Walter locked that Sunday inside the apartment and left it there, amid the mugginess coming from the wall that had been exposed to the sun all day long. He joined cyclists at the park, weaving through stands selling popcorn and sugar cane juice. He wandered while paying attention to conversations from people under the shade of trees, sprawled on the grass, trying to find shelter from the sun, and begging for rain to come down pouring soon to cool things down and allow a good night of sleep. A boy wearing a dirty pair of shorts watched out for the cop as he dove into the fountain at the park. He wasn’t being naughty―that dive was out of necessity. The place was swarming with activity: old LPs, magazines that brought out old times, books of every style, china pieces stray from the set to which they once belonged. He thought about going through the boxes of books to find company or an escape for the afternoon, but the lazy heat urged him to look for a shade and tune out the thoughts that afflicted his mind―and that’s what he did.
One of the covers caught his eyes because of the discolored image that complemented the bad title. He picked up the book and analyzed the old photograph, approaching it from the edges. The sepia tone resembled that of the street that had taken him there. The leaves that had moved from the top of the trees to the sidewalks and the not-so-lush grass made him mentally retrace his steps to where he was before he decided to have a drink to rid himself of the cold that hadn’t yet come to stay.
He didn’t read a single paragraph; he simply went through the pages and stumbled upon this or that word, but nothing seemed to have the same shade of that scene on the cover. He longed for his grandparents’ house, the smell of warm bread that would welcome him back home from school, and the homework he had to finish before he could bit off the soft dough sprinkled with fennel seeds and struggle with the layer of cream that would form on the surface of his coffee and milk. He motioned to loosen the tie he wasn’t wearing at that moment―the knot on his throat was what really bothered him.
He left the reading and babbling aside, took a long deep breath and chose the least straight line possible to go on walking and let the afternoon wear itself out. Through those streets where he wasn’t used to walk, he dedicated his slow pace―somewhere between apathy and diligent movements―to observing the façade of old buildings. Some well-preserved houses transported him back to the time when the neighborhood was occupied by prosperous business owners who, during intense summers, would talk to their neighbors on the sidewalk while the heat did not favor any interaction inside due to the lack of an HVAC system. Imagining the routine from past times was a way to melt away his discontent with the present. It gave him the improbable satisfaction of comparing the everyday tranquility with the absent converser at his house. It filled him with the warmth of others―he could almost feel their caress. He was happy to see the colors that his eyes captured on exuberant flower beds, despite the fact that they seemed a little thirsty, and the shreds of music that escaped to the sidewalk. The act of postponing his usual silence enhanced the inseparable joy he felt by the absence of walls and brought about an unprecedented decision: He would call Andrea to go watch the sun set over river Guaíba, as they used to do in the past.
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