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Ana Cristina Silva




Translated by Isabella Dobson




MONTHS IN STRAIGHT LINES



We feel a need to find strategic places from which we can observe the future; it’s in our nature to plan ahead. To scale a mountain with the sole objective of hearing the voice of the wind or the light, to listen to those whispers which ground us in time are profoundly human traits. Even in daily life, we climb the trees in the gardens closest to us in order to think in days and weeks, and we need an even higher vantage point to picture a whole month. Yet, the pandemic has erased all chance of making plans, we’ve stopped looking at the horizon and lost our sense of perspective. The days drag by in the monotony of cordon sanitaire, holed up indoors, and little by little even our own skin begins to feel like a prison. The months form identical straight lines, which seem to have no end, either in memory or in the future. The ability to mark the passage of time fades, the order of days, weeks and months remains, but there is very little to set them apart.


In this age of infection, the lonely have relinquished dreams of love, young and old alike - although perhaps the young have not let themselves be corrupted in the same way by the crushing of their dreams. Feeling desire for a stranger, longing to meet someone new, to touch them, to smell them, brings with it new dangers which might, all of a sudden, become lethal. Love has always been dangerous, passion has always sailed the mighty waves of fantasy that can deliver lovers onto the rocky shoreline or drown them in the depths of the ocean. Nevertheless, passion’s only victim used to be the heart, not having the power, in and of itself, to turn anyone into a corpse. Kisses used to bring pleasure and joy. And if, by chance, germs passed between lips, they were too harmless to overpower the feelings of desire. This no longer holds true and, like every other form of entertainment, the search for love has been cancelled.


Loneliness doesn’t infect only singletons, it also traps the once-enamoured in its net. Couples living in the same house feel as though they’re on board a great ship, lost in the midst of a terrible storm. There’s the noise of the kids, constantly fighting - the littlest ones cry and wail incessantly - the noise of next door’s building works, the upstairs neighbour’s pounding music, but, above all, the growing irritation between the two of them. They used to have so many plans, but, all of a sudden, they’ve been stuck with a daily routine in which they’re never apart, and, slowly, even their words become infected. No longer able to dream, all they can look forward to now are their daily tasks. In the evening, husband and wife stare at the TV, glassy eyed and bewildered before the graphs of daily infections, the overcrowded hospitals, the death toll, the distress of the recently unemployed or the actions of protestors in violent anti-lockdown demonstrations. Then, on one of the rare nights when he goes to kiss her, she doesn’t understand what he wants, what he is asking of her body. Love has come to smell of weariness and worry.


Nevertheless, perhaps it’s the children who are the most bewildered. Play is forbidden, as is giving their imagination a free rein. They are no longer allowed to hug their friends, run around or tussle with them. They learn to read on a screen, written words look like TV cartoons, except not as funny, or entertaining. Maybe it’s the babies who will experience the greatest shock, because the only people they know with a face are their mothers, everyone else just has eyes.


It’s only one more month, who knows, maybe two or three until we’re all vaccinated, we think, on good days. Our bare feet wear slippers or flip flops and it is in these sad shoes that we search, now and forever, for the path to hope.


 

Ana Cristina is a university teacher at ISPA-IU and has a PhD in Educational Psychology. Published books: Mariana, Todas as Cartas (2002), A Mulher Transparente (2003), Bela (2005), À Meia-luz (2006), As Fogueiras da Inquisição (2008), A Dama Negra da Ilha dos Escravos (2009), Crónica do Rei-Poeta Al-Mu’Tamid (2010), Cartas Vermelhas (2011, distinguished as Book of the Year by newspaper Expresso and shortlisted for Prémio Literário Fernando Namora), O Rei do Monte Brasil (2012, shortlisted for Prémio SPA/RTP and Prémio Literário Fernando Namora, and winner of prémio Urbano Tavares Rodrigues), A Segunda Morte de Anna Karénina (2013, shortlisted for Prémio Literário Fernando Namora), A Noite não É Eterna (winner of Prémio Fernando Namora 2017), Salvação (Parsifal, 2018), As longas noites de Caxias (Planeta, 2019), Rimbaud, o Viajante e o seu Inferno (Exclamação, 2020) and Bela (republished by Bertrand, 2020).Some of her books have been published in Brazil and Germany.


Isabella Dobson is a student of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Oxford. This is her first piece of published translation, and she hopes to continue translating during her year abroad in 2022.


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