Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mamãe (continued)

Later that night while tia Nastácia brushed her teeth, I pretended to be her child. I sat on her bed, or rather our bed, swinging my legs back and forth. At the time I had been living with her, and sharing a bed. I didn’t mind it too much except for the fact that she was a motionless sleeper. She slept on her back and sometimes I thought she was dead but then I’d watch her egg-like stomach inhale and exhale until it made me sleepy again. Tia Nastácia did various bathroom rituals before bed. Once I walked in and she was washing her clothes in the tub. I learned that she had the habit of taking all the clothes that needed to be hand washed into the bathroom with her when she showered. She figured, since she was already wet, that she might as well sit in the tub after the fact and wash her clothes. All I could do was stare at her I was so surprised and nervous. She was naked, her short hair was all wet and pointy, and her thighs were dripping soap. She wasn’t surprised at all.

That night, while tia Nastácia was brushing her teeth, I realized that it had been one month exactly since I had moved in. By this point my days had lost any shape. They were flat things that I could no longer hold or feel or understand. I felt only the weight of my own body: dense and too full with organs. Sometimes I told myself that if tia Nastácia were a mother, things would have been better. She didn’t have to be my mother necessarily, I thought. Just a mother.

That night I tried to write a letter to Sara, my best friend in Brasília. But my hands kept getting too cold. I couldn’t feel my fingers and I couldn’t hold my pen properly. I had wanted my tia to walk in the bedroom and see me swinging my legs like a little girl but I went to the kitchen instead. I put the kettle on to make some tea. As I waited, I ran my hands under piping hot water until it made my hands flush. I took a teacup from the drying rack and leaned against the kitchen sink like tia Nastácia would. Maybe, I thought, I would see whatever it was that she saw. She always seemed so at peace, so puzzlingly still. My fingers were sweating from the water. I stared at the kitchen walls but I couldn’t find anything. And then the thought came to me: I was not inside something bound or kept. Everything was loosening, falling apart into its separate bits, into its furniture and walls and shapes. The water started to gurgle in the kettle, and I let it get louder and louder. My stomach started to bend, like the cold, curving white of the cup I held. I dropped the cup and its breaking sounded like crying.

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