I was born and raised in Lisbon. The stage of my childhood, my youth and my discovery of life was this city. I didn’t think if I would like it, if not. It was natural for me.
It was natural to ride on buses, on the subway, in taxis and trams. But especially on foot, for the pleasure of walking. Hit the stores with your friends and stop for an ice cream on the sloping street. Wake up to the street vendor’s auctions, to the neighbors’ blinds, to the horn of the stressed man with the car in the second row. The conversations at the bus stops and the association the uprising over the delay of the 713 may generate among people. The spout, the muffin, the bill. The “attention to the interval between the pier and the train”. The oscillating “friendliness of the helper”. Cinema once a week, big popcorn. Grandmothers at the hairdresser’s. Terraces glued to cars. The wind was dampened by the buildings, the stars went out, the lamps lit up in the twilight. Return from school on foot, stop at bookstores, and stroll from one to the other towards the Land of Friends that afternoon. The taverns, the “Jolas”, the walls. The groups, the afternoons that turn into nights and dawn. Know the names of the streets, discover new cafes, be charmed by the historical area, complain about the tourists. Pigeons usurp the remains of unoccupied tables. The groups of university students, the lovers on the garden benches, the children in the playgrounds, the ties of freedom during lunch break.
With the arrival of the heat, the rampant search for the pools and the appropriation of the parks, spread the towel on the grass and lifted the sweater, looking for the bronze between one class and another. The conditioned air of the pharmacies I went to to escape the heat in summer and the hot smoke of the chestnut sellers that warmed me on cold days. Bitoques, paper towels, napkins. Paper napkins too thin, used for sauces. Bread with chorizo in bakeries that are open at dawn after going out at night, or mobile homes with hot dogs, divine commands. The malls that everyone says they hate but that everyone goes to. The steep stairs, the graffito that bears our name. The pet gas pump, providing. Rampant cyclists, tangled dog leashes, jugglers at traffic lights. Scarves and chants on the meter on match days. Be laden with bags, find someone, and put the bags down to talk in the middle of the street. The smell of cigarettes. The shadows of the clothes on the clotheslines projected onto the buildings yellowed from the afternoon light. The plates and glasses are full. At night. The popular saints and the fragmentation of the population between those who love them passionately and those who cannot stand this festive season. I am one of the first. Sardines, black-footed dancers looking for fun on the crowded climbs without ever being sure we found it.
The shop windows of pastries with cakes that we have known for a long time but have never tried. The Tagus, the bread with butter and the olives.
City life is not enough to classify it. It’s life in Lisbon. Lisboners have their own Lisbon. And that’s mine.
The landscape was the holiday visit, the air I was happy to take in while someone asked, “There’s nothing like fresh air, right?” The bucolic and dreamy pleasure of the city dweller with the first touch of rosemary. We were satisfied with these 15 days in the field and returned refreshed. It was sad to return to city life, but “with charged batteries” was always the motto. The sadness was short-lived, we soon returned to the routine and our routine includes WiFi, food delivery, and two neighborhood trips to find a place for the car.
My seasons in the country settled me down and made me wonder who I was without my stage. And who I was in the country didn’t like me. On the contrary, it was the ultimate confirmation of the clichés: he walked free, with loose hair in the wind and feet in the mud. I felt happy without knowing whether it was the brief duration of my immersion in my country that enhanced the love, or whether it was really a country person who happened to be born on Avenida de Roma.
Well, the unexpected happened: I surrendered to country life. That means, it seems that I have given myself to the countryside and live on a farm, drive a tractor and move the hoe from sun to sun. It is not quite like that. But my neighbors have sheep so I think it’s worth it. I moved home a year ago and left Lisbon. I don’t know if it is a novice’s enthusiasm or the result of the pandemic that certainly helped make the outdoors appreciate. I don’t know if it’s an episode of Elis Regina’s music I’ve been singing since childhood: “I want a house in the country.” The fact is, I notice the new spring flowers and am excited to see them appear as they would be new stores opening on the streets of Lisbon. Now my paths are made of dirt and I cross paths with sheep and chickens. I’ll get the bread on my bike between the pines. I see a lot of stars and can already see the singing birds. I discover charm in the rain and in the sun and make a vegetable garden. I feel like I’m becoming a Jacinto from A Cidade e as Serras, and I found myself embracing nature and the short-lived but transcendental state of life. Perhaps it is even like Jacinto when he realizes that “in the city, because of the lamps that overshadow them, one never looks at the stars and never enters into full communion with the universe”. I was converted in the morning and walked around with the suspicion of someone who already knows what a birch, juniper, and elm are.
When visiting Lisbon, I find the detained apartments, traffic and urban clutter strange that make me feel uncomfortable. However, I remember that my nature is not nature. As I walk through the city streets, passing the shop windows with palmiers and cream puffs, the people with bags and the young people leaning against the walls, I remember my childhood journeys and the stories I sheltered between the Buildings lived. The lamps shine in unison with the arrival of night and with my walk, a blessing that is more self-sufficient than divine, and I feel good. And then, even when there are no stars in sight, it seems that I am connected to the universe. Not the unknown, infinite, unlimited, silent universe. But a familiar universe of lights, smells and smoke. A limited universe of sidewalks, handrails and corners. A loud universe of horns, rasps and greetings. A universe in which the people who are important to me orbit. A universe called home.