Twenty-two - The Trilogy of the windows and the Idleness
It used to happen always at the exact same time, with incredible precision, at eight o’ clock sharp. Leila had precise instructions, she drew the curtains and opened the windows to let some air in. Same ritual for twenty-two long years.
He was known as Olaf, the silent writer. This is because he was Polish and he had never learnt a single word of Portuguese; he basically never left the house. Leila was in charge of grocery shopping and took care of everything. Every Friday a courier would bring him two or three books and he did not need anything else. Nobody knew his story, why he was so introverted and why he used to spend all his time at home to the point that he had not even learnt the language of where he lived.
Every single damned morning he used to stand at the window, like a bird on the windowsill, staring at the Igreja Matriz; writing a few words, every now and again, on a piece of paper that he then often crumpled and threw on the floor.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, had ever visited him. Not a relative, or a friend. Not even the street sellers dared to knock at his door. How does it feel to have not spoken to anyone for twenty-two long years?
My name is Olaf Mann, I am sixty-seven years old and my profession is to write essays on Beauty. I have never done anything else in my life.
I arrived at Santiago do Cacém in 1948, during my honeymoon. She did not understand my decision. At first she was the one who kept everyone away from me, then I got used and I helped her myself. I did not want to speak to anyone, willing to preserve the silence of the cemitério de Santo André, which used to keep company to my books and my notes. It was so perfect. I have not spoken to anyone in twenty-two long years and I feel very good, all in all. I keep up a correspondence with my editor and several intellectuals. Nobody is aware of my real condition and no one would really make sense of it; just like she did not understand, just like you do not understand. It feels good not speaking to anyone for twenty-two long years.
I have known Olaf since we were both in high school. An excellent student and a trusted friend, he is a unique person. He was my best friend at university and I was his best man. When he was thirty-two years old, he used to teach at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. He held the world in his hand. When I received his last letter, I was shocked. Sentences like “do not try to reach me”, “we will never meet again” or “do not write to me, I no longer exist” really hurt me. At first I thought it was because I hosted Sofia but, when I finally plucked up the courage to speak to her, I understood. I have not heard about him since.
I used to love him, I loved him since the very beginning and I still love him. I do not know why we went on honeymoon, that stupid and meaningless honeymoon, it ruined my life! I spent the first month making his life a living hell and the following twenty-two years writing letters to him. Now I always send the exact same letter every single month, it begins with “I hate you” and ends with “good-bye forever”. How does it feel to have not spoken to anyone for twenty-two long years?
It makes you feel empty, it gives you a beautiful and foggy feeling of complete emptiness.