Today Jack got out early, while I was still dreaming of rosabuds and guirlandes on the wall of a monch’s refectory, of tulips and waterpipes, of drowsy days spent under semispherical
pink umbrellas, of the Lisbon elevator that takes you up to the sky for only 2€ and the tram that takes you down for much less, of the drug dealers harassing everybody who looks like a
tourist with their cheap Marihuana offers, of the miserable street people gathering food furtively like a bunch of shrewd vixen, of the affluent enjoying their café with flannel pillows
put behind their back, under their butts, supporting their knees, their hips, their shoulders, their ellbows, their ankels and all other ligaments, huge piles of pillows everywhere,
stowed in the heavy space around them, pillows with the goose feathers peeping out and start twirling slowly to the ground.
Jack got out because he wants some action. “What is a stay in
Lisbon” he thinks, “without something happening, I mean, really hap-pe-ning, something unusual like a dog pissing kiwijuice.” And Jack has a nose for things. He just goes down to Rossio, the tourist area and walks into a drug dealer. He sniffs his nose and looks the guy straight in the eyes, saying
“Got some coke?”
The guy looks at him and hisses
“Not here. Police.”
“Ah!” Jack shouts and points at the poor guy, his hands in an almost majestic pose like the Redeemer on the other side of the Tejo,
“This guy doesn’t even have the guts to sell me some decent coke. Keeping it al for himself under his pillow. What are you, a fucking pussy?”
The bystanders gather in a perfect circle around Jack and the poor guy, who starts stuttering and a white spumy stream of saliva glistens in the corners of his mouth like frothed eggwhites.
“What are you?” shouts Jack and he looks at his public. The man is angry now, he does not understand where Jack aims at. Jack aims at his frazzled identity that he identified as the
Achilles’ heel he had to put his spear in. The man sees Jack with his eyes turning and a victorious grin on his face.
“You’re nothing but a despicable street rat, a scumbag, a bum, a lost case.”
The man wipes the foam off his chin and tries to hit Jack with his fist. He misses him. Jack doesn’t think about his boredom anymore, he looks at the sky and falls in love with the clouds.
How beautiful they are, how they regained their structure, their hue, all of a sudden the world has dimensions again, dimensions to explore, myriad possibilities of soft clouds, the world was fluffy like goose feathers escaping from flannel pillows that are squeezed under well-fed behinds. Then he laughs and kicks the man between the legs. His shoes have steel fronts. The guy almost loses consciousness. He sinks to the ground and yells like a strangulated kitten. The circle of bystanders is perfect. Jack looks up at the sky again, the clouds sailed now, direction Tejo. Adrenaline is soaring through his veins. How easily does our body secretes that stuff
when engaging in a conflict with other humans. It’s almost the same hormonal high as in a deadly animal attack. I’m talking tigers and crocodiles here. Jack wonders. I have to take a note
of this, he thinks, this is bigger than me. Something along the lines of “in human encounters we are more prepared for a deadly fight than in the case of a deadly animal attack. Fear and
vigilance primordial stance of a human being-” It is a conjecture, nothing more, but Jack believes it. Suddenly, a heavy hand grasps his wrist firmly tight. The officer talks fast in Portuguese, he drags Jack along and he is taken to the police vehicle. Neat, modern minivans the Portuguese police has, Jacks observes. Now he can observe! Nice leather seats. He is unable to answer the questions the officers start yelling at him. He keeps shrugging and smiling and looking at the clouds that are almost out of sight now.
“We need your name and id please” an other officer says in English. His voice is echoing between the Pombal-facades. Jack nods his head. They begin. The first page is almost done when the same poor guy that Jack just hit walks up to them and offers his help. His voice was
“Hi my friend, how are you?” says he.
Jack nodded. He is fine. The policemen look at each other and at some goodlooking women that pass.
“You can go now, but the next time we’ll arrest you” the officer said to Jack.
“Got it” Jack replies and they walk together, the man he hurt and he.
“Why did you come?” Jack asks with great surprise. “I kicked you right in the balls. I inflicted terrible pains upon thou.”
The man walks next to him and seems in a hurry.
“This way” he tells Jack and takes him up a few blocks.
“You wait here.” Jack stands in a narrow street and feels happy. All the laundry drying in the February sun, silk and linen and cotton of marvelous bright colors dangling underneath the
window sills. There are blouses, towels, skirts, wunderbras, and many woolen socks. Jack can’t believe he is gazing at socks while he ought to be hanging out, having chilled Portwine with
the beautiful women of Lisbon. Why does he not hit on woman? Something is holding him back. The same thing that makes him aggressive towards people who want to sell him drugs. Jack doesn’t need anything. Just the seconds, not the stream they constitute. Jack lives his life second by second. That’s why he is disconnected to everybody, that’s why he starts kicking
other humans. The stream does not matter to him at all. The seconds are his solace, their he seeks the fecundation of his dearest ideas. He tries to hide away in the pulse of time.
I know he’s there, and I know he he is lonely and wants to listen to us. I live this life day by day, I understand Jack.The man returns and pushes Jack through a small door. Suddenly he stands in a tiny room with two beds and a smal color tv on a mahagony sideboard from colonial times. In the bed Jack counts two children.
“My family” the man says.
-“Why did you bring me here?” Jack says while uneasily looking at his toes.
“We will have dinner together.”
-“Why the hell…?” Jack grunts.
“Ssst, children asleep” the man whispers crossing his wet lips with his dirty forefinger. Jack sees the drool again. Abruptly, he turns to the man and asks
“Did Kamiel send you?”
-“No”, the man replies. “Not this time.”
I am traveling alone. I buy 10 portions of instant coffee in Pingo Doce for 50 cents, it keeps the ideas flowing. Pingo Doce reminds me of an old friend. It’s a sentimental thing. Instant coffee with milk does not taste too bad, while being a cheap form of caffeine intake. I take my computer and write, trying not to care about the result too much. Maybe I have to keep it
all to myself. If it’s a struggle and only the result counts, the shiny beads of polished insight. Nobody cares how you get there. If a friendly old man has written poetry all his life and he is invited to a tv show to tell about it, the question will be “what is your best poem?” Only the most lean, brushed-up, only the best are of any value to the interviewer. He says we reduce your life to that one poem which we are gonna absorb so all your value, all the things you are worth will be sucked out of you and into us. Your own life is worthless, we don’t give a shit about you. Give us your best poem, give us your best photograph, your best painting, your best composition, all free of charge of course, and we’ll digest that and poop it out to fortify the encrusted walls around the nidus of their fat egos.
How are peaceful societies possible? Let’s not think about that. Let’s just rejoice the freaking miracle. Couchsurfing.com has a 99.8 percent rate of positive references. 99.8 percent of
all couchsurfing experiences are good. It’s a high number, and since there are almost one million couchsurfers on the planet, it’s a reason to be positive about human nature. We are getting somewhere. Think of Obama. Still, it remains a miracle and I think it should. But we are on our way. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer closes: “The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing
through me – its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”