If you and I were anteaters, instead of a man and a woman talking to each other in this corner of the bar, perhaps I would then be able to accustom myself to your silence. Perhaps we would understand each other through the complicity of our restless snouts sniffing the pavement nostalgically for non-existent insects. We might join, under the cover of darkness, in coitus as sad as the nights of Lisbon. Maybe then you would finally tell me something about yourself. It is possible that behind your Cranach forehead is a secret tenderness for rhinoceros. And perhaps, if you were to touch me, you might suddenly discover the unicorn in me. We could buy tickets to ride the little train that circles the zoo, going from animal to animal, waving, for example, to the white bears of the Arctic grotto. We could observe the anal conjunctivitis of the baboons, their eyelids inflamed with haemorrhoids. We could kiss in front of the cage of lions, moth-eaten like old coats, rolling their lips over stripped gums. You could buy me a popsicle near the corner where the clowns, arching their eyebrows, buffet each other to the tragic tune of a saxophone.
Do you remember the stone eagles at the entrance to the zoo? My parents lived not very far away. From the window of my brother’s room you could see the camels and their bored expressions. Sitting on the toilet, I listened to the complaints of the seals who were impeded by the width of the moat from swimming down the sewage canals and emerging in a jet of water through the spigots in my bathroom. The one-armed peanut vendor set up her basket industry in the shade of our veranda, and she would relate her husband’s drinking spress to my grandmother with epic zeal.
In every building there along the Rua Barata Salgueiro lived an old relative amid debris of Chinese vases and mouldy cabinets. In kitchens, ageless servants, all named Albertina, prepared salt-free broths while mumbling fragments of rosary as seasoning for the white rice. My aunts used to approach me, jerking like music-box figurines, to poke my ribs with their canes, observe the lining of my jacket disdainfully, and proclaim: ‘You’re so skinny.’ My pronounced clavicles were more shameful than lipstick on a man’s collar. My aunts would then settle with difficulty on the edge of their arm-chairs decorated with crocheted doilies; they would pour tea from ornate services, delivering a torrent of comments while pointing with their teaspoons at photographs of furious generals who, after glorious combats of backgammon and billiards in depressing mess-halls, died before I was born.