Fumar mata. That’s what it says on Portuguese cigarette boxes. Zé forgot his pipe. Friday the thirteenth was just a lucky day like every other day. I had to take my vaccination and it all worked out fine. In Barrio Alto I walked up to a private hospital where they sent me to the health care center. Without an insurance card they wouldn’t help me, not even would they put a syringe in my veins. It was of no avail complaining and making a fool of myself. I felt like a junkie carrying his stuff around but not even able to inject it by himself. The stuff by the way is a combined hepatitis a and b vaccin and a vaccin for salmonella typhi, typhus. In the public health care center I stood at the counter talking to a lady who expressed herself in very solid English. She allegedly understood the situation and offered a shot for 32€ fifty cent. I asked the lady
“Psst, can’t you do it off the record?”
The woman’s face got pale.
“This is a public health care center. You shouldn’t even be asking that question” she said with an angry voice. Because it is something criminal to just help some total stranger putting the bacteriae he carries around with him in his veins. Just like that I can understand them, of course my father is a doctor and so is my brother. I’m from a family of medics. No help off the record, no injections without strings attached. Anybody could come here and ask for injections. It would be a chaos, long lines of people with needle boxes wrapped in soft silk clothes, people asking for a vaccination against cholera, typhus, tetanus, salmonella, bronchitis, lime’s disease, yellow fever, smallpocks, birth flew, mad cow disease, stress, resentment, hate, chronical fatigue, narrow-mindedness, poverty, death. And just a handfull of nurses working around the clock to hack the needles in naked upper arms and pustulated buttocks. The vaccinated people would go out with a mad smile on their faces and the needles sticking out of their externalities in all directions, they would hop like bunnies and drop from the nearest cliff strangulated by boredom. Life has its limits.
So I nodded dully to the woman and went back to the Camões, to a traditional pharmacy. The pharmacologist asked me what I needed and told me to wait in a room for five minutes so the vaccin could warm up to room temperature. He chatted with me about my travels, and gave me some wise advice with respect to sexual diseases. The he just put the needle in my vein. I thought about Neil Young’s ‘the needle and the damage done’ it’s a great song. This is the way it ought to be. Everything that goes beyond bureaucracy makes me happy.
It makes me ‘vachement chouette’ according to the French expression I picked up later that day; it fills me up with bovine joy, as I rendered a fancy English translation of it that made Cristina laugh. We went out to Chapito, a well-know bar (go there if you visit Lisbon) to hear some Fado. Couldn’t understand the words but I liked it. There was also a man singing some Fado about street bums, vagabonds, clochards, homeless as there are plenty in the city. I met some myself. The Millenium bank is the best it let them sleep inside in the entrance portal. I don’t know the lyrics of the Fado about it but it was a bit odd to hear a man singing what is
traditionally a woman’s domain: the woman of Portuguese sailors stayed alone at home, their hearts filled with saudade. The Japanese singer was good. The saudade in her voice sounded real and sincere. Young Japanese women nowadays have the choice to become Portuguese Fado singers if they want to. That’s amazing, if you think about it. A boy of Nigerian descent has the possibility to become the first black president of the United States. Life has no limits.
If you want to be recognized as the ‘writer’, you must look more like one. With all the self-confidence, the appearance of the teller of tales that matter, the seismograph of the living
world. Appearance over being. I will just appear like that young man Giacomo Joyce when I travel to Italy, just appear like that self-occupied Marcel when I plaster my room with cork
plates, and you will believe what I say is somehow of importance. I send you my gratitude for that in advance…