Piedade de nós, desatados

O leite materno é uma das maravilhas da existência terrena e existe íntima relação entre o bom andamento da vida de uma pessoa e seu tempo de amamentação na primeira infância. Somos mamíferos por definição e, como tais, dominamos o planeta. Sugar da fonte de nutrição que nos é ofertada cria raízes imunológicas inabaláveis. Mamar nos liga ao ser que gerou e nos trouxe à luz da realidade. Mamei até os dois anos e dois meses, exatidão atestada por uma mãe orgulhosa - e cansada. Tentou de tudo, a coitada, para me fazer desapegar do peito. Babosa, adesivos de silicone, viagens sem despedida. Ao regressar de uma quinzena de dias, na distância dos confins da esquina leste do país, ouviu a demanda do pequeno rebento tão logo a porta se abriu: "quero mamar!". Mamar fortalece os ossos.
Escrevo com dificuldade, colidindo os dedos repetidamente contra o teclado. Não há o glamour de dizer que sento em frente à máquina de escrever como os escritores de antigamente mas, por outro lado, há a conveniência de poder registrar pensamentos em qualquer lugar e a qualquer momento. Meu bloco de notas cabe no bolso e não precisa de caneta, porém a duração da bateria é sempre um empecilho. Faz frio na manhã de hoje, tais quais em todas desde que cheguei a esta casa. O ar gelado é o mesmo da fatídica noite quando sofri o acidente, mas a companhia já não é a mesma. Naquela noite eu pensava ter alguém e hoje, sentado em um sofá de veludo, tenho a certeza da solidão. Escutei coiotes na noite de ontem e também uma coruja. A sinfonia da noite escura com seus animais sagazes lembra o comportamento das pessoas que agem na surdina. Continuo com a geladeira cheia, com as cervejas sobrando e o vinho, solícito, aguardando a vez de ser tomado. Santo remédio, o suco fermentado das uvas.
Eu fazia bico de segurança em um bar e as coisas eram para ser como sempre eram, artificiais e simples e tranquilas e nojentas, sim, porque limpar banheiro de festa após 200 jovens mijarem até no teto é aborrecedor. Eles e elas vomitam, cagam na borda do vaso, cheiram pó, levam garrafas clandestinas de bebida e as deixam vazias por todos os lados. As mais assanhadas apertavam minha bunda e eu olhava para trás para encontrar um mar de mocinhas loiras, esbeltas, com olhos azuis e sorrisos de simpatia. Elas queriam fazer amizade e davam o primeiro passo tocando os meus glúteos. Eu queria que elas fossem embora o quanto antes, eu pudesse pegar o meu cheque e voltar para o universo pragmático de trabalhar, comer, dormir e repetir o mesmo dia uma centena de vezes. Fazia cara de mal para que me respeitassem e isso sempre funcionou. Além do que, solteiro eu não era. Ponto para os registros biográficos do bom cidadão. Até que surgiu um tal filho pródigo de um pai rico, branco como deve ser todo rebelde sem causa. Bigode de motoqueiro enrustido e atitude de quem cresceu com o sucrilhos sempre à mesa. Alcoolizado, o rapaz foi escoltado por mim para fora do bar mas, durante o trajeto, agitando os braços de atleta amador, golpeou-me e, assim, perdi a consciência. Uma tragédia, se não de fato, mas pessoal. Fui alvejado e caíram sobre mim as desgraças. Dali direto para o hospital.
Aguardava a minha vez, a vez da entrevista de acolhimento. Da recepção para a triagem. No salão imperava a quietude mórbida do ambiente gélido onde a morte ronda arrastando seus grilhões. Falávamos inglês, mas um pequeno folheto garantia o direito de solicitar um intérprete para qualquer língua. Eu só falava merda naquela noite e duvido que alguém fosse fluente por ali.
- Nome completo?
- Aquiles Guedes Rapassi.

Ela era simpática, magra como a Olivia Palito do Popeye.

- Data de nascimento?
- 05/08/1986.
- Oito de maio de 86?
- Oh, não, me desculpe, Angélica. Esqueci que estou nos Estados Unidos. 08/05/1986. Sou de agosto, mês do cachorro louco.
- Cachorro louco? O senhor está bem?
- Deixa pra lá, acho que vocês não tem esse ditado por aqui.

Muita coisa ela não entenderia, mas o que é que me restava? Fazer cara de coitado para alguém que lida com coitados durante turnos de 24 horas?

- Fumante?
- Não. Digo, fumante do quê?
- O senhor fuma cigarro?
- Oh, não, Deus me livre.
- Álcool?
- Sim, por favor.

Ela riu. Ela aceitou minhas gracinhas. Em situação de miséria, o que se quer além de misericórdia?

- Sim, senhora. Bebo às vezes - eu disse.
- Peso e altura?
- 89 quilos, 1,90m de dia, 1,88m à noite exceto na balada. Nas festas eu tenho 2 metros de altura. Você sabe, a gente diminui durante o dia, mas cresce quando é preciso.
- Certo. Sofre algum tipo de violência em casa?
- Minha esposa às vezes não me espera com o jantar pronto.

Ela riu de novo. Eu estava desesperado. Mal sabia eu que era sequer a primeira onda que me atingiria. Aquilo era uma simples marola. Sentia que descontrair com a enfermeira era a melhor saída. O cérebro humano se apega à chance de distração em face do sofrimento. Eu faço parte da regra. As enfermeiras, tais quais as aeromoças e strippers, compõem o grupo de profissões que todo homem julga ter chance de conseguir uma tal conquista relâmpago. Acontece mais frequentemente com as dançarinas. Poucos homens têm sucesso na empreitada.
Tomou a temperatura, a pressão arterial, anotou a frequência cardíaca e me mandou de volta à sala de espera. Apesar do galo enorme que surgiu no topo do crânio, a cabeça não doía. A nuca não doía. Nada doía, exceto as mãos. Meu instinto sabia o diagnóstico, mas a visita ao médico era obrigatória. Estava ali pelo respeito aos protocolos. Bem, não é assim tão simples. Quando a água bate na bunda, você pensa na família, nos parentes, naqueles que podem vir a sofrer com seus problemas. Você toma decisões baseadas em terceiros, tipo quando, mesmo a donzela dizendo que não está com fome, você compra mais comida porque sabe que ela vai sim querer.
Os sinais aferentes viajavam de neurônio em neurônio, via sinapses, e informavam meu cérebro que algo mais grave tinha ocorrido. Um formigamento interminável castigava os dedos e a pele passara a um estado hiper sensível. Tentei lavar a mão antes de vir ao hospital. A água fria da torneira queimava como ácido. Oh, céus, incendiava. Doía como dói a noção de que aqueles que amamos tramam contra a gente em plena madrugada. Enquanto o médico não me chamava, fiquei à deriva no salão oval, com pessoas que tossem, pessoas que gemem e pessoas que dormem. Um casal chegou e comunicou que fala apenas a língua espanhola. Ela está grávida e a barriga pende quase tocando o chão. O marido carrega a bolsa da maternidade preparada para o grande momento. Ambos não sorriem. Presságio?
Refaço as cenas que estão na memória. O instante em que senti o choque elétrico e a queda no solo. As pernas bambas, a incapacidade de me levantar. Nocauteado pelas costas, deficiente temporário. A humilhação de não conseguir me pôr em pé incomoda-me para sempre. Pobre desgraçado. A vista embaralhada. Enfim, consegui. Seguraram o agressor e a polícia veio. O filhinho quis colocar a polícia em contato com o papai. Eu assistia toda aquela cena desprezível com uma certa confusão mental. A pancada reiniciou meu cérebro e eu pude sentir isso. Ali estavam dois policiais a cercar o agressor, um moleque grande com queixo de três pessoas adultas somadas. Bêbado como elefantes da África, tentava se levantar e era posto sentado à força pelos homens da lei. Era apenas outro sujeito mimado, com bigode ilusório de uma maturidade inexistente. Ordinário, um bezerro que clamava pelo rebanho. Se ele merecia um corretivo, seria da parte do destino, porque algo de incomum tomava-me a consciência. A paz, a paz incomum que despontou no peito. Não me irritei, não senti o sangue ferver. Eu pensava em quebrar seu joelho direito com um pisão frontal, mas por defesa própria. Na verdade, só queria voltar para casa, deitar no sofá reclinável com um balde de frango frito e um refrigerante à mão. Eu queria ver filmes e tergiversar sobre a vida e os planos futuros, queria uma companhia leal naquele e em todos momentos. O que eu tinha eram tremores e desconfiança.

O médico chamou, mas a enfermeira não me deixou andar. Empurrou a minha carcaça em uma confortável cadeira de rodas. Oficialmente um inválido, ainda que momentaneamente, mas vergonhosamente subjugado. Doutor Cooper, nome de médico de seriado. Plantão médico. Gostei, me inspirou a contar a história. Dá charme ao texto. Doc Cooper, gente fina, andava com seu jaleco branco e um estetoscópio pendurado no pescoço. Gravata listrada, azul e vermelha. Um patriota, herói, com certeza tinha história para contar, algo do tipo ele ter salvado um batalhão inteiro na guerra com simples infusões de soro caseiro usando um canudo e bexigas de festa. Doc Cooper, cabelo alinhado com pomada de efeito matte e bebedor de chá ao invés de café. Eu conseguia sentir, era um homem de classe. Eu queria ser seu amigo porque, é claro, eu seria a maçã podre para desvirtuar. Se fôssemos camaradas ele deixaria de visitar a igreja batista nos domingos pela manhã.

Pediu exames, lamentou a situação e comunicou sua solidariedade. Ouviu meus palpites e achou plausível. Os resultados vieram e eu estava certo. Impacto no topo da cabeça, efeito chicote da musculatura que protege as vértebras cervicais e uma compressão anormal que leva ao pinçamento das raízes nervosas que irrigam os membros superiores. Por isso as dores, por isso a sensibilidade. Diagnóstico tranquilo. Edema esperado. Sem fraturas, nada de grave. Mas, com toda sua habilidade e sapiência, o Doc Cooper não poderia explicar minha calma. Aliás, desde o primeiro momento, todos os envolvidos elogiavam exaustivamente minha tranquilidade, como conduzi a situação. Tocavam a cabeça do leão e diziam "bom menino, bom menino". Insólito pássaro de asas cortadas.
O diabo em meu ombro direito assopra ideias de vingança, de ódio, de forma que eu possa encontrar fomentar a ira. O diabo do outro ombro enaltece o respeito à lei por não me rebaixar ao nível do agressor. São dois diabos, afinal. O que é que eu quero com isso? Já me basto a mim mesmo.

Agora tenho uma lista extensa de remédios para tomar, inclusive opióides. Continuo dócil e devo intensificar a doçura com as drogas prescritas. Concussão não é motivo para ficar em casa e o doutor Cooper me deu apenas um dia de licença médica, que piada. Não me vem nenhum lampejo negativo. O que é que há? Perdi o jeito?
Só me resta não deixar a mente vazia. A sensação de impotência bate à porta do raciocínio. Mais violência? Mais? Um ciclo infinito de guerra? E continuo sem vontade de me alterar. A porção anticristã que habita meu ser provoca com acidez:
- Levou porrada e ainda deu a outra face? Quer ser canonizado?
Um processo interno de julgamento e contestação quer se prolongar dentro da psique. Mas essa cabeça não é a oficina de nenhum capeta. Engulo as hidrocodonas e o remédio bate rápido. Que coisa maravilhosa, que leveza, que alívio. Em relação à dor que sinto nas mãos a droga tem pouco efeito, mas a chapação que causa é de se considerar. Já não me importa que perderei dias de trabalho, que mal consigo tomar banho ou limpar a própria bunda. Tenho ópio para compensar a falta de ódio. É isso aí. Leva oito horas pro efeito chegar ao fim. O corpo acostuma fácil. Que decepção. Fazia 13 graus naquele 13 de novembro. Não recebi cuidados, ninguém cozinhou uma canja e desejou melhoras. Eu me tornara, oficialmente, um ser abandonado. Os dedos continuavam a arder e me faziam ver estrelas.
Dois meses depois, tudo está de volta. As dores, o desânimo mas, acima de tudo, a indiferença alheia. Foi tudo em vão. Gostaria de ir ao hospital só para brincar com a enfermeira e fazê-la rir. Nenhuma indenização foi paga, ninguém se importou. Ainda bem que eu mamei muito e os ossos cresceram sadios, duros, grossos, a ponto de resistir às agressões. Quem dera o coração fosse nutrido pelo leite materno!

Nos ouvidos, a água causa dor

– Vai se matar?

– Tenho pai e mãe ainda vivos.

– Não foi essa a pergunta.

– Estudei o Mito de Sísifo.

– Pode ser mais claro?

– Sou obrigado.

– A me explicar o que quer dizer?

– A dizer que o melhor cookie do mundo é vegano, você acredita?

– O que isso tem a ver com a minha pergunta inicial?

– Hoje é dia noturno, não há sol que possa iluminar.

– Qual dor é essa?

– Daquelas que ardem sem se ver.

– Isso é Camões?

– Sim. E não haverá mais piadas com mamão.

– O que está acontecendo?

– Não adianta tentar explicar, Inês é morta. E isso também está em Camões. E, sabe, Camões está em nós.

– O que você tira disso tudo?

– Eu posso ouvir. Há o tique-taque incessante, mas não há relógio em vista. Só há o som, o inexorável. Galopa o cavalo do apocalipse sem sinal de cansaço. É o destino do universo a contração, a expansão, a criação e a destruição. Não há o que não acabe e não existe o que não estrague. Bom, menos o mel. A doçura única da natureza que não tem data de validade desde que não seja contaminado. Que coisa essa. É por isso que é tão sério escolher honey para chamar alguém de sua estima. Não usar o substantivo em vão, um dos mandamentos.

– Como você está se sentindo?

– Com vontade.

– De quê?

– De acabar com tudo, por um fim em tudo, deixar de ser tudo.

– Está bastante confuso.

– Basta bloquear ou ignorar. As similaridades com seus monstros são o que mais lhe compromete a convicção. Atacar é verbalizar as semelhanças. Tempos líquidos, amores líquidos.

– Supere!

– Mais alguma ordem ou sugestão?

– Não, só a mesma indagação. Você vai se matar?

– E o que resta para matar que já não esteja sem vida? Carne fria, decomposta, mente de lembranças pálidas. Se o coração bate é por involuntariedade. Os pés doem porque tem de suportar o peso. Olhos veem e enxergam, mãos procuram mas não encontram.

– Então, o quê?

– Citar Manuel Bandeira.

– Dizendo?

– A única coisa a fazer é tocar um tango argentino.

O hey o

Roy had a car accident this week. Or last week, I can’t remember. The days go on and I lose track of time. My head is okay, my lungs are okay, my heart is okay, even my spine is okay. My mind is not, it floats on different moods throughout its journey. Like a river, it feels going down with the current, often being pushed to the shore. One gotta master buoyancy in order to stay in the very middle of the river without fear of drowning. There are curves on the river length, there are fallen trees in the way, there are the most dangerous things too – shallow and murky waters. From time to time, a fish breaks out the surface and flexes its shining body before returning and disappearing into the vast realm. Those fishes are like ideas that visit my mind and ring the bell giving me a few seconds to open the door before all of that vanishes into the void of consciousness.

We were in Ohio two weeks ago, his homeland. Roy Dan, my best friend. I would never plan a trip to Ohio on my own but there goes my motivation to travel: friends. So, there I was in the midwest surrounded by corn crops and silos and gray skies and pale vegetation and amish people. How exciting it is to see people rolling around on their carriages, which they call buggies. No modern tools, just living life in a way they use their skills for the benefit of others. Amish in the average people’s language is called utopia. Pretty much like maturity for youngsters.

Even though Ohio State could have many arousing attractions, I was there to meet Mama Bear. The woman who brought to this world Raquel, Roy and Aaron. Her name is Joyce. Of course, she’s a joy. She laughs unconditionally. Good morning, Mama Bear – and you get an extended laughter back along the greeting. We were there to celebrate the winter solstice, so she took all of us on a hike. In cold times all that you see is ice and yellowish leaves. Mud steps, dark soil and birds chirping in the distance, gossiping about how pathetic humans are with their winter clothes. A school of deers showed up jumping. Joyce is a teacher and that is what she does, she teaches, she guides, she shows the way, she educates. I was happy to be in a family like theirs. There was no father around. A generation of men raised by women and fulfilled with the purest love. They were the lesson itself.

Joyce asked us to pick something from the trail. Everybody did. The sun was going down and we praised it as it must. That felt like a real purpose, you know? You can see the sun, you can see what it does to life and what kind of hope it brings. The sun is the materialization of God and you can derive your thinking as much as it pleases you. The sky had blue and gold and red and pink colors mixed. We stood on tiptoes to catch the very last glimpse of the reigning star. The sun light, the water, the fire, the air. Anything else is auxiliary.

We were on our way back to the car and I still didn’t have anything for myself. The abused mind wants to prove something and the search goes unnaturally. I thought about taking a bark piece from a tree. I would talk about my skin, my first layer of physical protection and how, even looking old and moldy, it still nurtures the whole plant. That was not how the game was designed, I was making up stuff, what a shame. Then, I saw it. Like a crown in the middle of long dry leaves. Every single thing in that field was taller than me and I had to open my way, like a forbidden love, in order to reach it.

Back home, Joyce had bought some fine steaks for our special night. Roy and I made the fireplace real. Everybody else was in the kitchen taking care of the salad and preparing the risotto and mixing meaningful thoughts. Holidays, as illnesses, bring the best to people’s hopes and words. We got together around the fire and everybody said, one by one, what their resolution was for the next year. It must be something that would help to heal the planet. I promised to pay attention to my consumption and this is it because I can’t fake being so worried about the environment. I just can not. At the same time, consumption is something that bothers me so, honestly, I will stick to that purpose. Kate will make her own detergent, Aaron will reinforce recycling, Quel wants to waste less. Roy, my dude, wants to take down the system and he needs someone to join him on pipeline sabotage. Oh yeah, he never disappoints. That is the kind of resolution nobody is expecting. After that, Joyce invited us to show our special findings from the hike. She had dried flowers and dried sticks combined to show the power of togetherness. What a thoughtful way to show us how deep and beyond time that gathering was. Everybody listened carefully. Joyce would smile after every two words, such a sweet woman. I bet she has honey instead of blood on those veins. A consumed lumber broke in half and almost set Kate’s dress on fire. The fire spikes were flying over us and I wondered if family hatred would ever end. Asking for a friend.

Aaron and Kate and Roy and Quel waited patiently. I was the second on line and showed everyone my thorned flower. Everybody had a glass of wine, but it was only me drinking it with despair. “I was walking in the woods and could not find anything to pick up when I saw, suddenly, those naked petals standing by sharp shells. It means a lot to me, representing the beauty and sweetness lying inside the danger and pain.” Those were my words and I made it simple and short to avoid my eyes from crying. Men should not cry. Elephants must not be heavy. 

It took me a lot of courage to say that. I bet it was easier for the others, as they were more used to Mama Bear’s dynamics. The talks went about being conscious of the planet, respecting each other and recognizing others’ flaws. It all embarrassed me inside like holding farts. You release your farts in that family. We stood admiring the fire and feeding it. There is something about fireplaces that works the same about feelings: you need to feed it.

The fire was on point and the funny thing was the fireplace itself, which was about to crash completely. The barbecue pit was in the backyard and it had a lot of leaves and branches on the ground to serve as a fire feeder. I told them that it was time to cook the best steaks of their lives. They went back to the dinner table and I placed the prime meat on the grill. Flames licking it from below and the clear dark sky witnessing it. I was alone with those bloody tender pieces and all the predators in the neighborhood could smell it, I am sure. Are there any? When it was all ready, I headed back to the house. Faces telling expectations. Mama Bear asked me to have her steak a little less rare so I went back outside. The flames made me feel good, burning not only the meat but also my pride. I wish I could be buried in Ohio so Mama Bear would bring me flowers every August the 5th. Brought her meat back and she was delighted. We cheered. The cats and the dog were around the table seeking for a drop of human kindness or human lapse so they could steal a bite. After the meal, everyone exchanged presents. I did not, because I was not aware of the tradition and may the spirits forgive me. Mama Bear gave me a beautiful bag with cattle painted on it. Inside, chocolate, caramels and wool socks. Perfect! I am going to Colorado and that place will be freezing. Is it a reality wool socks for the heart?

Woke up next morning to a text saying “I am with Peter having tea, come on!”. I stood up and looked through the window. Two barefoot guys were sitting in a lotus position over the sea of dried maple leaves. Got inside my jeans without taking my sweatpants off and went down there. Oh boy what a time to be alive. Peter, Roy’s cousin, is a wizard, a guide, a master, a kind of Gandalf of the lost lands. Something about him made me feel home. We started sharing thoughts and visions. He will soon go to China and learn how to zen himself in a Kung Fu temple. How beautiful life can be. We were drinking some kind of black tea and that scared the shit out of me because I thought it was mushrooms. It was not, actually. We were just warming ourselves up with hot beverages and proving fresh friendship at the source. To my surprise, Peter took out of his pocket a bag of mushroom infused chocolate. I was not expecting that but I was glad. Even though that fear was consuming myself, I could feel the medicine connecting to me. Roy and I swallowed it and Peter managed the words. The light stream between the trees felt like strings and the wind sounded like whispers of I am coming, I am coming. They could tell my inner desperation and the conversation went smoothly. I felt like a bug using the mushroom as a shelter. It could be my forever home.

“You smell like a brother” –  I said to Peter. Yes, brothers have a smell. That’s how wolves recognize each other and that is exactly like I found my tribe. We hugged each other and Peter jumped the fence leaving the premises. I got to my phone and called everyone I care for. I love you, forgive me, stay with me – words of inside. Mushrooms make me say things without filtering and I love it. I feel like the most honest man on earth.

On the next day we went to visit Roy’s grandpa, Mama Bear’s dad. A farm, full of cows and a beautiful family. Kind words exchanged, sincere smiles. Treating elders with love is a good way to feel love growing inside of yourself. I drank milk straight from the white and black moo-moos. More fresh, impossible. I love milk and I am not scared of being judged.

While I write these lines, Roy is in front of me. He just got news about his car. Insurance will not pay, there’s a fee for the towing company. Considerable fee. By day. Today is Friday and they return on Monday. Fucking fees and careless drivers. A vile feeling grows and the sky loses its virginity. Are the goddesses playing a dirty game? Nothing else matters more than bile and frustration. Despising an enemy can be a mistake and all I hear is a snore. Facing adversity, he made the best decision one can make. He took a nap. He farts loudly and I don’t know if he is awake. Can we be unworthy even subconsciously? He farts again. I bet the motherfucker can read my mind right now. Stillness, the room’s blacklight is the only thing speaking when it reflects on white surfaces. And it says “I AM PURPLE”.

Laissez faire

Today I woke up for finding out the sunrise would be at 7:48am
Isn't that great? Even the dearest lamb got late
And for that I stayed in underwear, dancing alone on the haunted room
Dragging my feet over all the dirt and broken tiles until I got enough
Ecstatic
To touch the switch and let the electricity shock me a little
Once that
the world and its mean people
Do not get me impressed anymore.

Mediocrity is the new sexy, baby
Come on
Chasing money to freedom
We all dress to get undressed
Forever expires in 6 months
And society became as liquid
As my Fireball.

Nasty!
Sure
Blue agave, premium turf, chardonnay
But
Cheap moonshine too.

Art can only be conceived by sexual intercourse
Between will and hope
And when they fuck, oh boy I gotta tell ya
Pretty twins are born
And their names are laze and despair.

Ranger label

My truck looks like me
I see those halfway tires and I can see my legs
Broken, hurt, tired columns of bones and muscles that sustains me
But somebody can tell that my truck has more wheels than I have got legs However
Sometimes life puts me on all fours. Degrading, but still rolling.
My truck looks like me
With two doors that open anytime to let people in
Just like my arms were made to hug.
My truck has a broken grill and it has some semblance of my nose. Strong steel, but plastic too. My truck is not the stiffest
Because neither am I
And I guess neither are you.
My truck has only two seats although a third
Momentaneous
short timed companion
can fit in.
My truck looks like me with its multiple colors. It is red
But gray, also white with its shades.
My truck needs work and it clearly speaks about me
Whose interior craves cleaning.
Naturally it sounds loud. My truck snores and I rev up.
Muffler? Hustler?
We are both old and it doesn't cost a dime to treat it right.
Oil change and water where it must. Some things work better if wet
And the valves, oh the valves!
like my heart, endless pumping of fluids.
Can you feel it? A robust flow
They come and go
through arteries and tissues.
Machines will fail, exhaust will fart.
And the mind will have issues.
But a pipe ages and when it does it drips.
Steering can get loose. In the morning a kick start.
Ungovernable? We both can act like pricks.
But nothing can stop, not even clutch leaks
A great and solid engine V6.

Streets of Philly

It is late at night. Well, I am late. The night is the night. Inside my mind I feel Argentinian. The good old tango is playing and all I can think of is the bandoneon and violins. My state of mind says it all. I light a cigarette while waiting for the train that will take me to the old city. I light it with a match and after the flame is gone I press it against my forearm. I burnt myself today to see if I still feel. I profoundly dislike cigarettes, but every time I smoke there is a single joy – the one that its paper burns by itself. My friend asked me:

– I never thought you liked to smoke cigarettes.

– I don’t.

– So, how come are you smoking now?

– It is not fair to praise myself without something to despise myself.

Philly’s welcome is warm. 52ºF and the short illusion of not needing to protect my light skin from the cold. The train arrives and I smash what was left of tobacco. Riding through the railroads, looking at the city and analyzing the people surrounding my seat makes me feel home. I know who they are, I know what they do. They are myself as I am themselves. Workers, the hard ones, those who get home not in time to be greeted because everyone is asleep. That’s probably why god created dogs. Dogs are timeless, celebrating creatures. I am not sure if those tired souls have a four legged friend waiting for them. They are the ones at the base of the social pyramid working long shifts and trading their time for money. All they want is bed, all they need is beer and all they get is debt.

I have no one waiting for me but the receptionist of a hostel. You go to a hostel because there is always hope of meeting nice people there. Sometimes, just average people sucked into their own phone screens. I walk in narrow alleys searching for my baiting place. Steps hitting stones, sounds reflecting on walls and thoughts boiling in my head. Capitalism is all around when I see a homeless guy laying over a gutter grate with burger and fries on his hands. He is warming up a meal. Sewage smokey patty and moving lips that whisper haunted conformity. Is this it? Am I lost, am I losing control or loosening my conscience?

I left my backpack and got back on the streets. There are 9 bed bunks in the dorm where 18 people can sleep but only five do. I don’t use a lock and all of my valuables are vulnerable. Computer, camera, lens and books are subjects to be robbed, but I actually couldn’t care less. Except for the books, of course. It would be hard to replace them. But everybody in the room seems like normal people. What are normal people, other than just prejudice?

Everyone wants something on a Saturday night but all that I wanted was to suffer some sudden amnesia. To wake up in a hospital and see a young, caring nurse applying something into my vein without having any memory of the last four years. What a joy. I took oxycodone before getting on the airplane to Philly and I was still under the effects of it. Mellow mood seasoned with alcohol. If I only had another pill. If I only had an airplane for me. A mobile flying hospital with some gorgeous redhead nurse taking care of my amnesia with champagne and foie gras and oxycodone and some slaps on my face every now and then. Gotta be real.

The bars were full of sold off people and I was a gambler on fate issues. I asked for Guinness and a single neat Jameson. The whisky came first while the beer had to sit for a few moments while its foam was forming. Brown bubbles emerging from void, dark liquid thirst quencher matter. Gulp of beer, entire shot of liquor down my throat. Didn’t move my head but my ears were scanning the room. Shit conversations about stocks and sports. It is all the same, every time. The pretty babes were hanging on those average guys shoulders. I wonder if they fuck the same way they live life. Asked for another round and another. I had a lot of blood to heat up. Some curly haired girl got three drinks just by my side at the bar. I looked at her and at her hands too. There was a phone on her left hand. She tried to hold all of the three glasses plus the phone. I kept staring at her and her delicate, well cared hands. She smiled and used her big black eyes to communicate her needs. 

– You can do it – I said.

– You think so?

– Yeah, three glasses is easy. Four requires skills.

Phone in the pocket and free hands. She was not stupid, she was just flirting.

– Thank you – she said.

As she left, I admired her ass jiggling east to west to east. Thin waist, strong legs. I was alone but not looking for it. What a waste.

The bartender couldn’t hold himself:

– Are you ok, buddy?

– I am alright – I said.

I have been better, but nobody has anything to do with that. This is a moment in history when bartenders care about customers’ mental health. Paid the bill and got back on the sidewalks.

As the clock progressed, the temperature went down, but women seemed to be immune as they kept their legs free. Females don’t feel cold as males don’t feel ashamed to say the things they say. Another bar top and once again alone listening to other people’s conversations. They talked about super heroes, TV shows, about how each kind of liquor puts you in a different mood. Whisky makes you wanna fight, tequila relaxes you and gin they did not know because they never go heavy on it. They said all of that and the guy serving from behind the counter agreed. There are no real bartenders in town, I guess. I stood strong on whisky and beer and then I got the hell out of there.

At the dorm again. It smelled like men. Through the darkness all that you could hear was a snoring pattern like someone was about to die. It was not a starting and ending respiratory cycle, but chaotic, loud noise of collapsing lungs struggling to capture a glimpse of vicious air. What a nightmare for anyone without earplugs, which was not my case. Before inserting my plugs I farted loudly. Two thunderous sequences of blasting gasses. My filthy homage to the shy Korean sleeping next to me. Woke up next morning, had shower and headed to the lobby to get coffee.

She was working on something and all that I could see was her back, her mask straps and her strong calves inside black pants. Short, nice legs, I bet she is Asian. When she turned herself, the eyes told me the truth. As they say, eyes never lie. Her name was Liza and to pronounce such a name you need to caress the roof of the mouth with the tip of your tongue. Is not like Jane or Tricia, names that you just compress cheeks and lips to say it out loud. Liza requires a gentle licking test and that, if not poetic, is suggestive indeed. I drank my coffee while talking to her. Maybe lunch later, after she finished her shift? Should I be so forward? Fuck it. Left my phone number on a note. Every time she took the mask off to drink her milky tea I contemplated the spicy beauty in which she was molded. It smelled like Chai and I had my senses sharpened.

It was a freezing day and to walk around the city brought me to think why I was not living in Philly yet. Colonial style architecture, street markets, dried golden leaves in every corner created a very romantic scenario. I wish I had a partner, someone to love and share all of that. I wish my heart was not like the streets, an empty and quiet pavemented road to nowhere.

Museum of Art, Rodin museum, museum of American revolution, Christmas market, check. All of that walking made me exhausted. I realized that I was not dressed properly to the moment as the sun was going down pulling the temperature with it. Got back to the hostel to change clothes and it was on time to see Liza leaving. We got together for Indian food. I had lamb biryani and she had some kind of Indian burrito because she doesn’t eat meat. Social vegans avoid meet but I am not one of them. After lunch we went for a milkshake. Strawberry and salted caramel and whipped cream. Sweet, because no good impression was ever made without high sugar levels. She went to the train station right after it and said goodbye. She was kind and I appreciated her company. Wandering around I got mesmerized by Christmas lights and how well dressed the citizens of Pennsylvania were. From their noses, a dense white smoke of air would come out and disappear into the night.

Got my cigarettes and started the ritual of hating myself once again. I bought the American Spirit, organic tobacco with a native Indian printed in the pack. How audacious is the marketing science to make me see those cigarettes as pure, ancient, even healthy. What is the human mind other than a limitless mechanism of justifying itself? Close to Penn Center I found a saxophone player blowing notes into the air. Musicians bring to life emotions raised in the heart, mediated by the brain, lead by hands and he had no gloves on. It was raw feelings. There was a bookstore just in front of the square and I asked myself if I would ever have my books available in a shop like that. Maybe I don’t even finish what I am writing before dying, who knows? Found a pub and based my elbows on the bar top. The bartender this time was a girl, a beautiful one, like the type of woman that makes every guy hope that she would flirt with him. Her name was Rachel, with one round nose piercing and red lipstick on and black shirt and tight jeans making every walk away a precious moment to admire that bubble butt. I found out she was lesbian when she made some joke pointing the index and middle fingers up.

– This is how I have sex! – she said, revealing her tongue and another piercing.

Yeah, pretty Rachel, I got you, men stink. As she turned her curves back to me with my beer and whisky, I recognized the song playing in the jukebox.

– This is Easy to come home – I said.

– I am sorry?

– The song, by Dojo Cuts and Roxie Ray.

– Oh, you know this song for real?

– Yeah, baby. It even sounds like my own playlist – I said.

– Interesting. Where are you from? – she asked.

– Why don’t you guess?

– Mmm, Slovenia?

– No.

– Croatia?

– No.

– Ukraine?

– Nope. I wonder why people think I am from Eastern Europe – I said.

– Well, you actually don’t look like a guy named Boris or Ivan.

– Yeah, you’re right. My name is Achilles.

– GREECE! – she said with that sexual index finger pointing at me

– Nope.

– Geez, where the hell you come from, mister?

– I am probably going to hell, but I am from Brazil.

– How exotic! What brings you here?

– Research on humans and their interactions, their sorrows, their faults and intentions.

– Am I part of your analysis? – she asked.

– I am afraid not, ma’am.

On the other side of the bar there was a girl reacting to our conversation. Asian girl, drinking a bottle of Heineken and discreetly laughing. I heard her telling Rachel she was from Indonesia. Don’t remember what she was doing in Philly though, but I bet she misses that tropical paradise. Oh yes, she must miss it. She better not be a psycho. Rachel then told me that I had six minutes left to finish my drinks, even after my generous 10 dollars tip. Heartless white girls, they are everywhere. One single gulp and I was done. Had one more walk around the block to check things out. Nothing was going on and I headed back to the hostel. Maybe I should be a good boy and go to sleep. I could hear the melancholic sax music hitting my ears, I could hear Liza speaking her tongue-tied cute sentences, I could hear the last audio message telling me that I “was not ready yet” haunting me. I was drunk, freezing but I had no hat on, which was good to keep my ideas cooling down. As I opened the main door at the hostel, I saw the Indonesian girl at the end of the hall, heading to the female dorm.

– Hey! – I said.

– Oh, hi – she said.

– You were at the bar, right?

– Yes.

– I am hungry.

– I am not food –  she said.

– I mean, I want to go for food. Would you like to join me?

– Ok. Where are we going?

– Not to Indonesia, for sure – I said.

– Silly boy, you heard that, didn’t you?

– Philly is home to Steak and Cheese sandwiches. That’s the destination.

– Ok, you gonna order an Uber? – she asked.

– No way, I am walking there.

– How far?

– 39 minutes – I said.

– Oh!

– Are you coming?

– Yes.

So I hit the streets with an empty stomach, dizzy head and resilient legs. Yes, I could have ordered a cab, but what kind of urban exploration is that applied to comfort? One must endure tough conditions in order to reserve oneself to mix with the rabble. I don’t know how intoxicated she was, but I was inebriated enough to think that everything was perfect and there was no current affair in my life that could bring me down. So naive.

How empty, how dark, how cold were the streets. I felt like I was walking inside myself. Sally was telling me stories from Asia but I could not focus at all. Too many things going on at the same time. Suddenly, salvation. A dive bar was on the way. Got inside and the environment was just perfect in a tight, narrow bar with that specific smell of beer-soaked wood. If you get inside a place that doesn’t smell like that, the place is simply too fancy. All sorts of people were there and the bartender looked like a real one. Tattoos, chains around the neck and wrist, readiness to pour the beer in front of us. I could hear a bark and that got my attention.

– Is there a dog here, brother?

– Yeah, he is on the way, close to the bathroom. His name is Burger.

I instantly left my glass on the counter and went to find my friend. There he was, a brown and white short tailed boxer. Licks on my face and I felt loved again. Only a dog can make you feel that way. I realized that by rearranging the letters, dogs become gods. Oh, that could be really offensive to some people. Better not to tell anyone. Burger got obsessed with my gloves and he was about to destroy them. Took a leak and the urinol was from Germany. Berger, the big white porcelain bowl drinking my crystal clear piss. Got back to Sally and finished my beer at once. There was this guy telling us about how he used to work with marketing but now he was making cookies. At least you can eat the cookies, I thought. 

Nine more minutes of not-that-straight steps and I finally saw it, Pat’s King of Steaks. I am the king of mistakes.

The sandwich is ready in 10 seconds after you order it. It is just delicious, especially when you are drunk. And cold. Cold and drunk and hungry and hopeless. But with some dollars in my pocket. So, I got that goin for me. There were free jalapeños as a side. Oh boy, that made me really happy. Dr Pepper took care that all the disgusting matter went smoothly down straight to my belly. Also, it made me sober up a little, but not enough to hop on a car. Feet on the ground, thoughts in the sky, hands in the pockets, back to the hostel we headed. Once we got there, poor Sally made me feel how cold her skin was. Oh Lord, forgive me. She was close to hypothermia. I felt really bad, but fuck it, there was nothing else I could do. So, I went to sleep. Woke up to Liza messaging me that the Indonesian girl was looking for me. Haha, I thought. Literally, my thinking got stuck on laughing. While I was showering, the maintenance man got inside the bathroom and when he left the door was open. I waited. He didn’t close it and he was there. It felt that he just wanted to see my white ass or to make me feel cold. Sad news, he got neither of that.

I went to the Reading Market Terminal and got some cajun food. Gator sausage, beef, chicken, rice all together in a spicy jambalaya. The lady that served me was kind, so kind, that I didn’t even mind leaving 20 bucks there. Wait, that dish was only nine dollars. Well, that is what kindness can do. As I went for a coffee, Liza texted me saying that she was joining me for food. Chinatown was cool, but Liza was cooler. I went back to the market and decided to have more food with my friend. Her hair was beautiful and her forehead was not greasy. Her lips were dry but I resisted the will to offer my hemp lip balm. Not enough intimacy for that. She got some Honduran food and I got Chinese roasted duck. She opened her jacket and I could tell there was no bra hugging those special boobs. Green spaghetti straps revealing sublime nipples getting hard from time to time. Some lucky man must enjoy that abundance. She told me that a few men, actually, were having a good time with her. We started this tell-me-a-secret game and it was pretty neat to know that she has an erotic online account where she shows her body for money. Super exciting, let me be real. How curious is it that we can go deep in honest talks with a total stranger but not with someone that you know so well? Tell me anything – they say – and I will not judge you – they say. Yeah, right. Then, you say something and instantly become the antichrist. What a life. After the meal I got some middle eastern dessert for us called baklava. Liza lived in Idaho and recently my new favorite song says something about being hard to stand living in a cold state like that. What a nice coincidence. I showed her the song and she also shared her most played tune. We ended in a bar called Milk and I had two Negronis while she asked for Gin and Tonic. Classy. She tried my Negroni with such a shy sip that I had to stop and let her know that it was the wrong way of tasting an alcoholic beverage. I insist, please try it again. One gotta know how to use the tongue. She did it but still didn’t like it much. Ok, life goes on.

– You could spit in my drink and I would drink it happily – I said.

– What was that?

– You, your saliva, Liza. I don’t know but I feel like it would taste incredible.

– You’re crazy.

I know that, but I literally meant it. In my mind she would raise my glass close to her mouth and, with those pretty dark eyes fixed on me, spit a large amount of sweet Liza’s juice in it. I imagined all of that in a second and got a hardon. Well, another one. It’s been such a long time since I had sex that my pants had a tough time being punctured by my cock all day long. I walked her to the train station again. That was the final goodbye. Maybe we will meet in Reno, one day. Maybe we get married, I get American citizenship and she gets the Brazilian one. Would that mean a honeymoon? I need to calm down.

I found a place to sit where the Constitution of the United States was signed. My nostrils were numb and I recapped recent memories. Drinks, walks, talks, folks, dogs, no gods or locks. I could sleep for three hours before going to the airport and that’s what I did.