“What a shit-hole! I swear I am living in a land of Zombies. How did I get here?”
Clearly, this is not something I said. Everyone knows that it would be far more natural for me to say “I could swear that I am living…”. That, however, is not the point.
The point is that anyone could have said something like that. Even one of two lesbians friends in their fifties having a chat across time zones and agreeing that “How did I get here?” — bowled over and blasted to smithereens as we might be by any number of possible answers not without a dash of humour — is not a useful question. A far better one is, “What now, and where to from here?”
I hasten to add that the quoted sound bite was not uttered in reference to Lisbon. And how could it ever be said of Lisbon, in all seriousness? For Lisboa, to give her her true name, is a woman, and a seductive one at that.
So seductive is she that countless people have sung her praises both before and since the earthquake (in 1755). More recently, we have adored those fadistas who have been flagrantly unashamed their whole lives about their love affair with Lisboa, for they give voice to our feelings and justify them in ways that we never can.
Each time I return to the ample bosom of this beloved city, she surprises me with some new delight; some hitherto hidden dimension that requires slow and conscientious exploration to reveal a more expansive than imagined body, heart and soul.
The first time I left her over a decade ago, I cried bitter tears on parting. Not because I betrayed her, but because I betrayed myself: if life were simple, I would simply have stayed. So crying each time I leave her is my tradition now, and part of my own love affair with the woman that is Lisboa. The tears come whether I bid them or not, like rain on steep cobblestone streets.
Lisboa will always be Lisboa, and I will always be me. We both know she will never be mine, and I will never be hers. But she does have the Avenida da Liberdade, an avenue named after freedom, my favourite word.
And that is good enough for me.
©2017 Allison Wright