Consulate |

Music & Autopsy

by Adriana Lisboa

Translated from the Portuguese by Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren


Thursday rushed. Thursday traffic, bus, metro, Thursday watches where time moves faster: brief minutes. Contracted hours. Withered happiness that would need more mirrors to recognize itself.

One week from now is the birthday. One week from now, the lecture. But not yet: today Thursday now only contains instants, only conjugates the present (a little sleepy, because the night was also brief). Thursday carries heavy books along with the leather briefcase papers papers, along with the purse crammed with small signs of life and other unnecessary things. It goes up and down escalators, buys tickets at the counter, smells coffee and cheese bread um real, contemplates the blank page, makes calculations, and frowns, doubts. Believes.

Largo do Machado. Catete. And further still. Glória, Cinelândia, until Estácio. ESTÁCIO with big letters, disembark on the right, transfer station for Line 2. Movie scene: the automatic doors opening and the crowd like a liquid flowing across the platform, teardrop, drop of blood. Drop of sweat, maybe.

There is the birthday, but not now. Not now. Nothing really happens in this now beyond the expectation without object. Pure, precious as cut stone. On the dismal counter, sad, irresistible biscoitos da feira are sold. No one buys them, but a woman with tight, low-rise pants stops and talks with the vendor. A smile of timid seduction.

Surprise: a melody echoing from the train platform (Line 2, to São Cristóvão and then Maracanã). And the harmony that lulls it, like a hot body beneath the sheets on a cold night. That music. The multitude stops. Maybe no one listens with the intention of listening, but the fact is that everything stops for that music. So improbably sweet in the middle of Thursday. Silence on the faces, tongues, steps. The same train that was en route slows its movement slightly (andante, adagio, largo) for the music flying over the crowd-commotion on the Estácio Station platform: allows the sounds to meet in that careful gap, and only then reappears, insect of steel and glass and plastic roaring loudly. Shaking with speed. Everyone remembers their motives and compresses before the automatic doors ready to part.

But someone kept a piece of a smile on their face, a souvenir. Soon that someone will encounter another someone. Not far from now. After the platform, escalator, footbridge, elevator. All the way there to hug that other someone and tell them about the music in the metro. And then happily everything, the biscoito da feira and the ticket, everything is distant, everything is words, everything is too small to be said, to try to say. The pain of Thursday compressed in a tourniquet.

(Birthday, lecture. But not now).


for Filipa Melo

At the large book fair people pass by with their sweat among stands, voices, colorful credentials. A woman with short light hair is speaking with a reporter. A woman with short dark hair is waiting for her.

The Portuguese stand has the scent of the ocean. Portugal has the scent of the ocean, at least in Brazil. The woman with light hair has light eyes. The woman with dark hair has dark eyes. When the two meet, it is the old friendship of an instant.

Proposition: an autopsy of this hour that they pass together. Where exactly to introduce the scalpel into their souls? Where are they hiding their souls? In their liver or in their heart? How many liters of liquid mirrors are running through their veins, occasionally obliging the heart to skip a beat? How many steps measure an existence, beginning, middle, and end? What is the world worth? How much do the words weigh?

Portugal has the scent of the ocean. Brazil has the scent of a mud hut. But the fair also has the perfume of newly printed documents, ice cream, just-fried pastéis, dry leaves some exhibitor scattered on the ground, and incense that another burned. There are the two women, with no beginning, middle, and end, in the rapid interval between systole and diastole. Saying goodbye, after the autopsy, they already know that the criminal and the gentle lover are the same person. The same blood, the same mirror, the same role.