10.06 am Train 122 to Lisbon

The woman wearing a green polyester dress and a fake fur jacket is a lawyer. She needs a plumber because the faucet in her bathroom is leaking. She hang up that call and is now talking to her friend Ritinha about her marriage and how taking confession at the Vatican with a Spanish priest has helped to cope and forgive even though she is still hurt. Maybe he cheated on her. She has decided to start her master’s degree. Maybe she will get to be a judge. She needs to work on her resume and then move to do a Doctorate, something on tax and fiscal law. Her friend has a better resume, it seems. Anyway, she wants to base her studies in practical cases so she doesn’t feel the pressure of the doctrine. Her son, Francisquinho stayed with her mother-in-law. Her husband António stayed in Porto. She doesn’t like to be alone. She is going to Coimbra to fix her diploma, the silver seal and the ribbons are missing. She had the diploma framed the minute she got it. She couldn’t resist. She hangs up. Her friend is probably busy.

12.30 pm 

We have arrived at Santa Apolónia Station. The smart looking old gentleman seating across the corridor has a beautiful engraved cane. I offer to take his bag down. He tells me that the only good thing about growing old is the young people who are willing to help. He reassures me that he was young once. 

1 pm blue line subway train

The lady wearing a tropical print maxi skirt is on the phone explaining she is late and that she has forgotten her check book. She will have to pay the deposit in cash.

1.20 pm Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

I register for the conference and buy the ticket to see the Almada Negreiros exhibition. I stop listening. Chance encounters and unexpected company bring out the chatterbox in me. 

4 pm international congress on Fernando Pessoa

The session is on “Fernando Pessoa the classicist”.  I seem to not really be listening to most of it. Athena magazine and the supreme art form. Inferior art is meant to please, average art should elevate you and the superior art sets you free. It makes your soul rise above everything that is narrow in life, by freeing you it goes beyond elevation which can only occur outside oneself. The supreme art frees you from within. Ricardo Reis and the classic form, syntactic analyses of five odes to a boy who is dead. Homoerotic poetry or simply a lyrical lament for the person that was and is no longer. Questions from the audience in academic conferences always tend to be transformed into frustrated presentations.

The beautiful blonde lady with flawless skin seating next to me comes to the conclusion that the more she searches for knowledge, the more she realizes that there’s just too much to be learnt.

5.30 pm coffee break

I run back to the exhibition room.I forgot to write down the references for some of the paintings. In a dark room Eros and Psyche shine from a rectangular stained glass panel. On the way out there’s a painting called “Family”. I have a replica bought at a jail art fair. It’s not very good, I just find it moving that it was painted by someone serving time in prison.

6 pm back at the conference hall

This is the session that made me travel today. Intellectual giants are still my superheroes.

Professor Eduardo Lourenço is 93. He is here, he says, as a ghost of himself. There is a new generation of experts who have the most admirable of qualities, they are alive and he had, for quite some time now, abdicated of giving presentations at events such as this one. But he came as “one of the victims of the fulgurating passage of that star, that absolute vampire who was Fernando Pessoa (…) because once the Pessoan Galaxy hits you, you are forever transfigured, blood and soul sucked out of you by the celestial vampire who bragged that he could be everything in every way”. And that makes him extraordinary and baffling. How can, Professor Gil, asks, one live with a shattered self? How is it that this person never sought to unify but could clearly understand himself and the world as parts without a whole, infinitely multiple. And the risk of madness, the divine folly of wanting to continuously devour everything, of becoming the interlocutor of everything by transforming even the most insignificant experience into an universal reaching reading of ourselves.

To feel everything in every way.
To feel everything excessively

7.50 pm the train will leave in 10 minutes

The man in scruffy blue overalls is telling the girl wearing a jersey in earthy tones that people now are very much attached to their pets because they know other people are going to be a disappointment. That is what’s wrong with the world. We are becoming irrational because of our egos and because of greed. We are losing our values, he says, we are losing our love for each other. And what happens when there’s no love? We live in terror, we loose ourselves. He has to go but before he does, he apologizes for his impassioned speech, “I can be a bit of a pain sometimes”.

10 pm we just left Coimbra. There’s never much talking in night trains, specially on a Friday.

Photo: Untitled, Almada Negreiros (1921) Watercolour on paper


6 thoughts on “Listening”

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