Sunday, 20 February 2011


The second part of the short story 'Ocean' follows. Part one can be found below. Obviously if you plan to read part two it would be a reasonable idea to read part one first.

Paolo Two has a girlfriend. Or should I say another girlfriend, besides me? Or am I not a girlfriend, not really? What would he call me? Does Paolo Two get to define how things are, or are there hard and fast rules? The girlfriend, the other girlfriend, lives here too. Paolo Two and the girlfriend have separate rooms, and sometimes he will sneak into the girlfriend’s room when it is late and everyone else is asleep. He sneaks into the girlfriend’s room more often, I think, than he sneaks into my room. I like to assume he does this out of obligation to their relationship status, rather than from preference. Though if you assume something because you want it to be true, can you really say you assume?

In some ways Paolo Two is not the point of the story, not at all.

It is just that he is the same as my husband and the same as me and the same as everyone.

My husband and I lived not here but there, in a city two-thousand-two-hundred kilometres away. After my husband moved out and then moved back in we decided to do more things together as a couple.

One of these things was to attend Portuguese classes. Before, my husband had learnt faster than me because some days he spoke to people, in the street or at work, whereas I never spoke to people, ever. Apparently, the speaking to people part makes a difference when you are learning a language.

My husband moved out because I slept with someone also called Paolo, who is now Paolo One though at the time he was just Paolo, because at the time there was no Paolo Two. The sleeping with Paolo One was not my fault. I only slept with Paolo One because my husband did not speak to me enough and when he came home from work and asked me if I wanted to go out I would say where and he would say I don’t know, nowhere special, just out.

And I thought, at the time, I came twelve thousand kilometres for this?

So you see it was not all my fault.

It is surprising how easy it is not to speak to people if you do not want to speak to people. Think of all the things you can do, the places you can go, where you do not need to speak. Need to buy food? Go to the supermarket. No speaking necessary. Hungry? Go to a self-service restaurant. Need to go somewhere that is not where you are? Take the bus.

My life was, smile, give money to supermarket or restaurant or bus company representative. Smile again. Pass on.

Not speaking, ever.

My husband did not learn Portuguese as fast as he thought. I smirked when waiters shrugged their shoulders at him as he mumbled our order in restaurants. Because of this most of the time he went to self-service restaurants too.

Your accent is terrible, I told him. Even I can’t understand you, and I’m your wife.
He would rustle his Herald Tribune and look at me with a face like a small boy told it is time to get out of the swimming pool.

Sometimes I felt bad about this, but other times I didn’t.

Here is a long way to come if all you do when you go out is go just out.

Still, after my husband moved back in, and we did things together, like the Portuguese classes, it got better. Though the Portuguese classes were not really that good. There were twenty students in the class and the teacher asked each student to repeat everything she said at least once, sometimes more than once. This took a long time.

The students from other South American countries, who spoke Spanish, were the best students and made everyone else feel stupid.

I asked the word for mosquito.

It was the same word in Portuguese.

In our tests I got fifty five percent and my husband got fifty four percent.

I win, I said, you lose.

In English, of course.

Practice your Portuguese whenever you can, the teacher said. In the street. In the supermarket. I wanted to tell her what I already knew, that nobody says anything in the supermarket.

Go and see Brazilian movies, she said. Practice your Portuguese in bed, she said, winking a lascivious Brazilian wink.

That night I asked my husband if he knew any Portuguese sex words.

No, he said.

None?, I said.

He thought for a while. When he concentrates he opens his mouth and the tip of his tongue becomes visible like a tiny pink shark fin.

None, he said.

He thought for a while longer. The shark fin bobbed up and down.

Piriquita, he said.

I told him I didn’t know what that meant.

The same as boceta, he said.
I knew what that meant.

Do you like my piriquita, I said, shooting for coquettish.

My husband looked uncomfortable, like he had been invited to a party by people whose company he could not stand yet did not wish to proffer an impolite decline of the invitation.

Later, in bed, we made love. I liked it, of course. Who doesn’t like it, even when it is not good?

Even when it is not good it is better than reading Thomas Hardy.

Perhaps if everyone thought like this the world would be a happier place. Perhaps there would be less expectation and less disappointment, less anger related traffic incidents.

My husband did not say any Portuguese words when we made love. He did not say anything at all.

Once I asked him did he ever think about me and Paolo One. No, never, he said, then he slapped me, which I know I should think was wrong of him. Only all I could think was if he had slept with a Brazilian woman, and months afterwards, after I had moved out then moved back in, he had asked me if I ever thought about them together, I would have slapped him too.

Or worse, whatever worse is.

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