The Irresistible Charm of Insanity
Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo
Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.
In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.
Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
> In portuguese – blog
> In spanish – blog (soon)
He hugged her for a long time, cuddling, deeply absorbed in the feeling of having lived that moment before… He closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had experienced that same situation, but all that came to his mind was the idea of spinning, spinning… As if in a circle, spinning, always coming back to the same place… spinning around in a circle, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…
Frightened, he opened his eyes and came back to his senses. He felt a little dizzy. He looked around to reassure himself that he was still there, on the pier in a hazy morning in Barcelona. She was still cuddling with him in the midst of the hurried seaport workers. How much time had elapsed? A few seconds? Centuries?
“What happened?”, she asked.
“I don’t know, I felt dizzy…”
“You haven’t been yourself lately.”
“I need to go now.”
“Are you sure I can’t go with you?”
“We’ve already discussed that, Catarina.”
“I’ve told you, I will come back. In a month. I’ll take care of a few things in Lisbon then I’ll be back. Then we’ll make our trip to Brazil together. That’s our agreement, isn’t it?
“I’m scared, Enrique…”, she hugged him again and squeezed him intently.
“They are hoisting the sails”, he answered, feeling the wind blowing on his face. Drifting apart from her hug, he distanced from her and strode to the ship without looking back.
Minutes later, the ship set sail, moving away from the coast, and from the deck he saw her waving alone on the quay, in the morning mist. And he suddenly felt like she was repeating a very old gesture, one that felt as if it had been made before a very long time ago, a sad good-bye that was wrenching his heart. When was the last time they had bid farewell like this?
“I need a drink”, he thought, feeling a heavy weight on his soul. He turned around and went straight to his compartment.
He didn’t want to think about that anymore, but he knew that it was just the beginning of a long and burdensome journey.
Luca woke up started. He had been dreaming about a huge and dark deep pit right in front of him, a terrifying abyss… He rubbed his eyes, yawned long and loudly, and stretched his legs under the front seat. He looked out the bus window and watched the landscape pass by, the surrounding vegetation, the tiny modest houses stacked along the road and a mountain further down… Fortunately, there were no pits around him, he thought in relief.
He would soon be arriving at Pipa, the famous beach on the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte. Six months had passed since he arranged to take a few days off his job at the print shop. Now, he finally had the chance to take this trip. His plans for the next four days until Sunday were to chill out and forget the problems he had left behind, in Fortaleza. He would be alone. No wristwatch, no mobile phone, and no Internet.
Well, almost. He’d brought his mobile phone with Internet access but swore never to use it except to check if some girl had sent him any messages, nothing else. And to see whether a friend who owed him money had finally made the deposit to his checking account. And to keep track of the ticket sales for his “Bluz Neon” band’s next gig, because that was very important, too. Just a little precaution so he wouldn’t lose control of his life.
He could see his face reflected on the window, the tousled hair, the drowsy eyes… and the scar on his right cheek which reminded him of the accident on the raft when the sail mast hit his face. He was a teenager, trying to impress a girl. Loving is dangerous.
At dusk, a few miles before arriving at Pipa, the bus made its way through a small town and Luca enjoyed the view from the top of a hillside. Down below, to his left, a huge, sprawling lake that funneled down into a river and flowed peacefully to the sea. The sun was setting down above the treetops and sprinkled reflections on the surface that were broken by pink river dolphins that jumped out of the water.
Luca was enamored with the landscape and felt that his eyes had been seized by a magnificent display of poetic, almost musical beauty…
“What city is this?”, he asked the lady sitting next to him.
“Tibau do Sul. It’s an old fishing village.”
He remembered what his friends used to say about Pipa: the gorgeous shores, the inns, partying in bars, people from all over the world… But that landscape right there…
He got up, walked up to the bus driver and asked him to stop the bus immediately. He had changed his mind. He would stay in Tibau do Sul.
With the backpack hanging from his shoulder and the guitar under his arm, he walked back along the road, past the town entrance, then towards the sea and the foot of the hill, where he saw a rustic bodega. He chose a table under the hut, ordered a shot of cachaça and sat down to enjoy the breeze and fragrance that came from the sea. A boat was anchored on the shore and a flock of seagulls frolicked in the distance. The sunset light bathed the landscape and produced a dream-like atmosphere. Suddenly, he felt as if he were slipping away from time and everything around him was floating, like a tract of land breaking loose from the landmass of reality…
He immediately felt the urge to let a song come out. It was a strong urge, the song really had to come out. He grabbed his guitar quickly and… no song came out. He tried several chords, but felt that none of them would do justice to the feeling he had in that particular moment. “Maybe some other time”, he thought, slightly frustrated while setting the guitar aside. And knocked back all of his drink in a single gulp.
* * *
It was already night when Luca arrived at the camping grounds, a small wooded area next to a creek that was rented out to campers by the owner, Ms. Zezé, a lonely, divorced woman. Alongside the grounds was her house, a small hostel and the restaurant. Everything was very humble. It wasn’t the high season or even a holiday, so the hostel was empty. So was the camping site except for a single, lonely blue tent.
“Underneath that mango tree you will find a nice spot with plenty of shade where you can rest”, suggested Ms. Zezé. “But before you go there, would you like something to eat? You look like you haven’t eaten much lately.”
“I’ll come back later, thanks.”
It took no more than a few minutes for Luca to put the tent up and change his clothes. A few steps to the north and he would be on the edge of the slope, the river waiting for him to have a swim a few yards down. It couldn’t be better. But the swim would have to wait another day. He was too tired for that.
At the restaurant, he had a sandwich and a soda, and another chat with Ms. Zezé. He also met her two teenage sons who lived with her and helped her run the business. He returned then to his tent and lied down. Sleeping, however, wasn’t as easy as he had expected. The simplicity and the beauty of that place were not enough for him to be in peace. Instead, his mind was crowded with a myriad of thoughts…
“Why can’t life be simpler”, he asked himself. It was quite the opposite, really. Constant awareness was a necessity to keep life in check. He had to be on high alert at all times to prevent the treacherous hands of destiny from ruining his chances of being happy. Why did everything have to be so difficult?
A constant and agonizing effort to lead a stable life and save money. That was his life in a nutshell. When he was 18 years old and studied Economics at the university, he used to imagine that soon he would be definitely well off, with no financial worries. But destiny took a different turn. After getting a job in a print shop, he dropped out of college and spent more time on practicing guitar, the good, old buddy that had been following him since his teen years. He was now 28 and everything was still as tough and unaccomplished as ever.
Two years earlier, he was still living with his mother Gloria and his sister Celina, who used to date the band’s drummer. His father died when they were very young and his mother never got married again. Now, the job as print shop manager helped him pay the rent of a tiny studio where he lived alone. Half a dozen gigs a month was barely enough for him to pay for his old Volkswagen Beetle, groceries, bills, a little whiskey, and nothing else. He lived on a very tight and carefully planned budget, always on the brink of desperation. His mother had already given up on convincing him of getting a real job and getting married. Managing a print shop, he used to say, was as far as he was willing to go. And about marriage…
“No way, Mom. Love puts life all out of whack.”
He was really tired. He felt that in spite of all the effort he had put in over the last few years, he was still running in circles, around the same spot, spinning endlessly…
He looked at the guitar laid down by his side. At least, he had the music. And the band. A couple of years ago, he had met Junior Rível, who invited him to sing in the band he was putting together. He wasn’t confident and hesitated to accept the offer.
“It’s a no-brainer, man”, insisted Junior. “Lots of gigs, lots of whiskey… and lots of women!”
Now, that was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“OK, I’m in”, agreed Luca, shaking the hand of his newfound friend. “Partying is all we have.”
“Hey! We could write a blues song about that.”
That’s how Luca and Junior Rível had become friends and that’s how the Bluz Neon band had been born. “Partying is all we have” soon became the band’s motto. Blues, rock’n’roll and irreverence in the nightclubs of Fortaleza. Fees were low and they would often even play for free, but the elation of climbing on stage made up for any losses. Besides, Bluz Neon was the perfect shelter for Luca to hide from the treacherous daylight. At night, he was safe. Everything was under control. Nightlife was safe with its clubs, whiskey, and loves that were kept strictly under control. Like a sweet dream. The only drawback was waking up the next day.
Your eyes glisten in the neon sign
It’s the thrill that sweeps from one bar to another
Happiness is a must, here and now
A smoldering romance in sight
Before sunrise reminds us, lovers
That dreams don’t last in the daylight
* * *
The next day, Luca got up late, still feeling exhausted. It had taken quite some time for him to fall sleep the night before, immersed in a thousand thoughts. Not even here, in this paradise, he could relax completely.
It was a bright, sunny morning in Tibau do Sul. Luca put on his sunglasses, got out of the tent and went to the hostel restaurant to have some breakfast. Later on, after a lengthy swim in the river, he returned to the camping grounds feeling more energetic. When was the last time he had gone into a river? He couldn’t remember. But he told himself he should do that more often.
After changing clothes, he got back to the restaurant to have lunch. And she came along.
He turned around and saw a girl. She was attractive and about his age. She was wearing denim shorts, T-shirt and sandals.
“Hi”, he answered friendly.
“I’m your neighbor. I’m Isadora.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Luca.”
“Luca…”, she repeated, as if savoring his name in her mouth. “Luca…”
She laughed, staring at him. She thought he looked quite different while watching his slender body, disheveled hair, scar on his face…
“Are you alone?”, she asked.
“Good! Have you had lunch yet?”
“Nope. Would my next door neighbor give me the honor and be my guest?” He made the courtship jokingly, bowing as if taking off an imaginary hat.
“Well… How could I refuse?”
At the restaurant, he suggested moqueca, a fish stew, which she promptly accepted. He noted her beautiful hazel eyes. He also noticed that she looked at him in a funny way that made him uncomfortable. The beer was brought to the table and he offered a toast:
“Not encounters”, she corrected, “Reunions!”
Reunions? He didn’t understand, but he didn’t mind. He just drank. She asked where he was coming from and he said he was from Fortaleza.
“Fortaleza… I will visit it someday. And what do you do for a living?”
“I work in a print shop, but music is my real passion. I have a band called Bluz Neon.”
“What kind of music do you play?”
“Blues, rock’n’roll and whatever feels right for the moment.”
“Sounds like fun. I’m from São Paulo. Have you been there?”
“No. But you don’t have much of an accent.”
“I lived in many places when I was a little girl. I’ve acquired a taste for traveling. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world, you know.”
“Aren’t you afraid of traveling alone?”
“Of course not.”
“If you need it, there’s a cybercafé in town.”
“Oh, no. No Internet for me on this trip. I didn’t even bring a mobile phone with me.”
“Really? Why not?”
“Let me put it this way… I need to get more connected with myself.”
“I see”, he answered, not quite sure if he really understood what she meant. How could anyone go on a trip without a cell phone? “And what do you do in São Paulo?”
“I used to work for a bank. But I quit my job for this trip. I’ve been exploring the northeastern coastline for a month.”
He thought she was attractive and interesting while taking a swill of his beer. But why did she keep looking at him that way?
“May I ask you one thing, Isadora?”
“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”
“Oh, I’m sorry… it’s that… you remind me of someone.”
She twirled the glass around with her fingers, anxiously.
“What about you? Don’t you have a hunch that you know me as well?”
“Why would I? Have we met before?”
She smiled and failed to answer his question again. Luca thought he had better not insist. Maybe he reminded her of someone she didn’t want to remember. Yes, maybe that was it.
“Our meal is here”, he announced, pointing out the waiter approaching the table with the tray.
They helped themselves and began to eat. Luca was excited and ordered another beer. It was only the second day on this trip and he was already having a meal with an awesome girl… Not too bad. Cold beer, neighboring tents… Not bad at all.
“Have you ever lived in Spain, Luca?”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. Why do you ask? Have you lived there?”
She didn’t answer again. Instead, she smiled in embarrassment and looked towards the outside. Luca was still puzzled. She was mistaking him for somebody else, it had to be that. But she was definitely cute, no doubt about that whatsoever.
“Where are you going from here, Isadora?”
“Somewhere. No plans.”
“No plans? Wow, you must be a very optimistic person.”
“Of course. At the end, everything works out fine.”
“I admire your confidence in life.”
“And why wouldn’t I have confidence in life?”
“For the simple fact that if you don’t plan and take precautions, things get out of control. Don’t you think?”
She laughed as if he were joking and answered:
“Do you know when we really start having things under control?”
“No. But that is something I really want to know.”
“It’s when we give up trying to control them.”
Luca tried to wrap his head around that for a while. But he gave up.
“I don’t get it.”
“Well, if you don’t try to control things, then how could they possibly get out of control?”
“I see.” Luca laughed. He thought it was a joke, but soon realized she wasn’t kidding.
“Are you serious?”
“Of course I am.”
Her logic was impeccable, he thought. But too absurd to be taken seriously. All of his personal business, for instance, how could it possibly work out by itself? His job, his band, his rent, his car maintenance… What about his love affairs? How could all these things sort them out by themselves? No, that was definitely not possible. Life was like a huge cattle herd that had to be tended all the time. What Isadora was proposing was nothing more than mere romanticism. However, he had to admit that such nonsense had a certain appeal when it came from her…
After lunch, they hopped on the bus and headed to Pipa, where they walked around, visited the hostels and the shops, then had ice cream at the town square. Isadora told him about the beaches she had visited a few days before, how she had felt at home in all those places, and how she was getting to know more about herself by roaming aimlessly.
“What about you, Luca? Do you like to travel?”
“Yes. But not as much as you.”
“Are you afraid of getting lost?”
“I think I prefer the safety of my town. I really know my way around when I’m there.”
“I see. What about that scar?”
“Oh, this is a souvenir I got from a rafting trip. Actually, I wrote a blues song about it. Do you want to hear it?”
She did, so he sang the song:
Love is a dangerous thing
No one knows what I’ve been through
The abyss gave me vertigo
And my angst is still here, too
I don’t want the pain of another encore
I’ll be left scarred and sore
Just don’t ask me, baby
Don’t ask me to love you
“Did you have some kind of big disappointment?”, she wanted to know.
“As a matter of fact, I did. But it was a long time ago.”
“Even that kind of suffering has its positive side.”
“I guess it does. I’ve learned my lesson for good.”
“What do you mean? Don’t you want to fall in love again?”
“I prefer not to take the risk. Loving is dangerous.”
“It really is”, she laughed. “The best danger in the world.”
Luca laughed with her. But he didn’t really agree, of course.
* * *
Back to Tibau do Sul and the camping grounds, Luca invited Isadora to have something to drink. He had a bottle of wine in his tent and it was a lovely evening.
“I need to tell you something, Luca.”
“I had a dream about you.”
“About me? When?”
“Six months ago.”
“But we still hadn’t met then.”
“I’m sure it was you.”
“Are you serious? Was it really me, like you see me now?”
“No, your image wasn’t very clear. But it was you.”
“I don’t understand. How is that possible?”
“Mysteries of life. What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Have you ever had a dream about me?”
“I would love to say ‘yes,’ babe…”, he almost said that. But he said: “No.”
Isadora seemed embarrassed, disappointed.
“In my dream, you asked me to meet you on this beach.”
“Are you really serious?”
“I am. I remembered everything when I woke up, I just didn’t know what beach it was. But I knew it was around this area, and there was a river nearby. Then, last week, when I arrived at Tibau do Sul, I felt that this was the place where I was supposed to find you.”
What did that mean, Luca thought while scratching the scar on his face and feeling increasingly puzzled. Was that some sort of flirting? If it was, it was very creative.
“You told me one more thing in my dream.”
“That I had to help you.”
“Help me with what?”
“To jump into the abyss.”
“I don’ know. You just said that. So here I am.”
“I swear I don’t know anything about an abyss”, he answered. And suddenly he remembered… He vaguely remembered a dream… He had dreamed about an abyss a few days before. Yes, it was a dark and terrifying abyss…
It was a coincidence, he thought, trying to get rid of that irksome memory. It was nothing more than a mere coincidence.
“Are you sure you don’t know anything about it?”, she asked again.
“Even if I did, I don’t want to be near any abysses. I don’t like them.”
He was trying hard to understand that whole story… She had to be kidding, it had to be a joke. Either that or she was really crazy.
“So you traveled all the way here, a long way, just because of a dream… What would have happened if I hadn’t showed up?”
“Well, the truth is, I didn’t want to think about this possibility.”
“I think you should’ve thought about it.”
“And you should have remembered me.”
He could tell by the tone of her voice that she was upset. She kept looking at the starry sky, wringing her hands anxiously.
“I’m sorry, Luca. I didn’t mean to be rude”, she finally said, turning towards him. “The thing is… I’m confused. I thought… you’d remember too.”
“That was just a dream, a coincidence.”
“I don’t think it was just a coincidence”, she answered, almost interrupting him. Then she repeated in a whisper, this time trying to convince herself:
“It can’t be.”
Luca felt lost, he had no clue about what to make of the entire situation. How could someone have a dream about a stranger and leave everything behind in search for him without any guarantee of success? The whole thing was insane, inconceivable… She couldn’t be serious. But she didn’t seem to be kidding. There could only be one explanation: she was crazy. And you can’t argue with crazy people.
“Listen, let’s forget this whole thing and have some wine. Would you like to…”
“Do you believe in past lives, Luca?”, she interrupted him.
“Past lives? Why?”
“Do you believe in it or not?”
He tried to answer as fast as he could. He didn’t, of course. He could not believe in such nonsense. On the other hand, he considered that he might have to come up with a good answer if he wanted to score that night.
“It depends on what?”
“It depends on certain days.”
“I see. And what will your day be like tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow… I guess it will be a good day to believe in everything.”
“Great. Because I have a very crazy story to tell you.”
“Why don’t you tell me now?”
“Because…” She hesitated a bit. “Because I am the one who is not in the mood to believe in everything.”
He tried to come up with something, but she opened her tent and slipped inside.
“Good night, Luca.”
From the restaurant, during breakfast, Luca surveyed the camping ground nearby. The blue tent was still there, on the same spot, just a few steps away from his own. Isadora wasn’t. Interesting girl, he thought. Interesting, but such a lunatic. What a shame. All those ideas about living without any plans… So she had come all the way here because she’d had a dream about a guy she didn’t know and was supposed to be found on a beach up in the northeast. And he was that guy. What about that story about leaping into an abyss? No way. The whole idea was absurd.
After breakfast, he walked up the trail eastward, to the sea. He arrived at the hillside and saw the bright sun high in the sky, like a fireball that hovered above the horizon, slowly blazing its way through the daytime hours. He admired the landscape and couldn’t help making a comparison between himself and that mighty power: Nature was effortless at being what it was, while his life was the exact opposite…
He heard the sound of boys surfing and shouting and woke up from his aimless thoughts. He sat there watching them and admiring their skill, their bodies gliding steadily on the water like surfboards. Luca stood up and went down the hill, ready to have some fun with the ocean. He reached the shore and realized that the waves were bigger than he had thought, but jumped in anyway, trying to maintain a certain distance from the surfers and not bother them.
Facing the first big wave that towered before him, he lost his courage and plunged beneath it in order to escape, and almost got dragged by the undercurrent. Then he gave up on the next one. It was scary. Then he gave up a third time. Then he felt ridiculous.
Another wave was coming. He swore not to dodge it and waited for it. When it was just upon him, he let his body float with it. The wave picked up momentum and broke suddenly. A second later, he felt he was flying in the air, going down underneath the large mass of water that tumbled upon him. He lost all control of his own body and, still underwater, spun around over and over like a puppet in tangled strings. Finally, he hit his head on the sandy bottom and got so stunned he couldn’t tell which way was up or down.
Suddenly, he was extremely exhausted and inhaling water when everything around him seemed quiet and painless. He felt as if he was out of the water and out of time. Then he saw her… a woman in a white dress… She was beautiful and she gazed upon him silently and compassionately. He immediately knew that he had met her before, a very long time ago, so long that trying to remember would be useless. She reached out and he understood that as soon as he took her hand, all the suffering would go away like a bad dream. All he had to do was to hold her hand, nothing else…
He felt someone grab him by the hair and pull him up to the surface. For a second, he wanted to protest and beg to be left right there, underwater, but he couldn’t find the strength. The boys took him to the shore, where he threw up and slowly recovered his senses. They told him that he shouldn’t be swimming alone in that area because the waves were too dangerous. Luca thanked them and stayed there, sitting on the sand, watching them dive back into the sea and challenge another batch of massive waves with aplomb. How did the boys control them?
Upon arrival at the camping grounds, he finally became truly aware that he had almost died. How stupid. He had escaped death by an inch. He got in his tent and sat down, still frightened and absorbed by the sensations. He remembered the hallucination, the woman in white. She looked so familiar. Who was she? He also recalled that he had had, for a brief moment, the power to decide on his fate, that he could have spent his very last effort on saving his life or just accepted death.
He hadn’t had enough time to decide, but… what if he really had the chance to make a choice? Would he still fight, struggle for his life and endure the suffering until the last second, or would he let himself go peacefully, away from the suffering in the companion of the woman in white?
He got up and tried to brush off his bad feelings. He didn’t like those things: death, the afterlife… Better not tell anyone and forget about it. He unfolded the beach chair and grabbed the guitar. A little bit of music would drive his ghostly thoughts away.
* * *
A waning moon was rising in the sky of Tibau do Sul, along with the first stars. In front of the blue tent, a small, crackling fire provided warmth in the chilly night. Isadora was placing a plate with cheese on a tablecloth.
“It’s been ages since I had my last picnic”, Luca said, bringing a bottle of wine.
“You’re standing up already, would you put that book inside the tent, please.”
“I Ching, the book of changes…”, he said, picking up the book and taking it inside the tent. “I’ve heard about it.”
“It is the Oracle of Tao”, she answered. “It’s like a tool for soul-searching, identifying your inner motions and getting in sync with external actions.
“That’s too mystical for my taste.”
“You concentrate on one question, shuffle the sticks or coins, write down the results and read the corresponding message. But the goal of every Taoist is to reach a point at which use of the oracle is no longer required for capturing the movements.”
“Does it work on skeptics such as myself?”
“It always does. But maybe you won’t quite understand the message.”
Luca opened the bottle of wine and poured it in the glasses.
“What’s the toast going to be?”, he asked.
“To the movements that brought us to this bonfire.”
They clinked their glasses and drank. And he noticed how beautiful she was by the flickering light of the fire.
“What about that story you were going to tell me?”
Isadora gave him a stern look. Luca could see the bright, fidgety flames reflected in her eyes… He felt strange, an onset of vertigo. He felt as if being dragged into a lighter, distant state of being…
“I had this recurring dream; the first time was two years ago”, she began. “It was always the same place in Spain, a small village… It seemed to be the end of the Middle Ages, sixteenth century or so. In this dream, a child was playing, but I never got a chance to see her eyes. I had this dream many times for months. I underwent hypnosis with a therapist and could see the images better. Then I could see the girl’s eyes. And I saw myself in them. Then I realized that the child was me.”
“Really”, said Luca, trying to hide his skepticism about those things.
“I saw many facts of that girl’s life run through before my eyes, like a movie. I didn’t just see it, I lived it. In fact, I was reliving it, actually sharing the girl’s feelings. I didn’t remember everything, but I remembered many things from that life.”
“What was the girl like?”
“Her name was Catarina. She was a poverty-stricken teenager when she married a German and went on to live with him in Germany. He was a rich man and she learned to be a lady. She had everything she needed to lead an easy, comfortable life, but one day she met a Portuguese missionary and fell madly in love with him… Enrique was his name. He was a Jesuit priest and knew a lot of affluent people, traveled to many countries, spoke several languages and was a bit of a sorcerer.
“What do you mean?”
“He belonged to a secret order, that sort of thing. He used dreams to know what was happening in the court and about political plots of the Church. He would get into other people’s dreams… He used to visit Catarina in her dreams and they shared experiences in other planes of reality. Pretty crazy stuff. One day, they eloped. But something went wrong and he disappeared.”
“Did he die?”
“I don’t know. In fact, Catarina herself never found out what happened. But I would like to know. He must have been arrested or something. Catarina went after him for years and visited many cities, but never found him again. Even in her dreams, he never showed up again.”
“Maybe he found another woman.”
“No. He was madly in love with her.”
“This madly-in-love business never ends well. What happened then?”
“She… Well, she became insane.”
Isadora took a long time to answer. Luca noticed she had become emotional.
“Yes, she went totally mad, indeed. The absence of Enrique consumed her energies until the end of her life. And that’s the way she died: always looking for him.”
They didn’t say a word for a while, and the silence was like a shadow between them. Luca wanted to ask her why she was telling him that story, but decided to stay quiet. Instead, he asked:
“Did you really remember all those things?”
“It’s more than remembering, Luca. I went through it all over again.”
“And do you really think you are that Catarina girl?”
“I don’t think. I really was.”
Isadora turned her eyes to the bonfire, grabbed a few pebbles and threw them into the flames.
“What about you, Luca? Doesn’t this story concern you at all?”
“I don’t believe in reincarnation.”
“What about the Portuguese sorcerer?”
“What about him?”
She kept throwing peddles into the fire. Luca opened his mouth to repeat the question, but another idea sprung into his mind.
“Wait a minute. You don’t suppose I am Enrique, do you?”
She didn’t answer.
“Did I tell you I was Enrique in that dream of yours?”
“No. But I recognized Enrique in you.” She turned her face and stared peacefully into his eyes.
Luca felt embarrassed and laughed.
“Because of that dream, I left everything behind and came after you.”
He didn’t know what to say.
“But there’s something wrong…”, she said, trying to smile. “You were supposed to remember me, too.”
He took a deep breath, trying to think clearly. This woman had left everything behind to look for someone who had lived in another time and space, in another life, and now she was going from city to city on the northeastern coast in search of that same person, in this life. And she had established that he was that person. Everything had finally fallen into place for him: her strange behavior, the hints she had been dropping… But that was insane, utterly insane. And it all felt like a hazy fog surrounding him.
“Isadora, I have an idea”, he said hastily, eager to change the subject. “Let’s listen to music. I brought my guitar.”
She nodded in approval. He stood up, announced that he had to go to the bathroom first, and marched to the restaurant. When he returned, Isadora had left. He looked at the closed entrance of the blue tent and sighed out of sadness.
* * *
Luca opened one eye. Then another. Then both. It was still dark and a bit chilly. He cuddled under the sheet, recollecting the night before, all the nonsense that Isadora had been spewing, her alleged life in Spain, Catarina, the Portuguese sorcerer… Insanity had hazelnut eyes.
Suddenly, he heard someone call out his name. It was Isadora’s voice. He got up, and still wrapped in the sheets, he opened the tent. It was broad daylight with a drizzle.
“Wake-up service for Mr. Luca of the Neon Light. It’s noon.”
Isadora had a smile on her face. She looked more beautiful than ever…
“Noon? Gee, I overslept.”
“Let’s take a walk.”
“In the rain?”
“Of course. When was the last time you frolicked in the rain?”
He rubbed his eyes and thought about the knack she had for saying certain things as if they were the simplest and most logical in the world.
Minutes later, they were walking side by side along a narrow sand trail. The drizzle was filling puddles and permeating the air with soothing freshness. Luca and Isadora were drenched soon.
“If I go back to work with a cold, I’m going to be miserable.”
“Please forget just for a moment that you might get sick.”
“And I didn’t have breakfast. I think I’d better…”
But she was already running ahead of him. He tried to catch up with her with a clumsy stride and water running down his face. Isadora had gone out of his sight, around a bend of the trail. He tried to run, but one sandal got stuck in the mud.
“Isadora, wait for me!”
Suddenly, he remembered a certain day a long, long time ago… an evening… He stopped running, overcome with the unsettling realization that he had already lived that moment before, in a very distant era… but when? A déjà vu. Isadora fading out into the rain, slipping out of his sight… the raindrops on his eyes, the sound of thunder… Luca standing there, breathing heavily, Isadora going away and Luca calling out her name… He couldn’t remember where or when, in what impossible time frame he had experienced that exact same situation.
He stood there, under the rain, mesmerized by the puzzling feeling. But not for long. He was soon taken over by the dark suspicion that he would lose that woman once again if he didn’t run after her.
* * *
It was still raining after sunset in Tibau do Sul. Luca and Isadora were having fish soup at the hostel’s restaurant, and Luca was savoring every single bit of the precious occasion: the soup, the rainfall, the music on the radio… His head was light and his thoughts wandered out aimlessly. He was genuinely relaxed at last, for the very first time on that trip. The problems that awaited him in Fortaleza were now a distant reality. Things were very simple in this new reality…
He looked at Isadora sitting across the table, busy with her dish, and marveled at the realization that she fit so well into the whole scene: the rain falling down outside, the simplicity of that place… Isadora seemed to inhabit another level of comprehension that was unattainable for himself. She understood the essence of everything effortlessly while he had to put a vast amount of effort into… being unpretentious.
What time was it? It was probably between six and seven o’clock, he estimated. Or maybe around eight and nine. He could ask, but chose not to. He didn’t want to know the time. Time was no longer an issue. Being with Isadora was like being free from the shackles of time.
She had dragged him out of his sleep and taken him to experience the pleasures of a rainy afternoon, an old and forgotten pleasure from childhood. They ran on the trail, drank cachaça and watched the rain from under thatch roof shelters. They laughed at old jokes and ate roasted corn on the cob. Now, they were having fish soup. A perfect day, like every day should be.
“I’m sorry about yesterday, Luca. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable with the story I told you.”
“Did you really have a dream about me?”, he asked, with equal parts of curiosity and fear of resuming that conversation.
“Can we talk about something else?”
He felt relieved. He actually preferred to avoid the subject. There was something about it that really bothered him, he just didn’t know what it was exactly.
“So tell me about Taoism. I’m curious. It’s an old religion, isn’t?”
“It’s five thousand years old. There’s a religious side to it, but I prefer the philosophical side.”
“And what’s it like?”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
“Because you’ll laugh about it.”
“I promise I won’t laugh.”
“Well, on second thought, you should laugh about it.”
“I won’t laugh, I swear.”
“Philosophically speaking, Taoism is an intuitive approach to understanding reality. The Western world and its scientific reasoning cannot grasp it. It’s mind-twisting.”
“What is that intuitive approach like?”
“To observe life’s natural movements and behave in conjunction with them. That’s the way of Taoism.”
“So a Taoist person is connected with Nature?”
“The Taoist is connected with the Tao, which is to say that he is connected with himself, with Nature, with plain and natural truths. The Tao is the assembly of everything, it’s that which joins all the things and connects the self to the whole. When you’re in sync with the Tao, living becomes a simpler undertaking. Even if you live in the chaos of large cities, you can stay connected with the mind of Nature.”
“The mind of Nature? What did you smoke?”
“No”, she answered, laughing. “Let me explain. Nature is life and life undergoes changes, like seasons. This connection with Nature is the Taoist’s guiding star through chaos. For example, when we grow overly attached to something, that goes against Nature, because the object of attachment is constantly changing and we remain attached to something that no longer exists. When something doesn’t change, it will rot. This dynamics is also the Tao.
“Is the Tao a god?”
“The Tao is not a personified entity like the gods of religions. It’s impersonal, it has no will or morals. The Tao itself is the action of life, the natural flow of reality.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“That’s because we can’t explain the Tao. We can only perceive it.”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t see anything that might be ever understood in all that.”
“Those who question the Tao fail to imagine it. And those who try to provide answers don’t really have any.”
“To be in sync with all the things… Sounds like a rather passive stance, don’t you think?”
“On the contrary. Grasping the flow of the Tao is a challenging endeavor of intimate labor, an internal alchemy. But once you accomplish it, you’ll be able to tune yourself to the natural forces of life and become one with everything that exists.”
“What if I want to go against the Tao?”
“You will be tired very often.”
Tired often… Luca seemed to hear those inconvenient words more than once in his head.
“Those who are in sync with the Tao need not do anything. Yet, they’ll always do what must be done.”
“But that’s contradictory.”
“I told you. It boggles the mind.”
“Can the Tao be translated?”
“The Chinese ideogram that corresponds to the Tao is composed of head plus foot. The path, the meaning.”
“To me, it sounds like something that has no heads or tails…”, he said and laughed. “Oops, I’m sorry!”
“That’s OK, you can laugh”, she said and laughed, too. “It wouldn’t be the Tao without the laughter.”
He finished his soup and kept staring, captivated by the sight of her: the hazelnut eyes, the wet hair, the gracious mouth, the prominent breasts under the T-shirt and… she was crazy, delightfully crazy.
Suddenly, she raised her head and met his gaze. He knew he had been caught red-handed.
“What are you thinking, Mr. Luca of the Neon Light?”
“I know what you’re thinking. Would you like to hear it?”
He nodded. She took the last mouthful of soup, wiped her mouth clean and said it naturally:
He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.
“And, if you want to know, I was lo-ving it…”
First, the stupid look on his face. Then they held hands firmly across the table. Then they locked lips and kissed passionately. The tongues could not wait another second. Waiter, check, please hurry, keep the change, one last swig from the beer, rush back to the tent, the rain still falling…
They were panting and had mud all over. They got into his tent and kneeled down facing each other. She rolled up her T-shirt, exposing her breasts, and whispered:
He hurled himself upon the woman’s breasts with every hand, mouth and tongue he could possibly have. They were like ripe, juicy mangoes and he was a pitiful, ravenous man. She grabbed him by the head and pulled him fast, meanwhile they took off whatever piece of garment they still had on and rolled over, nearly knocking the tent over. She climbed on top of him, clasped his arms and rode it, sliding all the way up and down, up and down…
Luca shut his eyes in ecstasy, engulfed by sensations like he’d never felt before. The spellbinding stare on Isadora’s eyes, her silky skin, her lovely scent, the musical quality of her groan, the irresistible pleasure of her kiss… Everything about her was just too good, beyond his comprehension. The whole experience was so overwhelming that he was, for the first time, having sex almost unaware of what he was doing exactly. There was no rationalizing this time. Instead, he closed his eyes and let these sensations take over… the feeling of sharing his body… the feeling that something was swallowing him… a succession of inward contractions… at regular rate… swallowing him…
Then it burst. He blew up in shards that flew every which way at unimaginable speed, millions of fragments launched into the infinite cosmos. Luca was debilitated from the great strain and felt that he was coming to a demise, slowly shrinking, fading out, expiring… forever.
* * *
First, one eye. Then another. Luca budged under the sheet and remembered Isadora, the walk in the rain, the sex in the tent… The wildest, most amazing sex he’d ever had.
He turned around and did not find Isadora. He had a bad feeling. He got up quickly and went out. It was broad daylight, and the blue tent was gone. There was no sign of Isadora either. He stood there, puzzled. The vertigo came over him again, that odd feeling of slipping into a dream… For a brief moment, he feared that Isadora had never really existed.
He put on the sunglasses, ran to the restaurant and asked if anyone knew where the owner of the blue tent had gone. One of Ms. Zezé’s sons knew: she had checked out. Luca sat down, brokenhearted for not having Isadora around anymore, but also relieved to confirm that she actually existed, that everything had actually happened. He ordered a strong coffee, took a table by the restaurant’s entrance and drank while looking at the camping ground and at the blue tent that no longer was there. Suddenly, Isadora’s absence became a vast and timeless void in his soul. Such an unusual feeling… How could something that did not even exist until three days ago now turn his existence into complete emptiness?
He went back to his tent and finally noticed the piece of paper, folded and placed on the bed linen:
I’ve found you. There’s no turning back now. Jump into the abyss.
One hour later, he had packed his tent and checked out of the camping ground, and walked down the sandy trail to the road where he would take the bus to Natal, where he would take a bus to Fortaleza. Then he saw a small brown snake slither across the trail. He came to a halt and took a step back. He didn’t like snakes. Snakes made him think of death, the same death that almost took him in the sea, in Tibau do Sul. The snake halted too, and peered at him for a while before proceeding and vanishing in the woods. Luca checked to be sure it was not dangerous anymore and resumed his walk, thinking about the horror of waking up at night with a snake in his tent.
“Well, it would be a lot worse if I woke up inside the snake…”, he thought, jokingly.
On the bus, he read the note for the tenth time. “Jump into the abyss.” What abyss?
It was going to be a busy week. On Thursday, Bluz Neon would play at the Papalégua, a famous bar in the bohemian Iracema Beach. On Friday, Balu, their keyboard player, would celebrate his birthday. On Saturday, the band would play at a rock festival on Cumbuco Beach, just a half-hour drive from the city. In all of these occasions, Luca would find suitable opportunities to take refuge under the generous shroud of the night and forget about the daylight that awaited him on the other side.
“I am honored to introduce you to…”, announced Carlito, the owner of the Papalégua. “Junior on the guitar, Ranieri on the bass, Balu on the keyboards, Ninon on the drums, and Luca on vocals and acoustic guitar.”
“And on whiskey!”, someone shouted from the crowd.
“And now, our attraction every Thursday… Bluz Neon!”
When all band members were on stage, Luca followed his old ritual: knocking back a shot of whiskey and greeting the crowd.
“Good evening. Partying is all we have.”
The band made its usually lively performance with their own songs and a few classic rock and blues covers. Luca paid a tribute to Iracema Beach, mentioning its beautiful women, notable local characters and the magic that spread through the streets like the sea breeze. He climbed off the stage, took a place at a table with a bunch of girls while still singing, and even drank from their glasses. Towards the end of the show, he announced the sale of their demo CD, recorded live during a concert in Canoa Quebrada. As usual, the night was closed with a rendition of The Navel Blues and an invitation for all girls who had their navels exposed to climb on stage and dance to a fun combination of blues and baião. Partying is all we have.
After the show, back from the dressing room, Luca took a place at the bar and ordered a double shot of whiskey. He took a swig and sang the lyrics to the rock’n’roll song he’d been writing lately.
There is a place at the bar
For those who don’t know where they’re going
He remembered Isadora… Isadora and her kisses, her breasts, her craziness… Her conversations about the Tao, dreams, abysses, past lives… He had spent three days in her company, and now it had been three weeks without a clue about where she might be. He wondered if he would ever see her again.
He was startled and turned around to see who had just spoken. It was a red-haired girl sitting at the bar right next to him. She smiled and said she was a fan, she had the CD recorded in Canoa Quebrada and wanted an autograph.
“Yes, of course”, obliged Luca, brushing Isadora away from his mind and borrowing a pen from the bartender. He noticed the girl was rather nice and had a certain air of delightful lewdness. But, holy cow, she looked like she was only sixteen years old! How could the bar let those lolitas get in?
Partying is all we have
And I’ve go no time to waste, babe
He took a long sip from his drink and felt the liquid going down his throat. Yeah, that blessed burning sensation, the last forbidden frontier of the night… The hallway to the next level of reality, where everything could happen.
“Do you like whiskey?”, he asked.
“I love it!”
He took another swig, pulled her by the waist in a quick motion and kissed her, feeding the booze into her mouth.
“Holy shit…”, she muttered, still surprised. “That was the most inebriating kiss of my life!”
One hour later, they were listening to Angela Ro-Ro singing Mares da Espanha in the Luca’s living room. The girl lit up a joint and Luca turned down the volume for the second time.
“Relax, man! Partying is all we have!”, she protested, handing the joint over to him.
“I agree with you. But I have a neighbor who doesn’t.”
“So why don’t you sing a blues for me, please…”
“Come on, babe. I sing the blues with the band all the time.”
“Then I’ll put the CD on!”
He wanted to burn incense, but couldn’t find the box where he keep it. He had it just one minute ago, where could it have gone? He opened another beer and got a kick out of the girl’s rendition of the Bluz Neon songs. She knew them all by heart, even the comments during the breaks, amazing! She asked if the band wouldn’t be interested in having a red-haired female singer. “Red-haired, blond, brunette, all of them…”, he answered jokingly. Where the hell was the incense? She put the first song on again. He tried to sink into the couch, but miscalculated the move and landed with a pratfall, spilling his beer.
“Dammit! The cleaning lady must have moved the couch.”
He laughed at his own joke and staggered in search of a mop. He came back, slipped on spilt beer and almost fell down again.
“Dammit! What is going on here, a conspiracy?”
He swept the floor, sat on the sofa and made a gesture for the girl to sit next to him. “I want to see your famous blues navel up close”, she said. He chuckled and lifted his shirt, showing his belly button. She smiled, licked her own lips with lust and kneeled down between his legs.
“Hey, babe, tell me… How old are…?”
“I’ve already told you, Luca.”
She kissed his belly button and tickled him with the piercing she had in her tongue. Then she unzipped his pants.
“Have you? Then I forgot.”
“Oh, of course…” He reached out for the beer can, but couldn’t find it. The objects in the house were definitely playing pranks on him. “How about sixteen?”
“Ok, Mr. Police Officer, seventeen and a half.”
The beer can was on the floor. How did it end up there? The piercing on her tongue was weird… But it felt good.
“I don’t think I can believe that.”
Still kneeling down between his legs, she stopped caressing him, looked up with half a smile, slightly annoyed, tucked her hair behind her ears and looked directly at him:
“Last offer, Luca: seventeen. Are you okay with it or not?”
He took another sip from the beer, still lying on the couch, and allowed himself to relax… The room had pleasant dim light, and the girl was again focused on caressing him, kneeling between his legs, hair like a red curtain covering her face. He thought that having backing vocal girls in the band wasn’t such a bad idea. They would run an ad on the paper: “Band on its way to stardom seeks fine, cool backing vocal females, auditions with Luca at night time…” He pulled the red curtain to one side and saw her blue eye peeking at him with a smile. He didn’t remember her having blue eyes. No, having women in the band was not a good idea. They had better stay where they were: in the audience. And behind the curtains. Behind the curtains… the curtains…
Bam! He suddenly came back to his senses. Where was he? What time was it? He was way too drunk, holy shit. A little bit of streetlight came in through the window. In front of him, tiny green lights… blinking… indicating the presence of some sound equipment…
He was at home! Of course. He was at home, in the living room of his own apartment, on the sofa, obviously. He sighed, whew, what a relief! He’d just blacked out for a while, no big deal, everything was fine. Too much booze on an empty stomach. And those two girls kneeling down between his legs…
Two?! He rubbed his eyes, puzzled. He tried to remember… One of them was the red-haired girl from the bar, the fan. Who was the other one? He had no idea. The neighbor from downstairs? He tried to focus, but she didn’t seem familiar. Maybe she was a friend of the ginger’s. But how did she get in? Who had opened the door?
He finally realized that he was so drunk that he was seeing double, and he burst out laughing. Sex with two women was great, but not exactly that way…
The girl stopped servicing him and asked if he was really that interested.
“Wait a minute, my lil’ baby…” He sat up straight on the sofa, laughing at his own intoxication. “Your name… What’s your name again?”
“No way, Luca. I’m not telling you again.”
“Well, I don’t want to scare you, but… there’s another hot chick right next to you.”
And he laughed again. That was the funniest thing ever.
“She’s my twin sister”, she grinned uncomfortably. “Can you see her, too?”
“She died when I was a child. She shows up occasionally.”
He wasn’t laughing anymore. Twin sister? Dead? Really? He stared at the two girls again, both kneeling down between his legs, and felt really disturbed.
“Don’t pay attention, she’ll just leave.”
No, that was it. Having sex with a ghost was more than he could handle.
“I’m sorry…”, he said, pushing her head away from his crotch. Then he got up and pulled his pants up. “Today is not a good day.”
He went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and found one last beer. At least he still could count on a beer. Some days can be really unlucky. He should have stayed at the bar with the other guys.
He came back to the living room and saw the two women looking at the city, their naked bodies leaning against the window carelessly, both in the same position. For a moment, he admired them, so beautiful and alluring. He thought about reconsidering his decision but… no. Pedophilia with ghosts was tough business.
“Can I crash here, Luca?”
“Erm… I think I should take you both home. Come on.”
Half an hour later, he stopped the car in front of their building.
“My sister doesn’t mean any harm, Luca.”
“I didn’t know that you were sensitive.”
“Will I see you again?”
“If your sister doesn’t mind…”
He waited until the two women entered the building and started the old Beetle. Then he left and saw the first rays of Friday’s light creep into the city. And he cursed it. Once again, the unwelcome light of day was dissolving the magic of the night.
He had to be at the print shop by eight o’clock. He could get no more than an hour’s sleep. A twin sister from beyond the grave… He had better not mention this to anyone. No one would believe it anyway.
* * *
“Wake up, Big Tiger! It’s three o’clock!”
Lucas could hear a female voice… far away…
He gradually opened his eyes and recognized the bedroom, then slipped back into the sudden new reality. It was Saturday… Or was it Friday? No, it was definitely Saturday, 3 PM… He was supposed to play a gig in Cumbuco Beach later that night…
“The light bulb is burnt out and the sink is clogged! What about this cracked mirror… We look horrible in it! Why don’t you take the cover fee from tonight’s gig and fix this bathroom already?”
“Stop yelling, Soninha, please…”
He covered his head with the pillow, trying to insulate himself from that loud sound storm of a woman. Damn shit, there should be a law against waking up a human being like that, especially if the human being went to bed at noon…
“Have you seen my other boot, Big Tiger?”
He got up still drowsy, while the most dreadful thirst was scraping his throat. He went to the kitchen to drink water, but remembered Jim Morrison’s famous words, when I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer, the future’s uncertain and the end is always near…
Soninha was putting on her black high heel boots when he sat on the edge of the bed, took a long sip from the beer and engaged in the task of admiring her. Soninha… Beautiful, sexy, but utterly irrational, the very definition of trouble. A muscle bound fitness instructor who was addicted to the gym environment and amphetamines, and enjoyed working even on Sundays. Her other addiction was sex, with lots of alcohol, fuss and scratches. She had been born to a wealthy family, was a staple of the gossip columns, but was turned on by hooking up with shaggy rockers in the underground scene. Whenever Luca saw her in the crowd during the band’s concerts, he knew what the night would be like: they would binge drink, she would insist on paying for everything and take him to a five-star hotel by the seashore where he would rip off her clothes and leave her naked except for the black boots, then they would have sex like crazy, wild animals on the floor, first by the window then on the kitchen countertop. In the morning, she would go straight to the gym without a wink. Or they could end up sticking with plan B: she would drink too much, have a breakdown and the night would be ruined.
On Balu’s birthday party, the night before, she showed up wearing a very short dress and her infamous black boots, which she always wore when she was up to no good. Luca was chatting up a girl who was a friend of Ninon’s, he was rather interested in her, but… hmmm, that familiar look in Soninha’s eyes and the boots… How could he resist?
One hour later, Balu opened a bottle of whiskey and served it to all the guests. Then he put on Balu’s Blues Compilation Volume 9 and rolled up a joint, which set the party into high gear. At 7 AM, Iana, Balu’s girlfriend, had to knock on the bathroom door and tell the horny couple in there that the party was over and everybody was gone.
“Oh, come on”, Soninha protested from inside, “it’s Friday!”
“No”, Iana disagreed, patiently. “It’s Saturday.”
The door opened and out came Luca with unbuttoned shirt and not a single hair in place.
“It’s not tomorrow until we wake up”, he philosophized solemnly.
Luca filled up a glass, drank half of it and Soninha finished it off. They waved their good-byes and extended their party at Roque Santeiro, a small bar in Mucuripe, where they served meat stew and beer, perfect ingredients for closing the endless night, listening to the music of Genival Santos, Diana and Odair José. Soninha seemed to be just fine until she convinced herself that a girl was hitting on Luca and decided to tackle the girl and throw her on the floor along with the beer bottles that were sitting on the table. That surely put an end to civil, healthy fun and they were asked to leave the premises. A regular plan B.
“The little fun we had in Balu’s bathroom did not advance the score, do you hear me, Big Tiger? You could barely stand on your feet.”
Luca took another sip of the beer and admired her some more. Strong thighs, the minuscule bikini tan line, the small breasts… She was standing next to the bed, naked and yummy. With her black boots on.
“You’re going to be late for class, teacher…”
“I have time.”
Before long, she was being penetrated slowly by Luca and reached out for the cell phone, dialed a number, dialed it wrong, dialed again, closed her eyes and spoke in pauses while explaining to the gym receptionist that the stand-by instructor should be brought in because… there was a… a… hang on… ouch… something had come up… yes, something unexpected… wait a sec… hmmm… and she wouldn’t be there until… ouch… until five.
* * *
Luca grabbed a pen, and while the others were tuning their instruments, he sat down in a corner of the dressing room and started scribbling on a napkin.
“Freshly out of the oven, Junior”, he said. Then he sang it to his friend.
There is a place at the bar
For those who wander lost in their haste
Partying is all we have
And I’ve go no time to waste, babe
One shot now
I need a drink to steer my fate
“I like it. But don’t get your hopes up because the set list for tonight is already done, do you copy?”
Minutes later, Ninon hit the pedal on the bass drum and Luca got on stage. From up there, he could see the crowd sprawl on the beach sand, the ocean to the right, the majestic moon on the sky… He knocked all his whiskey back and took the microphone:
“Good evening!”, replied a few girls close to the stage.
“Is all we have!”, they finished the sentence cheerfully.
The concert proceeded without any incident. But towards the end, after the traditional Navel Blues, Luca pulled a napkin from his pocket and announced, with the coarse voice from all the excesses of the last few days:
“This one is called One Shot Right Now. We haven’t had time to rehearse it yet. The guys will hate me for this, but what the hell, just look at this beach, and this moon…
He picked up the acoustic guitar, sat on a stool, strummed a few strings then stopped. He signaled to Ninon on the drums to get started. The other band members shook their heads in resignation and played along. It sounded terrible, of course, but the girls on the front row made so much noise while cheering and applauding that, luckily, nobody paid much attention to the song.
After the performance, Ranieri showed up in the dressing room bringing one of the cheerful fans. She said she had loved the concert and her friends were outside, nearly desperate to meet the band members.
“You mean the bachelor band members, isn’t that right, my dear?”, remarked Celina while dragging her boyfriend Ninon by the arm. “We are going back to the hostel. So are you, Balu, it’s bedtime for all the married ones.”
A few beers later, all the single band members were hanging out on the beach sand with their newfound friends. The moon over Cumbuco beach, the breeze sweeping through the coconut trees, waves breaking on the shore, and everyone talking at the same time. Junior played a guitar that was out of one string, Ranieri tapped on a crushed beer can and Luca feigned singing with the little voice he still had left. More songs and more beer. Does anyone have rolling paper? Hey, Junior, play that favorite of mine. Are you sure we can smoke? We could be fined for having too much fun. Will you hook us up with tickets for Papalégua? Is this my booze? The most beautiful navel belongs to Ranieri. Swimming on the ocean at night is harmless. It’s harmless… it’s harmful…
Splash! Luca suddenly came back to his senses. Everything was pitch-black around him. It was hot like hell. He was in a sauna. No, no, he was in bed. But where? And under his sweaty body, there was a… a woman. He was coming in and out of her body with violence, and she said things he could not understand. He was startled. He simply didn’t know who that woman was.
He didn’t stop the thrusting movement while trying to remember… but all that he could remember was the concert, nothing after that. He looked at the face under his body and saw nothing. It was too dark. He tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but he couldn’t understand a word of it. Maybe she was from another country. Or from outer space.
He was still way too drunk. He made an effort to remember something, anything… but nothing ever surfaced in his mind. He just had no idea whom he was fucking on that bed. Holy shit.
The sweat was running down his skin, making a bigger mess of his body against the body of the unknown woman. He could not reach an orgasm and was running out of strength to go on. The gruesome experience was compounded by some terrible, random axé music being played loud nearby, ah eh, ah eh, oh, oh… He thought about getting up and switching on the fan. He thought about yelling that someone turn the damn music down. Rather, no. All he had to do was to get it over with, go back to the hostel, hit the bed, and pass out.
He closed his eyes and tried to focus, forget about the heat, about the music, and about the woman without a face. But he opened his eyes again because the felt the room was spinning. Oh no, he didn’t want to throw up, not now, no…