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Mélio Tinga




Translated by Phoe McCallum




A SONG FOR CARLOTA



I return from the nursing home exhausted. From the end of a street, a dog spies on me with a beggar’s stare. I quicken my step. Whistle a sad song. He reappears in front of me. His eyes overflowing with tears. He approaches me crooked, I then see that he’s bleeding, the blood gushing out. Flies haunted him, clinging to his leg and scalded back. I kept whistling that song and walking, pushing an asthmatic animal out of me. The dog stayed there, licking the ground, watching me walk away.


Today they were all quiet, pale, lined up like buttons. The nursing home is in mourning. Carlota has died. Nobody ate today. The old women were crying so hard it hurt to look at them. The old men licked the backs of their spoons, sobbing. The funereal air and smell of old age haunted me. She told me, in our last conversation, her final wish; to menstruate again. And it wasn’t long after; she’d been infected. Men in plastics. Mass testing at the nursing home. And without hesitating, Lota – as her friends called her – surrendered to the silence, to the eternity of all things, to extinction. She suffered the affliction of one who yearns to be held but is denied touch. She lacked the air to breathe. And she stood up. And sat down. And prayed. In her last moments. I couldn’t give her one last hug. The hug should also be something for those who pass on. The dead should not be denied the right to a hug.

Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry was playing on T.V. The other old people, scattered like seeds, were praying in a tone of despair, their voices clashing in the air. I, sat, watching No Woman, No Cry. My hands shaking. And I didn't know what had come over me. My eyes tearful. And just like that, I knew it all. Everything had come to an end for Lota.


Eventually, we saw the body wrapped in a chequered capulana and the rickety car leaving the nursing home, all while Bob's chorus rang out and the old people’s wailing resembled an orchestra of grief.


As I walked through the door, my wife looked at me with disdain. Or fear. I don't know. I never know. “You're like a fly on the run.” And everything swept by like a lost wind. I went into the bedroom, hung up my mask and lay on the bed, dirty. I stared at the ceiling. Memories of Carlota ran through me, brutally. I cried. I began by sobbing. Then my wife came in and hugged me, squeezing me the way you squeeze things that aren't made of glass or stone. I left the weight of the world on the floor. I cried. And I repeated “Carlota”, as if saying a prayer. The radio on the bedside table rattled off numbers. New infections. Vaccine. Mask. Immunisation. Emergency. Conspiracy…


Water falls. And I whistle the same song. I linger lathered up. Then I sit on the floor, again remembering the old woman talking of happy things. Making others laugh. But I was also weighed down by the icy air of death, tormenting my joints.


Pockets of heat bursting in the summer air. It’s night time, my wife and I, lying in bed, naked, whistle the sad song, over and over, together, to deliver the departed body with dignity.


 

Mélio Tinga writes fiction books and teaches Publishing workshops. He published two collections of short stories: «a engenharia da morte» (Author's edition, 2020) and «O Voo dos Fantasmas» (Ethale Publishing, 2018). He won the Prémio Literário INCM/ Eugénio Lisboa 2020 with his novel «Marizza». In 2019 he was shortlisted for the Prémio 10 de Novembro with the book «Outro Dia a Nuvem Evapora» (stories) and he won the lyrics prize SensaSons in 2012. He's a permanent contributor to the magazine Literatas and a member of the Movimento Literário Kuphaluxa since 2013. www.meliotinga.com


Born in the UK and raised in Cabo Verde, Phoe McCallum is a Spanish and Portuguese student at Oxford University. Phoe lived in Argentina before starting their studies and has a particular interest in translating dialectal texts from South America and Lusophone Africa. They are currently preparing for their year abroad where they will take a Human Rights course in Buenos Aires.

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