sangam House



COUPLES by João Anzanello Carrascoza

We wake up at seven in the morning and start making the bed, stretching the linen, and fixing the quilt. We shower in silence, still feeling sleepy, and we don’t want to talk. It would be a good time to make love, but we don’t feel like it. We brew the coffee, we heat the milk, we eat bread and butter, we read the newspaper’s headlines. We read the headlines and leave the newspaper aside, with the firm intention of resuming reading at evening. We know we won’t, but we keep this illusion alive. If it is raining, we say that it is raining and the traffic is shitty and it is impossible to live in this city. If it is sunny, we complain about the heat, the thirst, and the blinding light. We always make some comment about the weather. We exchange small talk. We have nothing to say, but we can’t keep quiet. When we meet someone, we party, we recall the good times, and we feel something comforting that we can’t precisely define. We are not always sincere on these occasions. We unfold Ariadne’s thread. We roll it back into a ball. When someone scores a goal, we shout goal. We get neither happy nor sad. We live in a twilight zone. We don’t want to die and we don’t want to live. And we work. We work. We work. At noon they set us free for lunch and tell us we should be back at two. We swallow the food; we are in a hurry. We go out for groceries, browse magazines, visit the bank. There are still banks. We comment on the last day’s tragedies, the last technological novelty, the broadcast speech of Mr. President of the Republic. We struggle to learn all innovations. We know that one who is not updated is at risk of dying while still alive, of being forgotten. We can’t afford ignoring what is known to everyone. Our voices mingle. We strongly feel that our words don’t belong to us. We have been losing our memory for years. Yet, this fact has not damaged us. On the contrary, amnesia has protected us from feeling guilty and regretful. For sure someone has taken our best recollections. But what can one do with recollections? At night, when the sky is most mysterious, when life reveals its secrets, we sit silently snug in front of the TV. Usually, we don’t watch anything. We turn it on only because we can’t stand our solitude. We are afraid of bringing in new subjects. We never go beyond what is allowed. Sometimes one of us farts. We smile. It’s a code. We are alive, after all. In the cold weather, we wrap ourselves in blankets and attempt to find one or another star amidst the fog. It is a beautiful sight. But we are tired of beautiful sights. The truth is that we are tired of everything. We can’t fall asleep on windy nights. We hug each other. Not exactly out of love, but out of habit. We cough. We pant. We change positions; we make noise between the sheets. We need to communicate to each other that we can’t sleep. We are unable to fall asleep. Dreams are a burden. We are unable to count sheep. We no longer know how to count. There are millions of things to do. We wake up. Thousands of activities. Thousands of different alternatives. The city has a hundred and fifty movie theatres, ninety theatre halls, eight hundred restaurants, a zoo, museums, nightclubs, bars. But we don’t need to go to any of them. Anyhow, the world comes to us. We can’t escape. We got used to war and peace. We need to renovate the house, to change the furniture, to buy a new car. Then we need to renovate the house, to change the furniture, to buy a new car. If we want to be different, we must be equal. If we want to be equal, we must be different. And we are funny, in spite of all. To cook, to drink wine, to be under the rain – many things amuse us. We laugh. We laugh for suffering such simple pains. And, as we laugh, we cry. We are amazingly strong. We are outrageously frail. We are too lyrical. We are too poor. When an acquaintance has a birthday, we sing happy birthday. We are loved and hated. We cheat. We are cheated. We argue. We break up. We make up. We are ashamed of our nudity, of our bellies, of our baldness, of our clothes. When we are home, we want to go elsewhere. When we are elsewhere, we want to return home. We like to travel, but our travels are confined to getting ready. Yes, getting ready is idyllic. At the very moment we jump into the car and hit the road or climb into an airplane the trip ends. Problems arrive, one after another. And they follow us. Uncertainties exasperate us. We are not sure what to believe in: psychoanalysis, astrology, oriental sects, the Third Wave, the imminent end of a nuclear war, Nostradamus’ prophecies, the new Catholic Church. We kill God. We resurrect God. We kill God again. We resurrect him once more. At every minute they feed us more data, more information. We no longer remember who Hitler was. For a second, we climb to the Hall of Fame. We are interviewed by newspapers, invited to write a book, to make a CD. In every corner they talk about us. We become idols of a new generation. A generation that lasts hours. And then we are forgotten. Suddenly, once again we climb to the Hall of Fame. We are interviewed by newspapers, invited to write a book, to make a CD. In every corner they talk about us. We become idols of a new generation. A generation that lasts hours. And then we are forgotten. We are forgotten in the same way that we forget the price of rice and last week’s pain. We keep living; we keep dying. We always have ready excuses, one for each occasion. We ask for help with every glance, but almost everyone is blind. We are victims and innocent. In the streets, we meet people we know. People who pass the very same places we pass every day. We never greet each other; we never exchange a word. But we keep complicity. And we feel abandoned when one of these people disappears for a day. They are our security. We know the city quite well. We get into the car, we close our eyes and we drive. We know how long each green light lasts. We know all about the traffic. We know all avenues that change the direction of the traffic flow. We are tired of the sameness of these changes. We ask questions. They answer. They ask us questions. We answer. True or false, it doesn’t matter. When spring comes, we say it’s springtime. And we visit museums. We don’t know much of modern art. Nor of post-modern art. We rely on the opinion of the critics. We disagree with the opinion of the critics. We don’t give a shit about the opinion of the critics. We point the gun at 287 the head. Attention: we point the gun at the head. We don’t shoot. We are not cowards. We still have a drop of courage. We pass through long corridors. Suddenly – forsaken – we hug. Now and then we kiss. We nearly forgot how to kiss. We unlearned many lessons. Feeling clumsy and awkward, we prefer the dark. We make love without joy. We are not prepared for joy. We have no time for friends. We have no time. On Sundays, we eat spaghetti with chicken. It is the best day of the week. We eat and drink and sleep. Then we eat and drink and sleep. In certain moments, we are overwhelmed by a sudden happiness. Then we sing. Out of tune. But we sing. Happiness doesn’t last very long. In any case, we sing. We even get to the point of dancing. Yes, we dance through the living room, slowly. We are not as agile for dancing as before. But we dance. Soon, very soon, we will have a son. And we will teach him all that we know.

(From The Volume of Silence: Short Stories. Translated from the original Portuguese by Renato Rezende.)

João Anzanello Carrascoza was a resident at Sangam House in January 2011. This story has appeared in Other Places: The Sangam House Reader vol. 2.

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