CHAPTER 7 – Thoughts, Like Music, Do Not Ask Before Entering, by Cláudia Lucas Chéu

©Rui Matos, Sobre uma linha flutuante www.

Translated by Robin Patterson

Edited by Rahul Bery

“Only she herself knew that she had always been prone to incomprehensible excesses. But she had scruples. The taste that, quite literally, lingered in her mouth after one of these adventures, also left a bitter taste in her mind.”

Curled over the edge of the bed, face resting on her hands, and immersed in what seemed to her a completely new state of mind, Teresa did not understand what had happened. From the un-curtained window, a shaft of orangish light pierced the cramped, gloomy space of the bedroom. She observed the brightness coming in from the street, which hours earlier would have suited the nudity, embellishing her with a suntanned glow. Teresa had to consider one of two scenarios: the possibility of a nervous breakdown, or the acceptance of the virulent, and as such unpredictable, side to her personality. She had not planned on actually meeting the girl. The naïve reader will think that this was the first betrayal, of herself, of the Christian principles of fidelity etc., and of her girlfriend living on the other side of the map. But no. While in the others’ eyes Teresa was nothing more than a shy girl who from a young age had shown a clear vocation for Science, and seemed reliable in everything she did, such external judgment was mistaken. Only she herself knew that she had always been prone to incomprehensible excesses. But she had scruples. The taste that, quite literally, lingered in her mouth after one of these adventures, also left a bitter taste in her mind. She didn’t know why she did it. You would expect that her repeated behaviour, although infrequent, would become unimportant and stop seeming so new to her each time. Why torment herself with something merely physical? From a rational point of view, it felt stupid to condemn the immediate needs of her body. She wasn’t harming anyone. Besides, the encounters were not, in general, particularly good. And this one hadn’t been either. The girl with long, dark hair had a screechy voice that made Teresa lose all interest as soon as she opened her mouth to utter the first few words. She seemed so young and foolish, boasting about her bravery in taking a long walk at night to get there, as if this were something really dangerous. They were all aware that the sun was dangerous for the human body, but not the moon. Talking and wriggling her restless feet in their colourful trainers, she did not, in person, look as young or as pretty as in her photos. She was, however, already here. There was no going back; telling the girl to leave would be offensive. The worst was what happened next, when, after several insipid kisses on the bed, she took off her blouse. Teresa began, inadvertently, to think about her bosses, the machine, and all the problems the world was going through during those times. There she was, faced with a pair of young, full breasts, and she couldn’t get the Professor and Cacilda out of her head – which seemed to her bizarre. Why, at this moment, was she worrying about that? It didn’t cross her mind that she was betraying her girlfriend, not even as she devoured the girl’s pussy, making use of the technique so often fruitfully employed, but which now left her feel nothing. Complete indifference; no enjoyment whatsoever. Could it be that after so long without touching anyone she’d become incapable of feeling pleasure? She had grown unaccustomed to the smells, the skin against skin, the sounds, in short, everything that fed her animal instincts. The smell of the girl’s pussy bothered her, and her soft moans, which she would once have enjoyed hearing, made her want to tell the girl to shut up. The whole situation had seemed mechanical and grotesque, not even vaguely close to the thrill of pornography, merely a clumsy choreography that took too long to finish due to the girl’s inexperience. Once alone in the bedroom, she slumped onto the bed with her arms stretched out above her head. It occurred to her that thoughts, like music, do not ask before entering.  The image of the Professor and Cacilda during sex with the girl was perhaps connected with her feeling, ever since she’d begun working with the team, that something inexplicable would happen. She couldn’t say what. Having that sense of foreboding made her feel stupid. Once again, she was confronted with a behaviour that ran counter to her personality – clairvoyance.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Cláudia Lucas Chéu (1978) is a writer, poet and playwright. She has published the play scripts Poltrona – monólogo para uma mulher; Glória ou como Penélope morreu de tédio (Bicho do Mato / Teatro Nacional D. Maria II); A cabeça muda (Cama de Gato); Veneno, Coleção Curtas da Nova Dramaturgia – Memória (Guilhotina, 2015). She has also published a book of poetic prose, Nojo (não), and the poetry collections Trespasse (Guilhotina, 2014) and Pornographia (Labirinto, 2016). In 2017, her book Ratazanas (poetry) was published in Brazil by Selo Demónio Negro, São Paulo. Her first novel Aqueles que vão morrer was published in 2018 by Labirinto. In the same year, Beber pela garrafa (poetry) was published by Companhia das Ilhas. A Mulher-Bala e outros contos (short stories) was published in 2019 by Labirinto and Confissão (poetry) was published in 2020 by Companhia das Ilhas.

Robin Patterson translates from Portuguese and lives in London. He has translated Luandino Vieira’s Our Musseque (2015) and José Luís Peixoto’s You Died (2016), and with Margaret Jull Costa has co-translated Lúcio Cardoso’s Chronicle of the Murdered House (2016), The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis (2018) and Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s The Girl from the Sea and Other Stories (2020). Their co-translation of Machado de Assis’s Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas will be published later in 2020.

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