About the roof repair, I have nothing new to report. The tiles were supposed to arrive yesterday; they did not. I rang that young man at the store to give him a piece of my mind, but he’s always so nice that I forget I called to quarrel. He told me the news about his mother (new boyfriend). We chatted for fifteen minutes, and it wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I realized I’d once again neglected to give him an earful. Meanwhile, the roof is still in shambles. It continues to leak, and of course now the walls are following suit—they’re covered in great big stains. Once the roof is done, I’ll need to fix the walls. One thing at a time. I can’t complain, though. All this leads to phone calls, conversations. If it weren’t for the roof tiles, I’d never have found out the boy’s mother has a boyfriend—it’s Celso, the one who drove a Ford Corcel when we were young. The boy at the store told me his mother is happy because she always had such a crush on Celso’s Corcel, and it’s just a shame the car’s long since been sold, she said. “All things in good time,” was what the boy told me on the phone. He was talking about his mother’s relationship, but a bit about my roof tiles, too.
Today I had lunch with my good friend. It’s been two months since he had that fall, in his hallway. My friend thinks it’s been more than two months, a lot longer, but that’s because he’s always in pain, etc. To this day, he can’t say how it happened—it wasn’t loose shoelaces this time, apparently. When he fell, my friend slammed his shoulder against the door and just lay there on the floor stunned, not knowing who he was or who that newly broken shoulder belonged to. The doctors gave him one of those slings that straps your arm against your body, and then they wrapped everything up so he couldn’t spread or even raise his wing.
After that my friend’s memory started to go. No one knows exactly why this happened—he didn’t hit his head on anything. My friend was terribly frightened because in the moment he tripped, he had time to realize he was going to hit the door on his way down, and that it was going to do some damage. He must have managed to duck his head and shield it from the impact, but he doesn’t remember. He says it must have been nothing more than a reflex. He protected his head, but the fright made him lose his memory.
My good friend is the one with uneven eyes. I’ve mentioned him here before by other names: my hunched-over friend, my friend whose parents were from Pernambuco, my toolmaker friend, my friend Suzy’s husband—they’re all one and the same. Right after his fall, when we spoke on the phone, he still remembered me perfectly, but a few minutes later he asked me, “Suzy, is that you, dear?” So I had to remind my friend who I was, and that Suzy was long gone.
After he fell and broke his shoulder, we had to go a few weekends without our get-togethers, without our precious lunches. My friend’s children came to take care of him and so it wasn’t right for me to come around as often as I usually do. My friend didn’t ask me to do that—I mean, he didn’t ask me not to stop by. I just preferred it that way. His four children came to town—two by plane, as I understand it. They saw their father with a broken shoulder and couldn’t think of anything besides medications and physical therapy. They don’t even know how to cook, and so my friend, who’s so fond of food, spent weeks eating cheese sandwiches. They didn’t even get him fresh rolls from the bakery, just sliced bread, and they only sometimes added a slice of tomato. My friend told me this only after his children had left. He said I’d done the right thing by not visiting, or else I would have been forced to eat one of those sandwiches, too.
My friend’s children always seem a lot nicer on the phone. They talk to me for a few minutes, call me Auntie, give me the latest on my friend’s health. But then they say they need to hang up, and poof, they’re gone. In the last few seconds of the call, I say I love each of them, I say I love them as always. They don’t say “I love you” back, but they mean no harm. “As always” covers a very long period of time—maybe what they’d need is a cutoff date, so they could reply without feeling embarrassed.
They were very distressed by my friend’s fall, of course they were, scared, afraid. So if, on top of everything else, they found out that my friend and I had been having lunch together every weekend, and that we even had dessert, they wouldn’t just be distressed, they’d be furious. They’d remind their father he’s diabetic. The kids found the Pyrex dish I’d used to transport the flan for our last lunch in the kitchen cupboard, and asked my friend if that Pyrex dish belonged to me. My friend denied it, and to sound more convincing he said he and I barely see each other now, because I’m an old lady who has trouble getting around, who spends most of her time in bed—that’s what he said. I don’t blame my friend for lying to his children—after all, he knows very well what those children of his are like. But he didn’t have to throw me to the wolves like that, as if I don’t even put on perfume anymore.
Well, my friend called me a few days ago and said his children had left. Two by plane and two by car. He was silent on the phone for a while, searching for something to say, but then he remembered the reason for his call and said he had the food and the beer ready, waiting for me, so I didn’t have to worry about a thing. He said, “Don’t worry about a thing,” referring to the food and drink but also to the absence of his children. He would make his vegetable loaf, from that Turkish or Balinese recipe, I can’t remember which, a dish I really like because it has olives. We’d have time to talk about his shoulder, about my roof, and also about something he’d been thinking about, he told me. I didn’t ask what it was, I was afraid it had to do with his children, probably some complaint, etc. My friend said that what he had to tell me was important, and this puzzled me because, after all, he doesn’t usually refer to his children’s grievances that way, as important or unimportant. But perhaps it had nothing to do with that. I hurriedly agreed to my good friend’s invitation and tied a perfumed scarf around my neck.