Monday, 18 August 2008


There are many people that believe Stephen King is not a good writer, but Mr X is not of them. One of the best things Stephen King has written comes in Pet Sematary, when the main character, Louis Creed, goes kite flying with his two year old son Gage (or three year old, or four year old, or whatever – it has been a long time since Mr X has read Pet Sematary). Louis Creed reflects, or perhaps it is the narrator, that this day is the last truly happy day he will remember in his life, and some lines later we are told that Gage will in a few weeks be knocked down and killed by a truck on the road in front of the family home. What strikes Mr X as being good about Stephen King’s writing (and Mr X does not quite know if it is intentional or not) is that his description of a truly happy day does not seem particularly blissful or idyllic. Gage cries a lot at one point, and Louis Creed has a fight with his daughter, who is a few years older than Gage. Maybe too (Mr X is imagining now) some milk is spilt in the kitchen, or Louis Creed’s car won’t start.

The point is that a good day does not need to be a chocolate box of treats and delights from beginning to end; maybe all it needs to be is a day in which nothing very bad happens and some positive thoughts occur.

Mr X thought about this yesterday, as he walked home on a warm Friday afternoon. Earlier that day he had enjoyed a good if not remarkable lunch, and had taken the bus to the Federal Police Headquarters, where the administrative noose around his neck had been loosened, if not removed entirely. Mr X thought about catching the bus home too, as it was a hot day, but instead decided to walk (a rule of life, according to Mr X – walk everywhere you possibly can, use the bus when longer journeys are required, and never, ever drive, for driving is elitist and isolationist and bullying and in short is the dirtiest work the devil ever did).

Nothing much happened on Mr X’s walk, just as nothing much ever happens, but that is not the point. Blue skies had appeared after several days of rain, and Recife sprawled like a gluttonous cat in the sunshine. Mr X went to the book shop, where he bought Guimaraes Rosa’s Primeiras Contas and a copy of Herzog. He walked over the bridge into Santo Antonio – the river glittered sleepily underneath. On Avenida Guararapes he stopped for a moment at the book stalls and bought a second hand copy of Jorge Amado’s Capitaes Da Areia, and came across a real copper-bottomed find – a stack of 1970’s Brazilian vinyl, each with a booklet containing photos and biographies of the artists. Ancient samba stars smoking gloomily in Rio botecos, fantastically bearded nordestinos perched on arid rocks – that kind of thing. Mr X bought a Milton Nascimento and an Ismael Silva record and chugged happily on his way. He stopped off on Rua Das Palmas and shared a coke with The Ex-Girlfriend, who was working selling lottery tickets. At home, he ate some fruit and performed a few half-hearted stretches, which is for Mr X what passes for exercise these days.

Later, his Portuguese Teacher arrived. Mr X was struck by inspiration. It’s a nice day, let’s go the pub!, he cried. His Portuguese Teacher agreed. They walked around for a while. Mr X thought how it might be the last day he would spend doing this, since in a week he would move to Olinda. In the Praça, hundreds of teenagers stood waving flags and handing out flyers for the political candidatos. Sound systems blared out comedic musical tributes to the honourable members, all of whom looked the same to Mr X (though they had given themselves numbers to help with identification). Mr X and his Portuguese Teacher went to the Patio Santa Cruz and sat in front of the Bar and Restaurant Santa Cruz and his Portuguese Teacher had a guarana and Mr X had a beer and then a second beer. Then they moved to Cadu’s and his Portuguese Teacher had another guarana and Mr X had another beer and then a fourth beer. A woman came around selling stuffed toys and Mr X thought about buying one to give to the son of a woman he knows, which is for Mr X what passes for family these days. Later The Ex-Girlfriend came past on her way home from work and sat and talked to Mr X and his Portuguese Teacher for a while.

After a while it was time to go and his Portuguese Teacher went home and Mr X walked up past the back of the shopping centre where alternative lifestyle adolescents congregate on weekend evenings. Mr X picked his way through the sweaty multi-sexo hormonal soup and went past the hospital where toxic looking waste barrels were being loaded onto a truck. Mr X became aware that he was if not happy at least a good distance from unhappy.

At home he stopped off for a moment at the Internet Palace of Delights and saw he had received an email from A Woman On The Internet – ooooooiiiiii lindo gostei de vc viu bjuuuus, (trans: "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temporate”) which is for Mr X what passes for romance these days.

And after that, well, Mr X went to bed.

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