So here we are, on a stony day, surrounded by sick people propping up the walls like so many off-colour sausages. We are all waiting. I have brought a print-out of my latest translation, and am quite pleased that I managed to scribble in defiant red ink about 1,000 words during the almost two hours we have to wait for “Maria João” (her real name) to be called; this interspersed with two trips to the vending machine: breakfast (Maltesers, shared!), then the healthy choice (shared cup of coffee, and a bottle of water). I always get the giggles when a name gets called over the public address system. In Portugal it seems that every second person using the public health system is called Maria something-or-other, and every time “Maria” is announced a good half of the off-coloured sausages prick up their ears. This is followed by several “Maria who?” mutterings among those assembled, which invariably receives at least three different responses, thus ensuring that no-one hears the second announcement. The alternative scenario is someone asking “Who?” and getting the response, “Maria someone-or-other”.
Finally, it is João’s turn. We stand (figure of speech: I stand behind João, seated in her wheelchair) in front of the open door of consultation room 46 for a good five minutes. The previous patient is still in said room and has suddenly remembered something she should have already discussed, which entails a prescription to be printed out by João’s neurologist, whom we have already greeted. We are both laughing at his obvious impatience. The other woman is oblivious to the joke of which she is the subject and from which she is excluded. Just as well, poor dear.
João’s neurologist likes to speak English and nicknamed her “sweet Mary Jane” over two and a half years ago during her three week incarceration in hospital for “evaluation”; João had to prove all over again that she had MS when we emigrated. You arrive at “sweet Mary Jane” thus: the English literal translation of “Maria João” is “Mary John”; a quick vowel slide on “John”, and you arrive at “Jane”. Thank you, thank you, Rodrigues. Her neurologist also reads a lot of history books, and makes frequent oblique reference to a monumental wealth of facts stored in his fine mind.
Today, he greets João in Portuguese. He asks her whether she brought Shaka Zulu’s gold to Portugal with her. João does not hear. I repeat the question. While João is smiling I chirp up that someone else got there before him – and João. The next two minutes are spent discussing Cecil John Rhodes. It is only then that something resembling a proper medical consultation ensues.
Shortly after me showing the good neurologist the possible muscular atrophy in João’s left leg, him asking her if she wants tests (and a stay in hospital) to assess how much sensation she has left, he asks me if I have read any Portuguese poetry. I tell him that I have not studied the great poets, but have read some more modern poetry. He asks if I like the fado. I say I love the fado. He says that the fado is Portuguese poetry. I agree. He asks who I like. As I tell him who my favourite fadistas are, he writes the following on the back of a form headed “Hospital de Faro – Requisição de Exame Radiográfico”:
– Os Buzios
António Zambujo + Roberta Sá
– Eu já não sei
I am aware that João is giving me a look akin to incredulity as I am talking. In response, I say to her (in Portuguese) that this is very important; this is my prescription. The good neurologist agrees. Needless to say, these are mostly love songs. Clever man.
The word in bold appeared in the previous post.