One Day in Lisbon by Jana Hulová
Some say the best place for a new start is Paris; some say it’s Rome. But I felt somewhere in my heart that it was Lisbon. Between Bairro Alto and Alfama, somewhere near Praça do Comercio or Russio, the first letter of this story was written.
Walking alone down the street of Rua Augusta that leads from Russio Square to Praça do Comercio, I was wondering how lonely one could actually be though surrounded by people. Nobody knew how intense my feelings were that autumn afternoon. Even I had difficulty feeling happiness in the unbearable sadness of my everyday life. I looked around and found no one who could understand me, but still, there were quite some to observe me. In between my mourning thoughts I was admiring the colours of the fall and trying to absorb the last rays of the autumn sun. Yeah, Lisbon was the right place where I could start a new life. The place where Europe meets the world. Everything was so nice here.
As I was passing a stall with hot chestnuts, their poignant smell tickled my senses. Their original black colour brought me back to my black continent. It’s a Portuguese speciality to add salt while baking the chestnuts. It veils them in white. The salty cover of their skin reveals the connection of the black continent with Europe – the salty taste of the ocean is what connects them.
I didn’t buy them although I hadn’t eaten for a few days. Don’t get me wrong. I had money, not much but enough for one portion of chestnuts. I just don’t like eating. I prefer watching food and fantasizing about it. I am not ill; I just don’t like eating. Maybe that is the reason why people stare at me. There are many skinny Africans in Lisbon, but I am probably too skinny...
And so I left the old man with his hot chestnuts alone. Anyway, he was too occupied with the young tourists that ignored the chilliness of that autumn afternoon and were wearing skirts so short that even the slightest breeze wouldn’t have much work lifting them and exposing their bottoms.
I came to Praça do Comercio and the very first sight of the Tejo river made me realize how far I am from everything I knew. My black earth is so far away and he – the one I loved so much – even further. But he was the reason why I had come here. I had come to forget, to start a new life, to write about all the beauty I knew. And I don’t care that everybody thinks that there is something wrong with me. I am too soft. I love to speak nicely. I love to speak as if I were writing poetry. There are so many things that make me want to write. Like the slight shadows in the eyes of the girl standing next to me. I can’t do anything but celebrate those shadows. I had to put that beauty down and share it with the potential reader, or at least with my own thoughts.
I was unacceptable in Africa and I don’t know why. I just loved him so passionately. I couldn’t live without him. But he loved the girl that lived next door. Oh, how ridiculously sweet they were when I entered the room with the knife in my hand. I can still feel the blood. It was so warm while flowing from their motionless bodies. They wouldn’t be happy. I loved him. She would just hurt him and I just couldn’t allow that. It was my duty to make him happy. There was no place for her in our happiness.
Have you ever experienced real love? It’s stronger than life; it goes beyond the grave. He is waiting for me now. Of course, it hurt when I saw him dying, but I love him. I did it for our sake.
And I had to leave. They wouldn’t understand. My love was so strong and deep that ordinary people are not able to stand even a single thought of such a love.
So here I am. Not in Paris, the city of love, not in London, the city of culture. I’m here, in Lisbon. I knew it’s the best place to forget the past pressure and prejudice. Lisbon was just the right place to go. I was really determined to start again. Maybe I will start to eat again and publish the first collection of poems I have written about a love stronger than death.
But the moment I approached the river on Praça do Comercio, I heard a seagull. It was him calling me, and I had to go. I needed his sweet kiss on my dry lips; I wanted to feel the warmth of his body on mine.
Suddenly, I hear someone calling, “He is bleeding! Help him. That African man is trying to kill himself. Is there any doctor near here? That man is dying!” They are trying to rescue me but they won’t succeed. My body is too weak, and after all, my love is waiting for my bodiless hug.
It was a nice life even though nobody understood me. I loved this life: its colours and smells, the drops of rain and rays of light. The world did not understand me, but I was really happy here. And now? He is waiting... my love... I’ve got to go.
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