The Ex-Girlfriend and I have embarked on a interesting sociological experiment, which is to see whether two people who were formerly in love and still have feelings for each other of a emotional and physical kind can live together in a small space without anything of a sexual nature arising.
This has all come about because after the first shooting in Belo Horizonte The Ex-Girlfriend suffered another such incident in which someone close to her may or may not have died. After this it was decided by everyone involved that the best thing for The Ex-Girlfriend would be to be very far away from where such things have been happening.
There are two things that are may render the experiment not of true scientific accuracy – the first is the row of small crosses arranged along The Ex-Girlfriend’s left forearm, which show where the bullet that pierced her arm in the first shooting ran along her skin before exiting. The second is that the person who may or may not have died in the second shooting is or was The Ex-Girlfriend’s boyfriend.
While none of this is even slightly funny there is some comedic value in things such as unrequited pining and French farce style dropping of towels and accidental opening of bathroom doors, and I am hoping that by concentrating on these things I can bring some light to The Ex-Girlfriend’s life at a time when nothing seems very light at all. For example – were I to meet someone new I might say to her it would be very nice if you were to come back to my apartment but I should probably say at this point that The Ex-Girlfriend is currently tucked up in my bed (though as platonically so as a mug of cocoa). I think this is quite a funny thing to thing about, though maybe it is also a little sad.
Previous to The Ex-Girlfriend’s arrival I had coincidentally been running an Ex-Girlfriend contest in which various other Ex-Girlfriends were competing for the honour of removing the ex- prefix from their job title. The reason for the contest may be that I have given up entirely on meeting someone I do not already know. The contest, of course, is entirely without basis in reality, is known only to me and not to anyone else involved, and exists only in my own head.
The arrival of The Ex-Girlfriend has had some interesting ramifications for the contest. On her second night here we go out with The Ex-Girlfriend With Two Kids, who might be said to be the current leader of the competition in that she is the only one who returns my calls. The Ex-Girlfriend and The Ex-Girlfriend With Two Kids are in their early twenties, thin, brown-skinned. Both have at a young age experienced lives of considerable confusion and difficulty. When we all meet at a bar The Ex-Girlfriend and The Ex-Girlfriend With Two Kids look each other up and down. Both turn and look at me. I think the looks say – you are the kind of person who has a favourite meal at a favourite restaurant and does not often like to order off-menu.
After twenty minutes it seems The Ex-Girlfriend and The Ex-Girlfriend With Two Kids have become firm friends. They talk about what how all men are idiots and how the only person to be trusted is yourself. I try to say something but The Ex-Girlfriend holds her hand up to say – I’m talking. A few moments later I try again. I say something to The Ex-Girlfriend With Two Kids and when I finish she looks at me but doesn’t say anything and then goes back to talking to The Ex-Girlfriend. So I sit, mildly swaying, and look up at the stars and listen to them talking. This is one of the moments I think may be described as comedic.
On Sunday we have lunch at Eduardo’s house in Jordão. Eduardo lives with his mother and his niece. His niece is twenty one and has three children. After lunch she puts on a DVD and dances funk with The Ex-Girlfriend. They judder their hips and gyrate in a way that is both beautiful and sexual and comic at the same time. Next week, she says, me and you (to The Ex-Girlfriend and not to me, rather unfortunately), we’ll go out dancing. I wince. Going out and dancing in a particular kind of place in a particular kind of way has perhaps led not in a very small way to the row of crosses in The Ex-Girlfriend’s arm.
When we are in Jordão my phone rings and it is The Ex-Girlfriend From A Small Town Very Far Away. The weekend before The Ex-Girlfriend From A Small Town Very Far Away and I had resolved that our relationship was one of friendship but that this did not preclude occasional shenanigans of a different kind. I had thought we were both happy with this arrangement, though what makes blood rush through the heart is of course more complicated than any of us can know. How are you, she says. Great! I say, though I don’t know if Great! is even slightly the right word. (Ridiculous! Or Absurd! Or Tragi-Comic! might be better). Where are you?, she says, and I tell her I am in Jordão. Then I tell her about The Ex-Girlfriend. She hangs up and from this I gather she is not happy. I have grown used to the jealousy of the Brazilian temperament, both male and female, but it makes me feel sad that The Ex-Girlfriend From A Small Town Very Far Away, whom I like very much, should do this, though equally it is I suppose nothing if not completely understandable.
It is an odd thing, in some ways, to do something very large for someone who needs you, especially when that thing leads to not inconsiderable sacrifice in your own life. When I heard about the second shooting and that The Ex-Girlfriend’s life was in danger, I went immediately and bought her a one-way ticket from Belo Horizonte to Recife. I do not have a great deal of money but here in Brazil you can pay for everything in installments and so the ticket will be paid off over six months which softens the blow. The Ex-Girlfriend has no money and her left arm is temporarily useless from the bullet that went in and out of her arm so she cannot work and so I have in a sense adopted her in the way one adopts a small child, and while this may only be for a short time equally it will probably be for at least two or three months and quite possibly for much longer. As I have said in a way that I meant to sound funny but that might not be only funny this may lead to problems in my own life and perhaps even lead to my life becoming paralysed in some ways. It is interesting that I am doing all of this without any real expectation or even desire that things of a trickier nature will transpire between The Ex-Girlfriend and I (though there are still feelings that hang between us as softly as mist and that may never leave). It is interesting also to think that I am doing this for someone who at one time broke my heart into very many pieces. I do not know if it is a remarkable thing to do only that when I tell people many of them seem surprised that I should do it. I only know that when I see The Ex-Girlfriend smile at a foolish joke of mine or watch her eyes sparkle at the sight of the green lights that adorn the bridge that goes over the river into the old part of Recife I know then for a moment she is not thinking about things that have happened and this is perhaps all that matters in any of this.