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Maneuvers


    Maneuvers

Suddenly it was clear to me why we fall in love. A clumsy encounter and an eternal
postponing of our life, putting off what we fear the most. It could only be that.
By Lúcia Leão

As irmãs Rita e Marta gostavam de namorar.

E namoravam muito.

A mãe dizia que aquilo ainda iria fazer mal ao cérebro e talvez até ao coração,
mas elas continuavam demorando-se nas escadarias com todos os meninos do prédio. E
voltavam cedo da aula para pintar as unhas, colorir os cabelos e afinar as sobrancelhas.

A mãe também se aprontava nesses cuidados. Eram bastante parecidas, as três.

As meninas eram alegres e conheciam todos os porteiros de todos os outros prédios da
rua. Neles moravam outros meninos, e outras escadas as recebiam pintadas, renovadas, em
plena juventude de hormônios.

Quando chegou a hora de escolher a profissão, estenderam-se no sofá da sala, as
três, e entre esmaltes, Cocas light e batatas fritas ruidosas, descobriram que não havia
muito a escolher. A vida prometia ser dura. O tempo passaria, e disso não tinham a menor
dúvida.

Eram inteligentes. Rita mais do que Marta. Porém Marta era mais tranqüila.

Uma decidiu pela veterinária e a outra seguiu os passos da mãe. Seria advogada e
provavelmente logo se aposentaria por piscinas, empregadas, crianças e jantares. Por fim,
usaria sua lábia nos bares para acomodar deseaw6kx que estariam sempre deslocados.

Mas antes disso elas namoravam, porque era isso que gostavam de fazer. Não queriam se
prender. Resistiam a compromissos tanto quanto as outras resistiam a se entregar. A
liberdade delas era mais esperta, nem mesmo seu corpo as comandava. Eram apenas aqueles
garotos, meninos, homens que nunca as censuravam.

Quando um se apaixonava de verdade elas até ficavam sérias, mas logo em seguida se
despediam pelo caminho, abrindo a porta do carro e saindo só com a bolsa. A consciência
sempre tranqüila.

Marta jogava tênis e tinha pernas bronzeadas e rígidas. O sorriso era meio preso,
deixando a impressão de que se continha para esgares mais particulares.

Rita sabia bem como ter gestos de sensível quando no fundo a alma era fria e isolada.
Seria ela que mais tarde não saberia achar a explicação correta para a vida dentro de
sua retórica e apelaria para o previsível desafogo no álcool.

Quando liguei o rádio e deixei Rita entrar no carro ela logo cruzou os braços. Eu
pude ver uma pulseira fina e prateada desenhando um caminho de fantasia. Quis tocá-la
imediatamente mas me contive, e ela, percebendo a pressa, desfez a dobra da pele e pediu
que eu mudasse de estação.

—Esse rádio está me descompondo.

Começou bem, eu pensei, o vocabulário revela inteligência. Mal sabia que ela queria
ter dito "distraindo" e que tinha usado outra palavra por pressa e insolência.
Não dava a mínima, queria apenas que eu parasse com aquela música.

Desliguei o rádio e perguntei aonde queria ir. Ela disse que um cinema cairia bem. Que
já tinha até escolhido um filme e que sabia como chegar lá.

Tanta independência, o que eu faço com ela?

—Qual é o filme?

—É aquele da moça que foge correndo no dia do casamento.

Ah, não. Uma comédia romântica. Ela não tinha cara dessas coisas. Mas também, quem
sabe no fundo mulher fosse tudo igual mesmo. E as notícias sobre essa fossem apenas um
engano.

—Só tem uma coisa. Estou com muita fome. Não podemos comer antes?

Seu jeito de me olhar me desconcertou. De repente surgiu em seu rosto um tal sintoma
que eu nunca poderia ter nomeado se ela mesma não o tivesse feito antes. E na maior
inconseqüência declarou:

—Acho que podemos, sim. Você é interessante. Quero conversar mais antes de ver o
filme—, sem a mínima afetação, foi como falou.

Tanta independência, e eu, o que eu faço com ela?

Fomos.

Chegamos lá, pedi um sanduíche. Tinha ficado na praia o dia inteiro e a curiosidade
com a Rita tinha me deixado mais salgado ainda. Passara o dia todo quase dentro d’água,
coisa que nunca fazia. Mal podia parar na areia e esperar as horas passarem
até pegá-la na portaria do prédio.

—É aquele do fim da rua—, ela tinha me dito na hora de se despedir na noite
anterior—Pode passar lá às oito e meia.

Agora eu olhava para ela tentando esquecer o que tinha sentido depois de ouvir aquele
encontro que ela havia marcado. Queria saber o que nela era real e não memorizar apenas o
meu desejo.

Eu morria de medo de me apaixonar. Mas não sabia bem o que procurava.

E aquela independência toda, o que será que produzia nela?

Durante o filme ficamos soltos. Ela ria quando era para rir. Sorria para mim quando eu
pedia, tocando de leve seu ombro. E me deu um beijo profundo no final, antes da cena em
que o casal se beija. Tinha jeito de quem quer viver como no cinema.

Saímos e fomos andar na praia. A areia estava fina. As luzes manchavam o calçadão de
sombras de nós mesmos. Fazia um frio sonolento, quase frio, era abril. Rita usava um
suéter vinho, que estava na verdade jogado sobre a camiseta branca com decote redondo. Eu
percebia isso tudo como se fosse um costureiro. Na verdade, como se olhasse a minha irmã
antes de sair. Eu tinha a mania de censurar suas roupas, como se protegê-la dos outros
homens fosse o meu papel. Ela nunca dava atenção e saía assim como Rita, como saem as
meninas, sem grandes novidades. Elas sabem que o corpo no fundo de tudo, aquele corpo que
o tecido encobre e mascara, é na verdade uma mistura sincrônica de sorrisos, olhares e
porquês. E que o mistério que cerca tudo isso é muito maior do que possa prever
qualquer um de nós.

Voltei rapidamente o olhar para os braços de Rita.

—Estou com frio, me dá um abraço—falou, parando na minha frente e
esperando.

Eu dei.

Eu a abracei quente. Eu falei "Rita".

Ela me abraçou morna. Eu falei "Rita".

Eu disse Rita e me apaixonei pelo que disse. Pelas sombras, pelos braços, pela voz de
Rita dizendo me dá um abraço. E me esqueci de quem era Rita.

Na manhã seguinte eu já tinha me esquecido mais ainda. Rita era o nome dela. Era só
isso.

Fui um dos que se apaixonou por Rita. Fui a causa de tanta tragédia na vida de Rita
apenas por isso. Penso sempre que fui o único a fazer com que ela murmurasse mais suave,
mas depois me lembro de que não, de que essa é a ilusão que ela nunca tentou produzir.
De que foi por essas e por outras que um dia a peguei pelo braço fino e quase bati nela,
em pleno descontrole. Que estava sempre querendo chegar em casa para encontrá-la e que
ela estava sempre em algum outro lugar. Que enchia e esvaziava copos diante de mim e
depois dizia novamente, em grande ironia de vida e de madrugada.

—Estou com frio—, quase chorava—, me dá um abraço.

E eu já nem sabia mais como fazer.

Marta foi outra história. No dia em que a encontrei havia passado para pegar uma
mochila esquecida no apartamento do Márcio. Ela morava no apartamento de baixo e o
Márcio se divertia esperando que chegasse da escola para vê-la despir a blusa, depois a
saia e conversar com Rita, às gargalhadas, até que a mãe entrasse e ficassem as três
avaliando seus cortes de cabelo, o desenho dos dedos dos pés com unhas pintadas de
chocolate que era a cor da moda.

Era claro que elas sabiam que as janelas da frente continham olhos amassados por
detrás das cortinas só para vê-las. Elas adoravam e desprezavam essa brincadeira.

Passei na casa do Márcio por volta das três e meia e estava atrasado para a
gravação. Precisava urgentemente pegar as fitas para levar para o estúdio e a última
coisa em que pensava era em perder meu compromisso.

Era uma quarta-feira, o dia em que Marta teria aulas de tênis às cinco. Por isso,
despia-se rápida e febril, já pensando no espetáculo que eram suas pernas, em como
precisava depilá-las bem lisas e no modo cínico em que o professor a elogiava.

—Você bate bem—, ele dizia, de lado—, só precisava ter um pouco mais
de suavidade.

Ria o sorriso preso para ele, que tinha uma voz linda mas que não a interessava. Era
mais velho e muito magro.

Eu a vi em um dia desses, sem nenhuma malícia, eu vinha pegar umas fitas. Até hoje me
lembro. Ela tinha no máximo dezenove anos nessa época e ainda mudaria muito ao longo dos
anos.

Ela falava devagar com a empregada que entrou no quarto justo na hora em que iria tirar
o sutiã. E eu parei morto no minuto em que a vi abaixar-se para coçar levemente o
tornozelo. Ela tinha uma pequena tatuagem que eu não via de onde estava. Márcio é que
me contou:

—É um par de asas minúsculo, tão pequeno que quase não se vê—, dizia,
entusiasmado—. Mas os peitos também, olhe bem, não são lá essas coisas de
grandes.

Eu comecei a achar tudo perfeito. Os peitos. A chuva que começou a cair nas persianas
externas abafando os comentários de Márcio e sendo um ótimo motivo para meu atraso
consumado. Os gestos de Marta soltando os cabelos castanhos claros e mordendo o elástico
com raiva quando este se recusou a soltá-los de vez.

O que eu faria com aquela força contida que ela expunha a si mesma, tão sozinha?

Um pouco depois eu estava na sua porta, de frente para o 401 de metal dourado, batendo
como se fosse de manhãzinha e eu trouxesse as notícias do dia impessoalmente.

—Podia falar com a Marta?—me sentia como um galã de novela mexicana. Até
porque tenho as sobrancelhas espessas e os cabelos tão escuros quanto eles.

—Você é o Felipe?

—Não, sou o Ricardo, amigo do Márcio, do 604.

—Ah!—foi só o que falou a empregada. Como se os nomes e números fossem a
mesma espécie. Homens vêm em dúzias, ela devia pensar morando naquela casa.—Espera
aí que ela já vem.

Só aí me dei conta do absurdo. Devia ter sido o nervoso com a gravação, eu querendo
atrasar uma coisa tão importante e de puro medo tentando me envolver com uma estranha de
quem tinha visto demais mas nem tanto assim.

Só podia ser isso. Aquele adiamento tão meu conhecido que me fazia adiar as
composições, as visitas ao hospital onde minha mãe mal se recuperava, a ida ao
barbeiro, ao dentista. De repente me veio clara a explicação de por que nos apaixonamos.
Um cruzamento atrapalhado e um adiamento eterno da nossa vida e do que mais temos medo.
Só podia ser isso. Por que estaria eu batendo na porta de uma estranha, tão mais nova do
que eu e ainda por cima com aquela fama?

—Oi, Ricardo. Você é amigo do Márcio?

Ela estava de short branco e camiseta verde escura. Os olhos eram claros e a boca já
me traçava pesadelos.

—É, eu vim aqui e…—será que conseguiria ir em frente?—e acabei
vendo você lá de cima, do 604.

Ela sorriu o meio-sorriso, já vencedora de mim.

—E aí?

—Aí que eu queria…—olhei para as pernas e tentei ver as pequenas asas.
Elas não se moviam.—Eu queria saber se você não quer matar a aula de tênis hoje e
tomar um chopp comigo.

Aquilo definitivamente era a chuva, era a fita, era a música nos meus ouvidos. Ela era
definitivamente meu atraso.

—Quero, sim. Vou trocar a roupa.

E eu pensei em Márcio olhando tudo lá em cima. Iria se deliciar mais uma vez em
poucos minutos com a nudez sem surpresas de Marta.

A empregada perguntou se eu queria entrar, eu disse não, me envergonhei, quis entrar
depois mas já não dava tempo, lembrei que não gostava de chopp e que devia desconfiar
de quem aceita um convite assim de algum desconhecido batendo à porta sem aviso.

—Conheço o Márcio há muito tempo—, ela logo avisou quando subíamos na
moto. A sorte é que a chuva havia parado.—Ele é legal.

Então ela sabia que precisava se defender dizendo que não saía com estranhos. Como
se eu não soubesse. Como se o bairro fosse muito grande, e o meu ficasse assim tão
distante que eu não tivesse tido conhecimento de todos os rumores.

—Marta—, eu falei.—Acabei de perder um grande compromisso por sua
causa—, e encostei a mão na perna dela.

Ela quase encostou a boca no meu ouvido e respondeu:—Eu também.

Eu ri pensando que as mulheres são estranhas e que aquela era apenas mais uma delas.
Como podia comparar a aula de tênis à primeira reunião para a gravação do meu
primeiro CD?

Marta ficou pensativa, com certeza imaginando, como me contaria muito depois, se teria
valido a pena afinal deixar o professor de tênis esperando-a desesperado em seu
apartamento onde iria pela primeira vez para sair com um cara barbado, magro também e que
parecia tão alucinado ou mais do que ela.

*

Quando nos encontramos os quatro, eu, Rita, Marta e ele, era noite escura. Os casais
não combinavam absolutamente.

Marta tinha ainda as belas pernas que fizeram história e Rita o olhar arredio e
ciumento de si mesma que me prendia em pretensões de amor. Ela continuava querendo se
superar na independência e eu nem mais querendo tocar a dor que sentia e aliviá-la.

Bebemos muito, nós dois. Marta e Ricardo saíram cedo porque ela tinha que participar
de uma cirurgia na manhã seguinte. Ricardo falou pouco, mas segurou as mãos de Marta
como se fossem um troféu. Um distanciamento, um desejo, eu pensava, esvaziado.

Eu fiquei ao lado de Rita por mais alguns minutos e depois me levantei sem nem me
despedir. Havia começado a fazer isso nas nossas saídas noturnas. Depois ela ia para
casa como podia. Às vezes só voltava de manhã. Outras me ligava de algum telefone, eu
não atendia, ela desligava e eu começava a remendar desculpas para não ter ido ao seu
encontro. Eu ainda me sentia culpado. Afinal, eu lhe havia prometido o que antes ela sabia
não existir. Aquilo que pensei sentir desde sempre e que julguei que fosse dela. Eu
conseguira convencê-la, destoá-la. Ela entendeu que eu tinha uma verdade. Acreditou e
acreditou tanto que por fim se abandonou em mim. Isso custou alguns anos, mas eu tinha
sido persistente.

Depois de algum tempo comigo, ela acreditou. Ela me abraçou um dia tão terna que eu
mal a reconheci. Tive medo de perdê-la para sempre nesse dia. E eu a perdi no meio do que
imaginei que poderia sentir.

Mas ela sempre teve razão. A história de Marta e Ricardo era só mais uma prova e eu
sabia que o jantar com eles a deixaria mais deprimida. Por isso me afastava, ia embora.
Já bastava a minha depressão. Eu não sabia como deixá-la agora, por isso a deixava aos
poucos, largando-a nos restaurantes, bares, praias, hotéis. No nosso quarto por tantas
vezes eu a larguei também.

É que só restava em mim a pergunta, a vontade de saber para onde tinham ido todas as
horas de susto e de falta, de projetos e passeios nos quais a olhava maravilhado por tanta
solidão.

Eu desfiz Rita de tal modo que ela mesma se desfez e não restou nada para eu
interpretar. Nem as palavras, nem as músicas preferidas, nem mesmo os outros homens.

Ricardo e Marta eram outra história.

Ricardo amaria Marta até o último momento. Um amor ainda um pouco curioso. Até
porque para ele custara mais, muito mais entender.

Elas eram duas mulheres agora.

Nós, dois homens, Ricardo bem mais velho do que eu. Por isso, talvez, mais conformado.

Quando as duas se levantaram e foram ao banheiro, pude perceber que ele olhava para sua
mulher com uma mistura de satisfação e cansaço. Ela era sua.

Na mesa do lado, dois outros casais conversavam e duas outras mulheres se levantaram.
Nós as acompanhamos com os olhos antigos.

—Ricardo, eu nunca tinha percebido como somos parecidos.

—Eu e você?—ele perguntou, incrédulo.—Como pode ser isso?

—Tenho até uma idéia para uma música…

E ele me interrompeu:—Não seja irônico.—sabia o que estava por vir.

—Não, sério. Começaria assim:

Ricardo e Bruno gostavam muito de namorar.

E namoravam muito.

—Bruno, elas estão vindo.

Eu dei uma gargalhada. Ele ainda a amava. Era triste para mim perceber.

—Vamos, Marta?—perguntou decidido, já levando-a pela mão.

Eu não, eu preferia descansar a dor.

E Rita, a minha Rita, a dos braços finos buscando no fundo de tudo aquilo a fantasia
que eu lhe havia inventado.

Rita, Rita, Rita, eu diria, já deitado, de manhã, ao lado de uma outra mulher
qualquer.

Copyright by Lúcia Leão

Lúcia Leão (Lucialeao@aol.com)
was born in Rio de Janeiro and now lives in Florida. She is a translator who works from
Spanish, French and English into Portuguese. The holder of a master’s degree in Brazilian
literature and a master’s degree in print journalism, she writes short stories almost as
much as she translates. A collection of her short stories may be published in Brazil in
2000.


Maneuvers

Suddenly it was clear to me why we fall in love. A clumsy encounter and an eternal
postponing of our life, putting off what we fear the most. It could only be that.

Lúcia Leão

The sisters Rita and Marta liked to make out with guys.

And they did it a lot.

Their mother said that sooner or later this would be bad for the brain and maybe even
for the heart. But they continued hanging out on the stairs with all the boys in the
apartment building. And returning from class early to paint their nails, tint their hair
and pluck their eyebrows.

Their mother also engaged in these self-care projects. The three of them were actually
very similar.

The young women were happy and knew all the doormen of all the other apartment
buildings on the street. In these buildings lived other boys, and other staircases hosted
them in all the make-up laden, touched up, hormone-fueled bloom of their youth.

When the time came for them to choose a profession, the three of them spread out on the
living-room sofa surrounded by fingernail polish bottles, diet colas, and noisy potato
chips. They discovered they had few choices. Life promised to be difficult. Time would
pass, and of this they had no doubt.

They were intelligent, Rita more so than Marta. But Marta was more relaxed.

One decided to become a veterinarian; and the other, to follow in their mother’s
footsteps. She would be a lawyer, probably soon to abandon her profession and devote
herself fulltime to swimming pools, maids, children and dinners. She would wind up using
her conversational skills in the bars to accommodate desires that would always be
inappropriate.

But before all this was to happen, they made out with guys because this was what they
liked to do. Neither of them wanted to be tied down with one boyfriend. They resisted all
proposals, the same way that other young women resist going all the way. Their sense of
freedom was so acute that it ruled them even more than their very bodies. But all those
boys, youths, men never censured them.

Whenever young men really fell in love with them, they would even take it seriously.
But soon enough they said good-bye in the street, opening the car door and leaving with
nothing but their purse. Never with a guilty conscience.

Marta played tennis and had tanned, firm legs. Her smile was rather fixed, leaving the
impression that more specific grimaces would follow.

Rita knew very well how to act sensitive when, deep down, her soul was cold and lonely.
She was the one who later would be unable to use her empty rhetoric to find the right
answer, the meaning of life, and would resort to the all-too-predictable release of
alcohol.

When I turned on the radio and let Rita into the car, she crossed her arms right away.
I could see a slender, silverish bracelet, a path of fantasy ready for me. Although I
wanted to touch her right away, I resisted, and she, noticing my hurry, unfolded
her arms and asked me to change the radio station.

"That radio is disconcerting me."

She made a good start, I thought. Her vocabulary shows intelligence. Little did I know
that she had meant to say "distracting" and had used the other word because she
was in a hurry and insolent. This didn’t matter to her; she merely wanted me to stop that
music.

I turned off the radio and asked where she wanted to go. She said that the movies would
be fine. That she had already chosen the film and knew how to get there.

Such independence. Whatever was I to do with her?

"What’s the film?"

"The one about the girl who takes off running on her wedding day."

Oh, no. A romantic comedy. She didn’t look like the type. But then, who knows if all
women are alike? And maybe the news I’d heard about her was merely mistaken.

"Just one thing. I’m really hungry. Can’t we eat first?"

I found her way of looking at me disconcerting. Suddenly an expression passed over her
face that I would never have been able to identify had she not already done so herself.

And, as if it were unimportant, she simply said, "Yes, I think we can. You’re
interesting. I want to talk to you before seeing the film." Spoken without the least
affectation.

Such independence. Whatever was I to do with her?

We drove off.

When we arrived, I ordered a sandwich. I had spent the entire day on the beach and my
curiosity about Rita had left me feeling even saltier. I’d stayed in the water almost all
day, something unusual for me. I had no patience to lie on the sand counting the hours
until I could pick her up in the lobby of her building.

"It’s the one at the end of the street," she had told me when we said
good-bye to each other the night before. "You can come by at 8:30."

Now as I looked at her, I was trying to forget what I had felt when she’d made that
date with me. I wanted to find out what was real about her instead of just remembering
that stab of desire.

I was scared to death of falling in love. But I didn’t really know what I was looking
for.

And all her independence, what could have caused it?

We stayed apart while we watched the film. She laughed when it was appropriate. She
smiled at me when I asked for a smile by touching her lightly on the shoulder. And she
gave me a deep kiss at the end, just before the scene when the couple on the screen
kissed. She acted like someone who wanted her life to be like a movie.

We left the theater and went for a walk on the beach. The sand was fine. The lights
mottled our shadows on the wide sidewalk. The weather was almost cold, a cold that made
you dizzy. It was April. Rita was wearing a wine-colored sweater, tossed over her white
tee shirt with a rounded, plunging neckline. I noticed all this as if I were a dressmaker.
As if, to tell the truth, I were looking at my sister before she went out on a date. I had
the habit of censuring her clothes, as if protecting her from other men were my role in
life. She never paid any attention to my comments and went out looking just like Rita,
like all young women do when they go out. Nothing new there. They know that the body,
after all, that body that the fabric covers and masks, is in truth a simultaneous mix of
smiles, glances and whys. And that the mystery enclosing all of this is much greater than
any of us could ever foresee.

I rapidly turned my gaze to Rita’s arms.

"I’m cold. Give me a hug," she said, stopping in front of me and waiting.

I gave her a hug.

I gave her a warm hug. "Rita," I said.

She hugged me, lukewarm herself.

"Rita," I said.

I said "Rita" and fell in love with what I had said. With the shadows, her
arms, her voice saying, "Give me a hug." And I forgot who Rita was.

The next morning I had forgotten even more. Rita was her name. Nothing more.

I was one of the guys who fell in love with Rita. Because of this I was the cause of so
much tragedy in her life. I always think that I was the only one to make her murmur
softly, only to later remember that, no, she had never tried to create this illusion. That
because of these and other illusions one day I grabbed her by her slender arm and,
completely out of control, almost hit her. That I always wanted to return home to find her
and that she was always somewhere else. That she filled and emptied glasses in front of me
and then, almost crying, she repeated, full of irony about life and about the dawn,
"I’m cold. Give me a hug."

And that I didn’t even know how to do it anymore.

Marta was another story.

The day I met her I had gone over to pick up a backpack I’d forgotten in Márcio’s
apartment. She lived in the lower apartment, and Márcio had a good time waiting for her
to return home from school, take off her blouse, then her skirt, and stand talking with
Rita, both of them laughing their heads off, until their mother entered the room and all
three of them stood there evaluating their haircuts and the polish on their toenails,
which was chocolate colored since that was the style at the time.

They obviously knew that hidden behind the curtains on the other side of the windows
facing them were eyes watching
their every move. They loved this game and scorned it, too.

I dropped in to see Márcio around 3:30 and was already late for the recording session.
I needed to pick up the tapes as fast as I could and take them to the studio. The last
thing I meant to do was miss my appointment.

It was a Wednesday, the day that Marta had tennis class at five. That was why she
undressed quickly and feverishly, already thinking about how spectacular her legs were,
about how she needed to wax them smooth, and about how her tennis instructor was always
cynically praising her.

"That was a good stroke," he said beside her. "Just try to be a little
smoother."

Laughing, she turned her fixed smile to him. He had a nice voice but did not interest
her. He was older and very skinny.

It was one of those Wednesdays when I first saw her. Completely guileless, I had come
to pick up some tapes. I remember it to this day. She wasn’t more than nineteen at that
time and would change a lot as the years went by.

She was slowly talking to the maid who had come into the room just as she was about to
take off her bra. And I almost dropped dead when she bent down to scratch her ankle
lightly. She had a small tattoo that I couldn’t see. It was Márcio who told me about it.

"It’s a pair of tiny wings, so small you can hardly see it," he said
enthusiastically. "But her breasts, check them out, are not that big either."

I was beginning to think that everything was perfect. Her breasts. The rain starting to
fall on the blinds outside, drowning out Márcio’s remarks and serving as a perfect excuse
for me to be late. Marta’s gestures as she freed her light chestnut hair and bit the
rubber band angrily when it refused to come off easily.

What would I do with that contained force that she exposed to herself, so all alone?

A little later I was at her door, facing the number 401 in gold metal, knocking as if
it were early morning and I were impersonally bringing the latest news.

"May I speak with Marta?" I felt like a Mexican soap opera star, especially
because I have their heavy eyebrows and dark hair.

"Are you Felipe?"

"No, I’m Ricardo, a friend of Márcio in Apartment 604."

"Oh," was all the maid said. As if names and numbers were all the same to
her. Men come in dozens, she must have thought, living in that household. "Wait here.
She’s coming."

It was only then that I realized how ridiculous this was. I must have been nervous
about the recording session. Wanting to delay something that was so important. Out of
sheer terror I was trying to get involved with a stranger I had already seen too much of
but about whom I actually didn’t know anything.

That’s the only explanation. My tendency to procrastinate that made me postpone my
compositions, my visits to the hospital where my mother was barely recovering, my trips to
the barber and the dentist. Suddenly it was clear to me why we fall in love. A clumsy
encounter and an eternal postponing of our life, putting off what we fear the most. It
could only be that. Why else would I be knocking on the door of a stranger, someone so
much younger than me? Someone, moreover, with that kind of reputation?

"Hi, Ricardo. Are you a friend of Márcio’s?"

She was wearing white shorts and a dark green tee shirt. Her eyes were blue and her
mouth was already outlining nightmares for me.

"Yes. Uh, well, I came here and…" Could I possibly go on with this?
"And I happened to see you from upstairs, from Apartment 604."

She flashed me her half-smile. She already knew she’d made a conquest.

"So?"

"Uh, I wanted…" I looked at her legs and tried to see the little wings.
They didn’t move. "I wanted to know if you’d like to cut your tennis class today and
go have a beer with me."

It was definitely the rain, the tape, the music ringing in my ears. She was definitely
my way of stalling.

"I would, yes. I’ll go change."

And I thought about Márcio watching all this from upstairs. In a few minutes he would
once again be enjoying Marta’s unsurprising nudity.

The maid asked if I wanted to come in. I said no. I was embarrassed. Then I tried to go
in but there wasn’t enough time. I remembered that I didn’t like beer and that I shouldn’t
trust someone who would accept an invitation from a stranger who’d unexpectedly knocked on
her door.

"I’ve known Márcio for ages," she informed me as soon as we got on my
motorcycle. Luckily the rain had stopped. "He’s a great guy."

Then she knew that she needed to defend herself by saying that she didn’t go out with
strangers. As if I didn’t know. As if the neighborhood were so large and as if I lived so
far away that I hadn’t heard the rumors about her.

"Marta," I said, "I just missed an important appointment because of
you." And I rested my hand on her leg.

She placed her mouth almost on my ear and said, "Me, too."

I laughed, thinking that women are strange and that she was merely one more of them.
How could she compare a tennis class to the first recording session for my first CD?

Marta fell quiet, thinking, certainly imagining, as she would tell me much later, that
it had been worth it, after all, to leave the tennis instructor desperately waiting for
her in his apartment where she was to go for the first time, so that she could go out with
a bearded guy who was too skinny and who seemed to be as crazy as she was, or maybe even
more so.

* * *

When the four of us got together—me, Rita, Marta and him—it was already dark.
The two couples absolutely did not get along.

Marta still had the beautiful legs that had made history, and Rita, the jealous,
lonesome gaze that had caught me in pretensions of love. She still wanted to surpass
herself in independence, and I no longer even wanted to relieve the pain that she was
feeling.

We drank a lot, the two of us. Marta and Ricardo left early because she had to take
part in a surgical operation the next morning. Ricardo didn’t talk much, but he held
Marta’s hands as if they were a trophy. A distancing, a desire, I thought, emptied of
desire.

I stayed beside Rita for a few minutes more and then got up without even saying
good-bye. I had begun doing this when we went out at night. Later she would go home
however she could. Sometimes she didn’t return until morning. Other times she’d call me
from a payphone somewhere. I wouldn’t answer the phone. She’d hang up, and I’d begin to
make up excuses as to why I hadn’t answered. I still felt guilty. After all, I’d promised
her something that she already knew didn’t exist. Something I thought I had always felt
and that I decided I thought belonged to her. I had succeeded in convincing her, in
changing her course. She understood that I had some truth. She believed and she believed
so much that finally she abandoned herself in me. This took a number of years, but I had
been persistent.

After some time with me, she believed it. One day she hugged me so tenderly that I
could hardly recognize her. That was the day that I was afraid I would lose her forever.
And lose her I did in the midst of what I’d imagined that I’d be able to feel.

But she was right all along. Marta and Ricardo’s story was just one more proof of this,
and I knew that the dinner with them would leave her even more depressed. That’s why I
pulled away; I left. My own depression was enough. I didn’t know how to leave her now;
that’s why I was leaving her little by little, letting go of her on beaches, in
restaurants, bars, hotels. Also, so many times, in our own room.

All that I have left is the question, the will to know, where did all those hours
go—those hours of fright and of missing her, of projects and walks? All the time I’d
spent looking at her, marveling at all her loneliness.

I undid Rita the same way that she undid herself, and there was nothing left for me to
interpret. Not the words, not the favorite songs, not even the other men.

Ricardo and Marta were another story.

Ricardo would love Marta forever. A love that still was a little curious. Even because
for him it had been much, much more difficult to understand.

They were two grown women now.

We were two men, Ricardo much older than I. Perhaps that was why he was more resigned.

When the two women got up and went into the restroom, I could see that he was watching
her with a mixture of satisfaction and fatigue. She belonged to him.

At the next table, two other couples were talking and the two other women got up. We
watched them out of habit.

"Ricardo, I had never noticed how alike we are."

"You and me?" he asked, incredulous. "Whatever do you mean?"

"I even have an idea for a song."

And he interrupted me. "Don’t be sarcastic." He knew what was coming.

"No, I’m serious. It would begin like this,

‘Ricardo and Bruno liked to make out with girls.

And they did it a lot.’"

"Bruno, they’re coming back."

I snorted. He still loved her. It was sad for me to see that.

"Shall we go, Marta?" he asked, taking her by the hand since he’d already
decided.

Not me. I prefer to give the pain a rest.

And Rita, my Rita, her two slender arms searching through all that for the fantasy that
I had invented for her.

"Rita, Rita, Rita," I would say in the morning, lying beside another woman,
any other woman whatsoever.

Translated by Linda Jerome

(LinJerome@cs.com)

Translation Copyright by Lúcia Leão

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