15. 7. 2021

English Version | A group of idiots

by Nuno Miguel Dias

 

AA’s, Therapy Groups for Oncological Patients, Newley-Divorcees, Drug Addicts… And what about the stupid bunch, not just dumb, but truly jackasses, the biggest misfits and inapt? Are they not people? How would a session of DA (Dumb Anonymous) go?

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It’s like the frontiers of everything have been blurred by this rain, as fine as it is cold, and you can’t even say it is falling. It dances in the air. Some sort of cumbia with a merengue past. It grants a heavy silence to the night, as if everything was a very minor musical scale. It’s an ambiance to the likes of an Edward Hopper painting, in a scenario that was almost cinematographic. An isolated gas station, abandoned for years, is lit up by a single light in a many kilometers’ radius. A yellowish, very dim light that gives it this phantasmagoric look, ideal for a zombie movie scene. It’s not possible to predict if, in turn, there is a forest or flat land, because the moon can’t pierce through the fogginess that covers everything like a cloak that is never even humid. Only viscous. Only when we get really close do we realize that, inside the gas station, where once there was a restaurant, there is another light. And figures. It’s a circle of people sitting in formic chairs with half-torn seats, one of these with a laptop over his crossed legs where you can see a document with past dates written on it. He is wearing a corduroy blazer (perhaps cord velvet even) with elbow patches, a scuffed collared shirt, a pair of jeans with an indescribable cut and the hair, curly and shoulder length, looks like it could be the perfect source to fry a kilo of potatoes. He says, with a high-pitched voice, and not really matching the bulkier body: “Welcome to another meeting of Dumb Anonymous… I see that we’re still missing a couple of members. How was your week? Feel free to start sharing.” No one moves or even raises their head, except for the curly-headed brunette, who removes her hands from her lap and, after rubbing them on her jeans, leans forward. “Hi, my name is Magda, I’m 38 and I’m a diagnosed idiot by a high school IQ test.” The rule was as follows, name, age, reason why they’re there, a presentation that was required even though everyone already knew each other perfectly well and, finally, something that they want to share. That’s what Magda did: “This week, I believe the day before yesterday or something, my soon was doing his homework and asked me why adverbs (in Portuguese) don’t have accents. I was completely overwhelmed, also because I was busy frying eggs so he could take them for lunch the following day, and I can’t really do two things at the same time, but I responded that I couldn’t really help him because I failed math in school. He looked rather upset and said the subject was Portuguese. I responded that there was no way that could be, because now everything is made in China and that notebook was one of the cheapest ones I had found in the store Open Your Eyes. He gave me that look of reproval that irritates me and I told him to go ask his father. I don’t know why I told him that because I have always told him that he had died in an airplane crash, but I forgot. Anyway, I couldn’t reach him because the grocery shop closes at 20h and the bastard never gave him the phone number. 

Adriano finally takes his eyes out of the Rubik cube he always has with him (and that he takes everywhere, as these idiots could have figured out were they not, in fact, idiots), only to ask, with a rough voice: “The father of your son works at the grocery shop in your neighborhood? How did that happen?” Magda blushes, smiles and lowers her chin, only to raise her eyes in Mauro’s direction, the velvet wearing mediator (maybe it’s corduroy): “In the warehouse behind the shop. He didn’t have the cigarettes I like but said that maybe in the warehouse and he did and asked me if I wanted to go check it out. And that was it.” Until then, Lucio was only looking at her closely, with that very serious and grave look, uncapable of a smile. Since the mayor had promoted these types of encounters, with breaks only in August, Christmas and New Year’s, Easter and Saint Cupertino’s Day, the Idiot’s patron saint, no one had ever seen his teeth. He was a very tall man, that you could see had been athletic before. But now the ribbed t-shirt was showing his man boobs and the belly of a lover of beer of short fermentation. Not even the suspenders, black jeans and burgundy high-sole Doc Martens could hide his age. He exclaimed: “Is that the grocery shop where they have those samosas?” Magda’s expression was of obvious shock: “I believe so, but they also have codfish pastries.” Lucio proceeded, with his usual inexpression but assuming a body posture of a Blondi dog: “I’m asking if the father of your son is one of those Indians or Pakistanis or Moroccan that come from Buda lands, opening supermarkets like Chinese people have kids.” “You’re a brute” was Magda’s only possible response. Mauro intervened: “Lucio, have you been doing what we discussed? I don’t see any advances in your conduct” but only to see Lucio get all worked up, neck veins popping, screaming: “I will not read books! Nothing will detain me from my convictions. A man without his beliefs is nothing at all…” And on the other hand: “Yes, but you had complaint that you had lost friends and even family relationships because of your ideals. And I explained to you that it is not just about social conduct and what doesn’t seem right to other people’s eyes. They attest to your idiocy.”, the moderator proceeded, in a paused manner. “I don’t care, that’s what I believe in, and it drives me nuts when these chicks mix races.” Magda wanted to respond, but she chose to stay quiet. She had a lot to say. She just couldn’t formulate an idea that allowed for it. 

“Hello, my name is Carlos Fernando, my friends called me Fana, I’m 54 and my parents were direct cousins.” Everybody stands still, because this is the member of the group that has the most “interesting” stories (in between quotation marks because the ambit of the subject is, well…). “This week I started dating someone. I mean at least I think I did because she said she would call me back.” Adriano started spinning his Rubik cube again and held a laugh. “And?”, Magda asked. “Who, me?”, Fana responded, pointing his finger at himself precisely to the spot in his chest between the zipper of the purple, green and white Lacoste tracksuit and the Saint Anthony medallion he had swinging from a huge golden necklace. “I was thinking about it actually. A couple of days have gone by already”, confessed. “You should never do that!”, Fernanda exclaimed, from the height of her low V-neck black dress, switching her crossed legs in such a sensual way that Sharon Stone herself would envy her. She took off her high heels, showing her glorious feet, but kept both the Gucci hat and her Prada sunglasses on. Elegantly, as she was, with such an impacting figure that she always managed to retain all the attention, even when she is quiet, went on to say: “A man who is sure of himself, as women like it, never does something like that. It’s like he is begging, so horrible.” Mauro was forced to intervene: “But do you all think like that or is it just you?” Fernanda lowered her glasses with her long index nail to the point of her nose, looked the mediator in the eye and said: “I’m not an example to follow, you know? I know what I want, and I get it, whatever it takes. Even if it is money.” She was rich, yes. But it was a kind of wealth that came from blood, though she wanted people to think that way, doing everything in her reach to make that happen. In fact, she had won the Euromilhões jackpot, the one time she had ever gambled (it’s always like that, isn’t it?) and soon the seventy-two million euros she had received, after tax deductions to the State, got down to forty-eight million in one week, and by the end of the first month, thirty. It was her son, with whom she hadn’t spoken in years, that hired someone to manager her fortune so his mother could forgive him, in exchange for not a penny of his inheritance. “Look, did you go on a date with this girl wearing that tracksuit you always have on? Did you take her to a decent restaurant? In what car?”

Fana scratched his ear with his pinky finger, a gesture he always repeated when he was nervous, and explained: “Not all women are like you, miss Nanda. I always wear this tracksuit because my friends say it’s hipster and that I can score big time with the ladies. The girl is not even cute, she is kind of fat and so I think I have a chance, ‘cause you know how this goes, everybody takes what they can get and with other chicks it has always gone wrong because I either took the Pitbull and it ate her cat or because I don’ change underwear every day, or just because they’re super weird and don’t let me be awkward.” Everyone had their hands on their foreheads, including Mauro. Fana would have been bothered if it was within his abilities. But indifference was his motto. There were 30 seconds of awkward silence until Helder Paulo, door keeper, 28, claims with his baritone voice: “Have you ever managed to finish that cube, Adriano? Because I always see you with it and it’s always the same. And you, Lucio, that like to judge people by the color of their skin, have you ever had curry in your life? Fernanda there knows it all, right? Picking the best guys with the best cars, but do you have a driver’s license? And Magda, do you want to be my girlfriend? The doctor told me I have oriental blood like American native or something”, while he was rolling his very torn book Petzi in the North Pole. He gets interrupted: “Hi, my name is Sofia, I’m 62 and very connected to energies, sorry to interrupt, Helder, but have you ever read, for example, the Manual of the Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho?”, “Does it have pictures?”, the interlocutor. Sofia responds, as always with a quote: “Whenever possible, be clear. But let your clarity not be the reason for hurting others”, mimicking the author’s pronunciation as well. “And you, Fana, listen closely: “Those who try to own a flower, will see its beauty withering. But whoever just looks at a flower in a field will remain with it forever. You'll never be mine and that's why I'll have you forever”, she reminded. “It’s from the book Brida, awesome. It changed my life.” Sofia has had a very filled life, at the expense of her grandmother, who knowing her limitations, thought that giving her wings (and money) to travel would make her grow “on the inside”, her own words, who was also not quite all there. Now that her grandmother has passed away and the “font has dried up”, she spends her days reading novels from the Bianca collection, who belonged to her relative and, of course, whenever she stumbles across a book by Pedro Chagas Freitas, it seemed to possess incomparable depth. She proceeded: “Magda, my dear, my love, ‘He who is unhappy closes his eyes to die; he who was happy closes his eyes to live. Nobody lives open-eyed’, you understand?” Adriano was very confused, but he also got something his way: “It is due to those who live on the moon – just them – that is worth it to live on Earth”. Lucio was not so lucky. But Sofia still considered gifting him with another quote from The Aleph: “Don’t let yourself be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocracy is safe, so take risks and do what you want”, but then she thought it would be too risky to reinforce him so much. She had never thought about that before, how phrases may or may not apply to their receiver. Perhaps she was not that dumb anymore? But then another phrase popped into her head: “Every step you take away from yourself is another step you take towards yourself” and she knew everything was alright. 

Translated from the original on Vogue Portugal's "The Nonsense Issue".
Full credits on the print edition.

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