EN

Autoresume

He never felt like running.

Every other morning, he puppeteered his lifeless mass of numb arms and legs to venture into the cold, brisk north wind that swept the morning beaches. Seagulls kept a promise of life among the dark blue plains of water, crying about their birdly affairs, and the long stretches of atlantic summer chaos, devoid of people, welcomed the elements and almost nothing but.

Every now and then a pilgrim on the way to Santiago crossed his path, and to every single one he wished ‘bom caminho’, dreaming of the times, future and past, he walked to Santiago just like them. Otherwise, he was all alone, for it was much too early in the day, and every wave broke a silence only disturbed by their own echoes on the sleeping buildings.

This was the coldest he’d been in weeks. He hadn’t slept all that well, and his mind was racing between a deafening static of worries.

Encapsulated in a Krillin hoodie, under a pool of streamed music and the digital gaze of a running app, he battered the kilometers away one at a time, keeping the growing pain subsided to an autopiloted action, whilst he fought to distance himself from his familiar thoughts.

‘How many sides of you are a work in progress?’, said an harrowing scowl, ‘In how many ways are you a wannabe runner on a feared, unknown pool of nothingness? Why do you let your crippling self-doubt hinder and make a rag doll out of you?’

‘Shut up, I’m not in the mood for you.’

‘You shut up. Who do you think you are, bossing me around? You may very well think me away, but you can’t. I’m the distress in your days, I’m the sour in your sweet, I’m the ugly in your neat, and I will find you — always. Nothing can keep me away. Your actions are futile, and your stupidity blinds you to the truth. You’ll never be happy. All your little tools and plans are a joke.’

‘On that note, I have something to ask you.’

The voice couldn’t hide a tone of surprise. ‘Yes…? And what might that be?’

He tried to keep is breathing under control. ‘I want to make a pact with you. I am your prey whether I like it or not, correct?’

‘That is a fact.’

‘Hear me out. I wish for you to leave me alone when I talk to other people. Is that something we can work out?’

The voice paused, deep in thought. ‘You’ll have to give me something in return for this unusual request.’

‘I understand. I am ready to part with one of my dreams.’

‘Is that so…?’

He stopped on his tracks. The app whispered in his ear — autopause. ‘That is my offer. In exchange for one of my dreams, you will never talk to me while I am already in a conversation with any other person.’

‘That sounds… doable.’

‘Do we have an agreement?’

The voice laughed. ‘And what dream of yours might it be?’

‘I’ll have to think about it. I’ll let you know.’

‘Keep me posted’, said the dreadful whisper.

‘I will. Now leave me alone. I have a full day ahead.’

‘Keep on being foolish’, and the voice laughed itself away.

The horizon was clearing a bluish sky. The night had ended its run, and he kept on running, for there was a distance yet to be braved. The app whispered yet again — autoresume.

Read next post

Standard
EN, Travels

Magic air

A timid sun lurked between rows of distant, sleepy houses. The raincoats shone from the constant pouring, and the mud on our boots clinged for dear life. You’d see clearly, by the way we moved, how sore our feet were. Compared to past days, they were strolling gently through freshly cut grass, drinking camomile tea and being massaged to the soothing sound of generic oriental new age monk music.

We had arrived on the tiniest of grocery stores. The old lady running it didn’t care much for light, as half her universe was as dark as a coal mine, and the rest dimly lit. The small collection of fruit and food was everything you could hope for in the middle of the Camino. I picked up some bananas, apples and grapes, and ordered coffee. Scratch that — saying I ordered coffee will sound like I was in a Starbucks, selfie’ing shamelessly around my badly written name on the paper cup. I wasn’t.

As I limped my way across other wet bastards lost between translation and incomprehension, and sat my tired ass on a coca-cola chair by a coca-cola table, I noticed my aching friends laughing at me for buying and eating grapes before a giant walk. That’ll work out fine, they said. You’ll shit yourself numb. Well, as it turns out, it did work out fine, you idiots, thanks for the advice.

Well, this was the part I was intending to reach with all the glamorous introduction. I notice how the tone I used right up to this moment is completely wrong for what i wanted to convey. Oh boy. Let’s see. I have to keep on being a jerk, while expressing something as delicate as my poker face while people talk about important things. That’s tricky.

Maybe if I flash forward to the point I am at now? Riding a moving metro train on my way to edit video in Porto, twenty minutes to nine in the morning, powered up by two non-shareable coffee cups. Turns out the nice weather had them too, as the rain and occasional thunderclap soars through my drug-induced morning. No August for you!

That day on the tiny little shop is three years old, and yet here I am remembering it.

The rain. The fruit. The jokes. The wet pilgrims resting, eating and relieving themselves before a reluctant outdoorsy shower. And of course, the table by our side, where two girls sat, in a smoky daze of slow DIY tobacco with a portuguese health label on its yellow package.

The mix of relaxation, coffee and beauty was as inviting as it was subtle. You could see the two were in a zen state, and the rain was merely a passing train in the distance, carrying other people’s worries.

When I asked where they came from, the girls brought their eyes back to this reality, and smiled. That was it. From that point on, we had two extra friends. Laughter and wine-enhanced happiness were to come a lot during the next few days. Further details are unimportant for the purpose of this text.

Or are they?

A memory is a detail. So is time, and the purpose of dreaming. The day-to-day hurry to gather invisible money, and the feeling of uneasiness inherent to feeling disconcerted, absent, disconnected, as a cog in the irrelevant machine, writing on a fucking phone.

Be all that as it may, there she was. Amidst all my failures and dreams, driving magic air through her lungs. Wet, dirty and beautiful, drinking a beverage she absolutely loved, cheaper and better in Portugal by a lot.

Details, details. How I long for them. How they populate and paint a gray mind. How they visit, like relatives do, floating around our minds’ living rooms, all flourish and smiles, spreading stories from other times and places.

Ah shit. Here’s my stop.

Read next post

Standard
EN

Huskies and wolves

Recently I watched a cheerful movie also named Frozen where, spoiler alert, a skier is ripped apart by wolves. Between the horror, blood and gore, I found myself cheering for them. No, I’m not a sociopath. You see, two weeks ago, my dog Indy died of leishmaniasis. He was a beautiful three-year-old Siberian Husky.

Although not the sharpest of dogs (Average Working/Obedience Intelligence), huskies are an amazing breed full of history and heroic feats, very friendly and joyful. Bred for speed, work and agility by the Chukchis (semi-nomadic, reindeer-hunting people of extreme north-eastern Siberia), huskies have a happy disposition and work incredibly well together. They’re fierce in extreme conditions and low-maintenance in terms of food (thanks to their closeness to wolves). If you needed more power, you could add more dogs: 18 or 20 dogs could be hitched to a single sled, without fighting, which wasn’t possible with other breeds. And I find it adorable that their husky mothers would help train entire litters in the art of sledding.

In the 1930s, the Soviets tried to destroy every vestige of non-Soviet culture, including the dog breeds. Thankfully, the artic explorer Olaf Swenson exported the huskies to North America, saving them from disappearance. In 1909, very few people knew the Siberian Huskies in Alaska, when, against all bets made, a team of nine huskies arrived at third place in the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race. They couldn’t believe it. The small and light huskies proved them all wrong. Balto, the husky, and the Great Race of Mercy is an incredible story of perseverance, in which a great relay sled race took place across Alaska, to provide medical serum essential to assist in a deadly epidemic.

Last, but not least, Siberian Huskies are gorgeous. They have triangular, upright ears, and their double coating can have any color, from pure white to pure black, combinations included. Their eyes also have a lot of variety: blue, brown, green, amber, etc., and even mixed. They’re very silent, and when they make some noise, it’s mainly a howl. Our dog howled when he wanted to go outside. Their fluffy, fox-like tails evolved that way to protect their noses in extreme coldness: they lie with the nose covered in tail fur, making the famous and beautiful siberian swirl.

I know, I know. Nowadays, buying a dog isn’t the right thing to do. Ironically, the right thing to do is to adopt the bought dogs other people abandoned. I get that. Honestly. Mixed dogs are genetically superior, more intelligent, and will love you as deeply as any full-breed dog would. Buying or adopting a mixed dog is better for the species as a whole. Still, I loved owning a Siberian Husky.

With breeds, you can read all about them, where they came from, their expected personality, who they fit best, and so on. I loved watching a friendly wolf stretch in my living room. It was funny every time. I loved even more when he had the hiccups, snored, or breathed with his tongue out. He wasn’t very obedient, but he was the friendliest. I miss him deeply. How many times did I sing this while hugging him? Not enough, that’s how many.

I found out that their howl, at full power, could be heard at great distances. I shivered, thinking what could the animal be feeling, so tragic, or alarming, that he’d have the need to howl in such a way. I thought that I wouldn’t want to see that happening. Thankfully, it never did. The last painful howl wasn’t his.

Read next post

Standard
EN

Spiraling in blood

Feeling like he could be sick on the fucking bus at any moment, Charlie closed his eyes and tried to tame his stupid stomach. What a fucking disgrace it would be, and all thanks to the pills he took this morning. Fucking pills. Fucking teeth. The anesthesia could disguise the pain of ripping a vile tooth from the bone, but the feeling of ingrained uselessness remained.

What a fucking mess of mouth, the dentist must have thought. With a couple of stitches on the new crater, and a never-ending flow of blood to swallow, Charlie traversed through a sea of people on the smelly, noisy, disgusting bus station. As he sat down on a disease-ridden waiting room, where time wasn’t the only thing passing, he pulled the phone from his pocket.

Shit! The fucking loudspeaker is high as fuck. A drunk, or junkie?, is repeating it loud for everybody, like it was fucking needed. That won’t work your way into me giving you money, Charlie said to himself.

He could read something. But the stomach wouldn’t digest a word of it. Writing something, though… Maybe he could write a few sentences, somewhere. He had a phone. What could he blurt about?

Fucking loudspeaker! What’s their problem?

He could write, but not about this hellhole, or himself. Charlie doesnt’t like when art starts spiraling in itself. He can’t stand it. Like films about filmmakers, or shorts with abnoxious, intellectual, unintelligible smokers as protagonists. Books with pretty misunderstood lady bookworms as leads; plays about actors dilemmas or playwright’s drunken stupor, music about drugged musicians’ descent to madness.

Fighters fight. Fishermen fish. Builders build. We, Charlie defended, use what we know to tell stories.

Give him their look on others instead! Make them mirror life through their eyes, and not only their lives. Expand your horizons. Look for your next interest. Study something other than art and then make art. Apply your passion and knowledge on other crafts and then surprise him.

Take him to the far reaches of space. To the top of Kilimanjaro or the depth of a mining disaster. Show him a monk’s pilgrimage through the unknown. Give him a murder mistery. Sing stories and people you knew and heard of. Lullaby Charlie. Scare the shit out of him. Give him wonder and then rip it out, like the fucking tooth from Hell. Describe the love of your life to Charlie, and feel him dying inside. Our story isn’t ours. We are here to tell other stories. Someone, if you’re lucky and worth it, will tell your own.

But Charlie needed to vent, to unload all of his frustrations somewhere, and the boxing bag and gloves are many miles away. Maybe creating a character-form punching bag? With the first mediocre name that came to his mind. And- Fucking loudspeaker! SHUT UP! Shut up…

He could cry. Easily. Not much sleep. Being lonely and distant helps you lose your grip. Being a human being has its perks and its nuisances. Needing a hug is the easiest disease to cure, and the worst to leave unattended.

Why, asked Charlie, is he writing in English? Why another name? Why not himself? Why is he hiding? Does he need to hide? Who is he hiding from? Why all the camouflage?

A gipsy woman is asking for money. Shit music is playing. The smell of gas and perspiration could kill someone, let alone the actual urge to do it.

Why hide? Well. The skin is exposed. Blood is pouring out, leaving a salty taste on the half-brushed mouth, and a world of passengers and buses hurrying around him couldn’t care less.

Read next post

Standard
EN

Serendipity and Love

The sun was dizzying and the path was unforgiving. I felt very hot, increasingly tired, and my damned water bottle was empty. Forgetting to refill it before those last 7 kilometers was, in retrospect, a rookie mistake. Step by step, with a ghost-like expression on my face, I hurried to my unknown destination. Where was I going? Why was I alone, thirsty, walking painfully towards the smallest of villages in Spain, in a terribly hot afternoon, in May?

I wish I could answer that truthfully. The truth is I can’t.

Last April, I embarked on a one-off journey that would last 35 days. I felt a gloomy, worrying sensation on my spine, when I saw my parents leave me at the Campanhã station in Porto, waiting for a middle-of-the-night train that would take me two countries away. Why?

Well, by then, I could answer this question with the same worn lines I’ve been mouthing incessantly these past few weeks. That wasn’t sincere in any way. I was no longer aware of what I said or did that was, unmistakably, coming from my deep self. The words and thoughts I produced were all well articulated, masked by the multitude of protocols I’ve been spoon-fed over the years, but far removed from my core.

What about my definition of love, you might ask? My overview of that was mechanical and programmatic, like a cog in an engine that simply works – and whose meaning gets lost along the machinery. I felt bad for my distance – but less and less. The crazy part of it all is that I was aware of my worrisome and growing lack of empathy.

The reason I entered that train was simple. I would walk the path of the Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way), all the way from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port (in France) to Santiago de Compostela (in Spain), and from there to the sea, in Finisterra. This was not, by any measure, an easy task to undertake. It was expensive, it required a lot of time, and it was physically draining. I know there are other activities far more difficult, but this was my notion of getting out of the comfort zone.

The past Caminos I’ve walked were revelatory experiences for me. The first and second were similar – the last 115 km to Santiago, from Sarria, where I experienced a lot of new things. I had never done a pilgrimage in any way, shape or form – and I did it in the company of a school I hadn’t attended, full of people I didn’t know of all ages but mine. The pain was vibrant, both physical and psychological. What did I get myself into? Why all this deliberate suffering? What does the Camino bring to these people that they so gladly volunteer to repeat it, in some cases, twice a year?

I started to understand in the months following my return. I would feel a sense of dread about the everyday rush, the fucking incessant noise that filled the days. Agitated people; misunderstandings, good teams frustrated by bad leaders and good leaders frustrated by bad teams. Itches in society, day in, day out, became full-on rashes on my brain. Listening to music and podcasts with my eyes closed, on my never-ending commutes, I’d try daily to upload myself to an empty, blissful heaven of nothing.

On the 2015 Camino, I talked for a few hours with a very nice north-american lady. She had a grandmotherly gravitas, and listened to me intently on her slow and leisurely pace. Alone, she was walking peacefully the same 850 km road as me, leaving her six children worrying at home. The newest of them was my age, a twenty-six year-old. Her husband had died unexpectedly the past year, and when people asked her if she was doing the Camino for him, she replied:

‘Of course not, I’m doing it for myself! He’s fine, wherever he is.’

We talked deeply about love and passion, about friendship and commitment, about fearing the unknown and our beliefs. I was strangely articulate, and I believe I succeeded in sketching verbally how I got myself in this situation.

After the two first Caminos, I finished my bachelor’s degree. Then I did some videos, the types unfamiliar to me by then. That took a short amount of courage, and the stakes grew from project to project, as did my confidence. My gutsy approach on a project was rewarded with an award, and from that, I got an internship on the Red Cross offices of Póvoa de Varzim, where everything and everybody brought new and surprising learning curves I hadn’t dreamed of before. I started jumping on new things I didn’t see myself doing before. Then, I literally jumped – but from an airplane.

‘Oh, my!’, she gasped, ‘You went skydiving? That’s insane.’

I smiled. Yeap, it certainly was, as it was a fucking great experience. On the very same day I did the free-falling, and shakily learned to walk again on firm ground, a couple of friends challenged me to walk the Portuguese Camino with them. I accepted.

I explained to her how I started saying ‘yes’ to things I didn’t find a justifiable ‘no’ in time. They were something I had acquired only recently. Something like ‘why the fuck nots’, these ‘yeses’ were strangely new, and I filled my year with new experiences. After the Portuguese Camino, I started practicing kickboxing, and learned an awful lot about it, and all the things fighting teaches you about yourself. I learned the basics of guitar. I went dancing in a Póvoa de Varzim traditional festivity. I went grape-stomping. I taught stuff to kids and I monitored them in Red Cross summer camps. I lost a lot of weight, watched my intake, bought a nice watch and perfume, and for the first time, didn’t flinch in front of the mirror. This was a massive change.

When the inevitable idea of making the full Camino got into my head, I couldn’t find a viable ‘no’. After the Red Cross internship, the opportunity was there, waiting for me, and calling me by name. I eagerly awaited, preparing it for months, and sure enough, the time came and I didn’t back out, even somewhat fearing it.

‘Do you believe all of this was a coincidence? A lucky draw?’ she asked.

‘I don’t really know.’

‘I believe things happen for a reason, and everything is written beforehand by God. What do you believe?’

I paused for a moment, and replied:

‘Serendipity, I guess.’

I told her I believed every possible ramification is in front of us, and we are free to choose whichever. There is no surefire way of doing anything. Our path isn’t laid on front of us, step by step. We mess up, we create, do the unexpected and then – some years later – all your life’s episodes start making sense as a whole. It won’t make sense for quite some time. You just have to make the best choices, work hard and someday you will find serendipity – discovering you made all the right choices by accident – and in retrospect, all the wrong choices were right ones too, because they made you the coherent being, the well-rounded human being you hoped to become one day .

When I touched the subject of romantic love, she noticed my skepticism. I find it exists only in art. I know what you are thinking – maybe romantic love exists and I need to be proven otherwise. I know for certain I prefer being alone than enduring something mediocre or terrible just for the sake of it, like a lot of people do or expect you to. People are animals, they do what their nature commands them to. They try to justify things to themselves, and change. I know I’m happy, and my feelings are in control. I feel like I need a great reason to give up being a whole, and surrendering a sensitive part of myself to a member of the opposite sex just because nature built me that way, and gave me the coordinates of sexual attraction. I know everybody wants to be loved, and I’m no exception. But Love is way bigger than coupling feverishly.

And in the Camino I got to see everything in action. All the attractions, all the distractions danced in front of me. Being in the Camino for a month gives you an excellent microcosm of life, and the complexity of human connections. The mutual fight for bringing down the language barrier, and all the proof you need people are the same everywhere. I got to meet people from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S.A., England, Italy, France, Switzerland, South Korea, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan… from all ages and walks of life. I was extremely lucky that some fully-fledged friendships were formed. It was absolutely amazing.

It was worth all the pain, injury, the thirst and fear – all the hours and hours walking aimlessly, all the rain and fog, all the mud. I wrote like a madman, took thousands of photos, and recorded a lot of video too – although those mediums are short-ranged and can’t fully embrace the meaning of the Camino.

The Camino is, on itself, a voluntary setback. You put yourself on a situation very different from the one you’re accustomed to. Your habits enter a shock-like stage, and burden you until they are ousted and become a memory, replaced by the new Camino day-to-day routine. I can explain –

At first you miss your bed; you miss home, and your friends. The days pass and you learn to overcome your distance to comfort – and then you get used to being there, sharing a room with dozens of snoring unknowns. Waking up and leaving a bunk bed between 6 and 8 A.M., even if it’s raining, and walking for hours, at least a good amount of km every day. Your body aches. Your feet are in pain. But you keep going.

The Camino opened my eyes in unexpected ways. I got to re-evaluate all my values and ambitions, and think about them anew. That alone is absolutely priceless. Think of a house filled by all your belongings, all your relations, all your fears and ambitions. Now, start taking stuff from that house until it’s empty. Take down the walls and look closely at the foundations. Kick them and see if they stand proud and strong. If some crack, mend those cracks, and make them stronger. Are they worthy and capable of supporting your future? Great, now put everything back in. I can guarantee you will reorganize everything, and see all your stuff with new eyes. Everything is new.

I sure as hell felt like it when I returned home. The thing is – I’m still reorganizing everything, and my head is all messed up, frankly. I miss the Camino, even knowing that on the Camino, I missed home. I want to get away again – somewhere far and very different, so I can learn a lot more.

And what is the Camino, really? It’s not a point in space and time. It’s a bit of a riddle – a road to somewhere, or something that moves. Every single day, somebody starts it and somebody quits it. Somebody cries tears of pain or joy. Somebody opens their arms, grinning profusely, in a beautiful landscape. Friendships are formed with iron-like strength, and weak relationships are torn apart. Yeah, a girl I met witnessed one such case, where a German couple started together the Camino, and some days later, 8 years of intimacy met their demise. When you get rid of the noise, facades find their end.

In short, you question all the things you took for granted, and some of them you find aren’t worth enduring at all.

Finisterra

I listened to a lot of music, in particular the Pink Floyd discography (thank you Spotify). Their unbelievable album “Wish You Were Here” struck a deep chord with me. As I read about it, I found out it was about madness. Being distant, close, yet far removed, on the cold, machine-like society of today. I thought about how I was so absent-minded from myself before the Camino, and the never-ending risk I’m in of becoming robot-like again.

I can feel it, creeping over me like a shadow, winning me little by little. That neurotic, unquenchable thirst of being sincere and enjoying the fucking moment like a human being would.

Standard