Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Portugal 3: On the way to Bom Jesus


Had it not been for that child, nothing would have been unusual: a father and a child having their lunch on a bench in MacDonald's on one sunny day in Portugal. The father took the child and went inside, soon the potato chips would be scattered; I would see pigeons and hear the monotonous sound of their beaks hitting the table. I took a bite of the sandwich, looked to the young ladies wearing the same style of blouse.

I must have moved the falling strips of my hair behind my ears, covered my sandwich and sank in the bench. The boy, would come now and find his potato chips gone. I was still contemplating the shoulderless blouse of the young lady opposite me. Looking towards the sun, I  was free of my clothes; I became an X-Ray skeleton, shooting the birds. In a book, one bird was fluttering and turned into a giant creature with wings. I put my hands on my cheek. Why would bats appear in daylight? I turned my eyes towards the shade. The man and the boy appeared, passed indifferently by the table, and left. I put the sandwich and the bottle of water in my bag;  I would move along, I said.

I was climbing the hill. Before coming here, I knew the hostel was close to university and I would go on foot. A year and seven months, I became an explorer (not the Internet one!), a human with shoe skates, going from Greaves to Alexandra Park, from Scotforth to town, from Dr Michael Owen Street to Minho University, from Minho University to Bom Jesus on foot.
 
In my room, my eyes would fall upon my shoes and a small pot of mint on the window sill; I got the shoes from Clarks, in sales.  I would remember my mother, recycling papers, putting seeds of watermelon in our garden, teaching me over the phone how to grow the sprout of mint she gave me in a small pot in England. Does not she deserve a bit of shoe skating, move, move your muscles, I would tap my hips, when it got difficult in that slope towards university.

I put on my shoe skates, tightened them and started smoothly from the beginning of the road; I took a picture of a house covered with tiles; the other house had a checked fence with a fountain and a bare child.

My right knee hurts a couple of days before my cycle. Towards the middle, I was tired, checking the ground as if looking for a lost treasure. I saw paintings for Jesus, the suffering of black men; candles that are not yet lit behind a metal frame.

Three months later at Lancaster, I would pay the money to the young lady in return for a small card that I would show the driver each time I got on, an Id that I have to show to cross from border to border, from Scotforth to town, from town to university, in the same destiny with young men and women sitting on chairs, or clinging to yellow stands with small red buttons. Gone were the days of shoe skating. In the last time I was in Cairo, I proudly told my niece that I went to university on foot three days a week. What would I tell her now?   

Climbing those zigzag stairs, I saw them, their backs towards the Church, their faces towards town, like gods contemplating the world from above, overlooking the creamy church, I took my camera out, I stood still trying to comprehend the scenery… confused where to put the cover, thinking from where and how can I find the cadre, and press the button…