It was Saturday. They sat around a turned off television, the four of them trying to survive the January heat. The air conditioning was off, as it usually is when it’s old and broken and not working properly. A small fan spread the warm air around the room, but the people sitting in the room pretended it had a cooling effect. No one knows what each particular mind was thinking, because that’s how the mind works, at least so far: it keeps its thoughts to itself, day and night. There are only tiny gaps through which these thoughts can make themselves available to the general public, in rare occasions presenting themselves from time to time, but that was not one of those. The four of them could only work in pairs. And in pairs they could’ve opened themselves, if not completely, at least to the extent one is usually able to open up to one’s friends. In pairs, they might’ve told one truth or another. The dynamic could find no way to transpose itself to reality arranged as a quartet: not that quartet: and maybe not any quartet. Would anyone be able to find three other people with whom that first person would have the same degree of intimacy and honesty? That would be an unusual sight.
She looked at him, her eyes pleading for an exit. He felt the same way, it was known to the both of them — and maybe even to the remaining two. How could they not perceive the awkwardness hanging in the air, unchanged by the fan’s movements? But maybe they didn’t, their work in progress taking the bigger part of their brain power.
“I think we’ll go out”, he said, reading her mind.
“And where will you go?” said the second young woman, acting surprised, her curiosity bothering the other three people in the room. What did it matter to her?
“Well, I don’t know for sure, I…” the young man sought the excuses to cover up the obvious reason: they needed to get out of their sight. “I’m not sure… she knows better than I do” he said, pointing at the first young woman.
“I-ice cream, I think” she thought it quickly: ice cream would be an obvious choice. No one would be able to disagree with that decision. And they wouldn’t be able to bring any ice cream back: it was too hot outside and it would’ve melted before they could be halfway back. It was the perfect excuse.
“Yes, ice cream. We’ll be back soon” but they wouldn’t. “Do you need anything?”
“Cold beer. That would be great” said the second young man, offering no money to have his wish granted. The first young man was about to open his mouth, about to point out the incongruence in asking two poor people to bring cold beer back from god knows where, with god knows who’s money, and to expect to actually have that unreasonable wish fulfilled: but as quickly as those thoughts had come to the back of his tongue, they were let go.
“Yes, sure. See you later”, answered the first young man, without sounding rude or ironic. It was one of his most interesting and unexpected talents: to be able to actually show kindness and sympathy even in the most ridiculous of situations, and sometimes to even feel them truly somewhere inside himself.
They made their way downstairs, two steps at a time. The staircase and the building’s halls were cool, cooler than the apartments and the streets, cooler than the shadows of trees. She was about to ask him where the coolness came from, which angel exhaled such a chill breeze onto the stairs, but the thought never made its way out of her mouth. It would remain a mystery. Such a pity, since he was an architect, and one who would be able to explain away the magic of those Siberian halls and staircases. They left the building as the uncaring sun embraced them with its hellish shine.
“I would not be able to stand another five minutes in that room” she said, emphasising each word with her hands. “I just wouldn’t. I would have slapped that girl across her rich face” she continued, knowing she would never be able to slap anyone in the face — she had once, in the past, but never again.
“Yes, I know what you mean. But she’s a nice person.”
“What? No, she’s not!”
“I don’t know, she’s all closed up today. But she’s usually a nice person” he said, looking at the long street ahead of them, unaware of any subtle meanings his sentence could have.
“Okay… maybe it’s me, then. Maybe I’m bothering her and preventing her from being able to… I don’t know, speak” looking sideways, only slightly bothered by the thought. She didn’t really care if her presence was not of the second young woman’s liking. “I don’t really care though.”
“Yes… that makes sense” as if the idea had never crossed his mind — and it hadn’t. “Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Maybe it is you” he concluded: he knew he could tell her that. He knew she wouldn’t get mad or defensive. She was that kind of friend: the kind of friend with whom you can be honest. Quite a rare sighting for that place in which he was born, that place built upon dark red soil and second and third-generation immigrants.
“Well, it might be, but again: I don’t care” she insisted, preventing him from worrying about her feelings — and he would, in a minute, if he thought making the second young woman uncomfortable would distress his friend. He was that kind of friend: the kind of friend with whom you can be honest, and the kind of friend who worries about you. The kind of friend you meet when you’re quite young, walking near the river with the name of an instrument, and with whom you reconnect several years later. The kind of friend who is actually also a distant relative. The sun and the heat and the cars driving by prevented them from discussing the subject any further, and they walked downhill without a word, searching for trees and their shadows.
“Where are we going, anyway?” he asked after a while, his t-shirt showing signs of severe sweating.
“I don’t know. We could have ice cream. Or not. We could just walk aroun-“
“What, walk around where? It’s 36 degrees Celsius. I don’t want to walk any more than I absolutely have to.”
“We could go back home.”
He thought for a moment: “no, no, that’s even worse.”
“I don’t know. We’re stuck in this stupid town filled with stupid people and we don’t even have anywhere nice to go. And if we did, we wouldn’t have money to go there anyway. But maybe there could be nice places that didn’t cost anything: we could have a park, a huge park, thousands of trees in it; we could have, I don’t know, free museums, we could have a nice library, with interesting books and a nice place in which we could read; we could have markets, for fuck’s sake, a fucking street market, or cheap art galleries. Maybe a place where we could play sports without breaking a fucking leg or being run over” he paused for a second, but she knew he wasn’t over. “And if we did have money right now, we still wouldn’t have anywhere nice to go. It’s just red dust, heat, ugly buildings that say nothing about the people living in it, and a thousand hours of sunshine a day, right above your head.”
“We could watch a film”: she was aware of everything he had just said: she was aware of every waking second she had to spend trapped in that town, but she didn’t feel like encouraging their hate at that moment. She felt like encouraging a way out. “Or we could get out of here. Like, right now. We have been planning it for a long time. Maybe we should stop planning. The world is so fucking huge, there must be somewhere nicer than this.”
“No, they wouldn’t like it if we watched a film. And they wouldn’t stop talking so we would be as annoyed as we are right now, or even more annoyed” he paused. “But getting out of this town, right now… that would be great.”
The sun was nowhere near of being set, even though two and a half hours had passed. They sat in comfortable chairs, side by side, the prospects of a better future dubious but present. Their life would get better: it had to.
“We’re really lucky we could find draught beer for a fiver. I didn’t think it was possible.”
“I know” he sipped the piss-coloured drink. “We really are”, he continued, adjusting his chair so that the sunlight wouldn’t pierce his eyes. “But you know soon we’ll be right back where we started.”
“Oh, but what can we do about it today? Honestly?” she looked at him, and she knew they had a shared disappointment it would be better not to bring up. “Tomorrow will have to wait.
photo by Maicon Rugeri.