©Miguel Branco, S/ Título (Manhã), 22 de Março de 2020, digital photography www.miguelbranco.com
Translated by Rahul Bery
Edited by Paul Crick
But it was always the time for that. And urgency would always give way to emergency: the image of two bodies frenzying towards a tepid climax, muscles taut and pushed to their limits, something almost, almost, almost … and then at last, bam, there it is, and then the rapid breathing, your heart thumping in your chest like mad, your head meeting the pillow at last.
She had, it’s true, got used to cybersex, but does anyone ever really get used to eating unseasoned meat? Each member of sapiens sapiens adapts to what they’ve got and does the best they can in the circumstances, but when you think of all you can get, even the slightest, most banal bit of gratification goes up in smoke. No amount of distance can kill the superiority of the flesh, which is why the whole process often left her far from sated. Now and again, she’d think about what everyone sometimes thinks about: a swift, surgical betrayal with any old body, like a takeaway, like eating fast food between the sheets, half a dozen functional minutes, job done, animal urge stated, tranquillity in the body and in the brain that insists that fucking be done torso to torso.
The problem is, love is one thing and the body is quite another. When one fails, the other stays faithful to itself, always with someone or other until the end. The ones with no Ronaldo make off with a Messi. The ones with no lover nearby get involved with something else. And Teresa had had nothing for five months. Sometimes she found herself thinking that even a guy would do the job.
But life is a frugal thing, it’s what actually happens, not what’s in our heads, and so she had to act within her own limits. She picked up her mobile and tried to make a WhatsApp call. No answer. She tried again, still nothing. She was frustrated with the situation, and this was the wrong time not to get an answer. As a lover, it was her lot to suffer, and to imagine that perhaps Valéria was out there living her life, taking out a Pamela Anderson or an Ellen Page. Besides, we all know the way life is in Canada, almost worse than in Brazil, everything always in motion, Robin Scherbatsky style.
As such, her femme fatale girlfriend living at the end of the world had been of little use to her on many occasions, however nice she looked as the wallpaper on her smartphone. She hadn’t replied to the email she’d sent her with lots of different sofa models and now she wasn’t answering her call. All well and good in a normal situation, but these were different circumstances: the world was in turmoil, and so was she.
Still holding the mobile in her hand, she opened Tinder, on which she feasted her eyes every now and again. Anyone in a long-distance relationship gets by this way: life continues around you and there’s never any shortage of desperate women, there’s choice cannon fodder on every corner, it’s like a virus. And they make special allowances for people who feel they are at their limit.
Love is a decision; sex is something that happens. If you don’t look where you’re going, sooner or later you’ll put your foot in it. What impact would a one-off have on this relationship that was already running on a half-empty, if it was just to sate her body, to give her ego a boost? Perhaps then when she got home, after that ridiculous day, she could have fifteen minutes of peace.
And then she saw them: dozens of girls in bikinis, some looking for threesomes, others with no photos at all, overloaded instead with infantile emojis and spelling mistakes; one who wasn’t bad at all, but very young; one who looked like she lived in the gym but loved ‘getting down to reggaeton’. And then there was Maria: long hair, long dress, statuesque profile – excellent. So, with her girlfriend 5,722 kilometres away, she started a new chat.
Ana Bárbara Pedrosa is 29 years old and is a novelist and linguist. She has a degree in Applied Languages, an MA in Portuguese Studies and post-graduate degrees in Linguistics, Economics and Public Policy, as well as a PhD in Human Sciences (Literature). She has lived and studied in the U.S.A. (Philadelphia) and Brazil (Florianopolis and São Paulo). She now lives in Lisbon, where she works for Google, and also as a freelancer, doing proof-reading and translation. She is studying French and Norwegian and likes travelling, grammar and sports. She is the author of the novel Lisboa, Chão Sagrado and has published numerous stories online. She has also published scientific articles on linguistics and literature and literary reviews. She is currently working on a new novel.
Rahul Bery translates from Spanish and Portuguese into English and is based in Cardiff. His first full-length translation, Rolling Fields by David Trueba, will be published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in June of this year, pandemics notwithstanding.
(video production by Gabriela Ruivo)
Listen to this chapter read by Ben Slack
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