Being where you are meant to be. I have been fortunate to have found my spot, something which was confirmed in so many indescribable small ways when I spent three weeks with my entire immediate family in Brisbane, Australia, over Christmas 2014. It was great seeing my family, but none of the places I found myself in resonated with me. Upon my return in mid-January last year, I was overcome with waves of relief the minute I felt my feet on the streets of Lisbon. Cheira bem, cheira a Lisboa, I said to myself as I inhaled deeply, although I cannot say that it was the smell of flowers and the sea which greeted me.
João still says that she is glad that she is here, which last time I enquired where exactly she meant, she said “here, with you”. As it happens, late yesterday afternoon I was at the very café at which I had the realisation mentioned in the story below. The difference now, is that it is over nine years later and I am not a tourist. Although I seldom go to that particular café, now on its third makeover since summer 2006 when X marked the spot, almost everyone knows me there. I chatted to the father of João’s deceased best friend, and let him know that I have just been to his house to collect my mail, since we still piggyback on their post box.. He tells me the story again of how he first met João on her 21st birthday in Mutare, Zimbabwe, long before I have met her. I wandered outside and sat with a Portuguese couple who also speak English. We were soon joined by two Dutch women. Conversation is easy, fluid, and switches at required between these languages. It is a warm, sunny day, the first absolutely free weekend I have had this year. For the first time, and this may have been due in part to the company, I felt at ease socialising on my own – without worrying about João, since she is at home, well-fed and in bed, watching TV. It is pleasant, and I still like the view of the wide open sky touching the hills.
X MARKS THE SPOT
After 21 years of working, I took us on holiday to Portugal for as many days, thus fulfilling a promise made fifteen years before. We needed to do it before João became incapable of walking altogether.
We hired a car, tossed João’s 17.5 kg wheelchair in the back, and travelled over 1,200 km (some of which was quite directionless). We were the happiest we had ever been.
João is Portuguese, but it was I – the Heinz 57 special – who said that I wanted to live here.
Seventeen months later, we were back for good. That was five years ago. We now live less than three kilometres from where I stamped my foot on the ground to mark the spot.
In my previous post, I filled you in a little on what are now the nine previous years mentioned below as seven. The rest of the story still rings true:
There is too much to say about the ghastly, difficult, and wonderful bits of the last seven years. I have left them out on purpose.
My beloved is in decline, yet happy to be so close to me. I care for her at home. Sometimes, there is no escape from despair. I am often torn between her and my other great mistress – freelance translation work – most often in my sheepskin slippers, moreover.
Portugal is a place where I still do not understand everything I hear or read. Yet, it makes sense. And hey, my spirit feels just right!
My past is dotted about in distant lands. All my family is far away. For now, I am where I am meant to be. João’s old mantra is indeed true; there is more, so much more!
Today I spent at home, in the garden. I weeded one of the two front flower beds thoroughly, and turned the soil. Gladioli bulbs are pushing through, the Zinnia are a couple of inches high. I staked and tied the very tall rose bush; new leaves and shoot have made an appearance. I planted the lovely gift of a granadilla (passion fruit) plant received a month ago from a fellow translator. After our dinner of feijoada, I brought out the Christmas treat I purchased at the little shop in Alfontes – just down the road, for only €5: a 2004 muscatel, with a sticker on it saying “Wine Review – Best Buy 2011”. It was, unsurprisingly, the last one on the shelf. I knew immediately that I could find a home for it! João and I have always drunk out of these silver goblets of hers. We drank out of them the first night we met – but that, as they say, is another story.
© 2016 Allison Wright