sexta-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2017

I am your mother...

Six-thirty, early evening.
I’m sitting in my favorite corner in this quiet and lonely bar which has the suggestive name of “Fernando’s Hideaway”.
Whether because customers are scarce or because he wants to retain originality, Fernando does without waiters. He himself writes the order, replaces the glasses and brings the bill. And cleans the tables.
The clatter of crockery from behind the scenes reveals the presence of another person, hidden, as the name of the bar suggests, wandering anonymously through the steam of the pots, the sizzling sound of the frying pan and the flow of water through the drain of the sink.
The time is still quiet, because only after eight the customers will begin to show up. Most of them are clandestine couples whispering mysteriously to the sound of a song that is actually the half-languid and half-amorphous syrup that one usually hears in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices amid tense and worried faces.
To escape this comparison, Fernando would need a recycling, both in music and decoration, although deep inside I like this peace of graveyard and this pasteurized sound.
As I am not a man of large crowds I retire to this favorite cloister at the end of every working day, which matches the amorphous environment of the government department I work as a single public servant attendant, what the Russian poets would call a “bureaucrat of the system”.
So, at a certain nightfall, when all the cats become greyish and all anonymous bureaucrats can be taken as accountants, managers or even somebody in a higher ranking, I was sipping a locally made Underberg on the rocks – the third of a regular quantity of five doses – when I started to listen to a conversation taking place at the next table, no more than two yards distant from mine.
They were not a couple, but two male friends exchanging family confidences.
The relative silence of the bar – located on a quiet side street three blocks away from the main avenue – and the shrill voice of the speaker (the other only heard and nodded) made it easier for me to hear.
I didn’t feel indiscreet, because after all I was there before they arrived, and having nothing else to do I paid attention to the colloquy, in fact an almost monologue.
The talking guy was commenting on someone that I soon realized was his daughter named Annie, “who is only two years old, but very smart and talkative!”
The man praised the beauty and intelligence of the child, descending to details that only interest to parents, while the other guy only heard between uninterested and annoyed and issued one or another interlocution.
“Everyone says my daughter is a lot like her grandma – my mother. I especially have noticed some very particular tricks that remind my mother, like tilting her  neck to the left when she was intrigued by something or squeezing the tip of her nose when she was upset”.
The other man nodded as if he were really paying attention, but at the same time called Fernando and ordered another beer.
The first man kept on talking.
“My mother died six years ago but I still live in the same house we used to live because it’s a family property and because I am an only child. I still feel her presence in the room as if she were there, in the same place, watching television, or even in the evenings in front of what used to be her bedroom.
My wife says she doesn’t believe in these things and that I should stop being silly. She even changed the furniture and transformed my mother’s room in a larder and wine cellar.
She also says that there is a lot of exaggeration when I refer to her similarity to little Annie.
‘A child looks like another child, not like a seventy-year oldie’ – she said.
I felt indignant by the way she meant my mother but I kept quiet to avoid other hassles.
But my wife had her reasons because she barely had time to meet my mother who died only a few weeks after we met, and she faces life with modernity, which prevents her from admitting the ghosts I dare to see and feel.
Another day little Annie was misbehaving in a way that parents can tolerate for a while and the bystanders feel like giving a spanking. ‘Throwing a tantrum’ – psychologists would say, ‘plain acting’ – grandparents would comment.
But Annie’s misbehavior began to get insistent and I began to lose the patience. After all, I had an education that, if not too severe was at least very firm and this education did not allow arguments with my parents about who was right and who was wrong.
So, because of the misbehavior and the attempt to defeat me by gestures and grunts I began to reprimand her, first affectionately as it should be with a two-year old child. Then, as the misbehaving increased I tried to reason and finally used my authority, maybe too incisively, given the age of the girl.
I spoke to her in a very harsh way, raising my voice and brandishing my index finger – ‘Annie darling, you should respect me because I am your father!’
There was a heavy silence and I feared the consequence of my sudden explosion – an expression of sadness or a convulsive cry.
But she remained static for a moment then looked seriously at me, pressed the tip of her little nose, bent her neck aside and said in a voice that was not childlike:
‘…and I am your mother!...’
I shut up, not without first having felt a wave of heat and cold raising up my spine.
My wife watched everything, gaping and staring, leaning against the doorframe.”

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