“Oh wow man, I like your triceps. They look really cool.”
He looks up and smiles at me.
“You do exercises? Like push ups and stuff?”
“No no, I do a lot of swimming. At the beach.”
It adds up. His triceps are prominent- prominent enough to catch my attention, but not enough to suggest that he has a dedicated exercise routine for them. I wonder how much open water swimming I need to do to have triceps like that.
I mention that I need a place to charge my computer.
“Is the art gallery upstairs open?”
The last time I was here I charged my computer in the bright sunlit gallery upstairs surrounded by the deep rich and inspiring colours of abstract Cape Verdean art.
“Ah no, gallery’s not open today.”
“But there’s the library. You can charge at the library.”
He gets up from his desk at the reception and tears off a chunk of the 50 escudo baguette in my right hand. I’m a little taken aback by the intrusion, but otherwise it’s not really a problem. He’s a pretty nice and friendly guy. I myself have been intruding in other people’s eating and drinking recently. Not long ago I invited myself to provide human company to a lonely bottle of wine I saw at the defunct bar in front of the hotel where I stay.
The owners of the wine were relaxing in the distance. Upon realising their unfortunate bottle of wine was being plundered by a stranger they sprung up and briskly approached me.
I think I was on my second glass when they reached me.
We ended up being quasi-friends, engaging in interesting, heartening conversation for most of that day over multiple other bottles of wine.
We walk towards the library. It’s dark and somewhat dusty. It’s evident no one ever comes here. Libraries are not a huge thing on Ilha do Sal. Same with suits. I remember the time I was going around boutiques on the island and offering to sell my suit so I could get some money. The shop owners all kept giving me very bewildered and amused and confused looks. I did not understand it at the time.
Later I began to ask myself how many people I had ever seen wearing suits on the island. The answer was none.
There’s also that other really cool library at Espargos- Bibliotheque Jorge Barbosa. I think the only other person I ever saw in the main hall of the library was the librarian. Haha.
I settle down and find a spot to plug in my computer. I pluck some art books from the bookshelves and take some pictures. Pictures of Van Gogh paintings surrounding my MacBook Pro. I think it all looks really cool and visually appealing and creative and artistic. Pretty much all of the books are in Portuguese so I’m able to make very little sense of them. To be honest the post-impressionist paintings in the books are just as impermeable to me as the descriptive Portuguese text. I do not understand any of the two. I guess I could just see the indecipherable ink scribblings on the pages as an art form too.
I start up my computer and begin to work on a number of research fellowship applications. A number of hours pass. I type, I think, I look around, and every once in a while I think I take some more pictures.
“Oh thank you very much man, today was a really productive day!”
“No problem you’re welcome haha!”
Somehow we find ourselves beginning to engage in a conversation about relationships. Romantic relationships. Past romantic relationships. He tells me about his first girlfriend. And his current girlfriend. I think there was another girlfriend between the two of them, but I’m not sure now.
I ask him how he handled the emotional distress of the separation at the end of the first relationship. He says something about how the past is the past, and how the moment the relationship ends the person becomes an “ex”. He puts a lot of vocal emphasis on the “Ex”.
I don’t really like the word “ex”, and I’m not sure why. It’s definitely a word pretty much everyone uses to describe past romantic partners, but for some reason I don’t feel like it applies to my specific experience. I’ll have to come up with some other term that I feel resonates much more with how I feel.
I keep getting perspective from him. From the look of things, calling someone an “Ex”, and saying the “Ex” very loudly is supposed to immediately make you feel emotionally detached from them.
That doesn’t work for me. It does not matter how many times I decide to shout “Ex!”, and make forceful slicing downward motions with my hand, I’m still going to keep wallowing in the distressing emotional mire that has enveloped my being from the past few months.
I still find myself talking to her. In my head. I still find myself talking to her in my head. Sometimes I sub-vocalise. I still see flashes of her face, of her smile, of her hair.
I’m angry at something, and for some reason I find myself thinking about something she did that got me angry. And I feel like I’m going through that disturbing experience all over again.
And so I find myself getting angry at someone who is not there. Over something that happened to me months ago. And I get visibly upset, like the distressing event just freshly happened. Emotional anguish from the past, rippling through to my present without any cogent provocation. I’m not sure what that means.
My thought process still gets periodically interrupted by pangs of disorienting sadness: I’m thinking about A. Thoughts about A connect to B. Thoughts about B connect to C. A begins to connect directly to C, and then——
And then I see her face. She is smiling at me. And seeing that makes my heart sink. An intense sadness overwhelms me. And all of a sudden I’m unable to remember what I was thinking about in the first place.
What was I thinking about again? A? B? How many letters had I gotten to? What was A about again?
My brain feels fragmented. And wounded.
“Hey I have a friend for you! From Italy! I want you to meet her! She really needs some BBC!”
He holds his right arm in his left hand, moving the arm back and forth.
All of a sudden I am laughing very loudly.
There’s a female coworker of his in the room. She humorously chastises him for being so vulgar in the presence of a guest.
We’re all smiling. The guest doesn’t seem to mind.
At some point he offers to show me around the museum.
“Wait what? There’s a museum?”
I was not expecting that at all.
There are some medium sized sea salt crystals on the desk— trademark of Ilha do Sal. Ilha do Sal literally means “Island of Salt”.
I put one of the crystals into my mouth as I follow him towards the entrance to the museum.