It’s not possible to see the dredge today, said Ana. Guilherme believed this had to be because of the view from the living room, for a shipwreck wouldn’t move. Later, he went to the window and ran his eyes from the beach to the horizon. The tower of gears, which usually was the only visible part of the dredge that had sunk long before, had indeed disappeared. High tide, he concluded. It was dangerous for the ships that weren’t familiar with the area. But, for Ana, rust could have taken the tower down, couldn’t it? No, Guilherme had already dived there many times and the ship, even corroded, wouldn’t give in: it would be easier to believe that it continued to dredge.
Ana nevertheless tried to see the dredge, as she considered the idea of a dead ship burying itself silly. In the end, she moved her eyes to the living room and checked the time.
the sea, in the living room
The apartment was by the sea. Through the windows, it was impossible to avoid the ocean. The guests should be arriving soon: canapés and sweets were already on the table; cold soda and beer; afterwards there would be cake. Guilherme and Ana looked at each other, trying to guess, in each other’s eyes, what was missing. But they couldn’t figure it out, so they looked at the silent sea again. They deciphered the same person and his stubbornness.
Then Ana asked And what if he comes? I’m not afraid of him, said Guilherme, and she said True, but the atmosphere will be a bit heavy. So don’t come, he said. But, Guilherme, bear in mind that, he bought this apartment, for example. If he gave you this apartment, it’s yours, answered Guilherme. But he’s Clarinha’s grandfather.
They went quiet immediately; Clarinha. They had to wake her up, it was already three in the afternoon. So Ana went and faced the mood of the child, who had been taken from her quietude and comfort. Hence, Clarinha entered the living room dressed for the party, but crying, despite Ana rocking her and showing her the sea. Inside the playpen, the girl calmed down with two little green-scaled fish and the sounds of a bubble under the water.
Soon, the doorbell started ringing and the guests arrived one after the other: first the godparents, then some close relatives and cousins coming from afar. Ana’s mother arrived alone, without saying much: her husband’s stubbornness, those things from yesteryears, it used to be possible to arrive right on the dot. Then Ana understood quickly that her worries would only stop after they had sung happy birthday. Guilherme served drinks, explained things about the beach to those who admired the view from the window and, every now and then, opened the door for some guest. By four o’clock, all the available seats in the apartment had been taken.
Then, not long before four, when they were getting ready to sing happy birthday, Clarinha’s grandfather turned up: from above, at the door opened by his daughter, he ran his eyes over the guests, and, when he saw his wife, he took his hat off and approached the people slowly. Those who recognized him came to congratulate him on his granddaughter’s birthday, but he would simply dodge them with a hard smile. Clarinha was in his son-in-law’s lap, in the middle of the living room, and her grandfather pretended not to see them. Nailed down next to his wife, he simply observed the ornaments on the table. When Guilherme brought him a beer, he refused it, his entire body evading something very annoying, many people noticed it and things started to get heavy.
First the pink and white balloons, which seemed to have been inflated with water, almost fell to the floor. Then, the plastic knives and forks, made of plumb, fell from the guests’ hands and had to be lifted from the floor with a disproportionate effort. The same thing happened to the trays of sweets and canapés and to the beer and soda glasses and to the broom brought in at the last minute: everything was heavy and the people, feeling awkward, made a great effort to maintain an atmosphere with the necessary innocence of a first birthday. Tired of holding Clarinha, Guilherme was the last one to surrender: hiding his effort, he put his daughter on a tall chair, from where she would have been able to see the number one candle being blown by her father and her mother soon after singing happy birthday. The candle was frightfully buried in the cake, which didn’t seem to stand its own weight.
As he wouldn’t be able to hold his wife’s arm all party long, grandfather found a flimsy chair facing the sea, which, at that time of the afternoon, waved its white foam. From there, he saw his wife having fun with the two girls. Not him. And because of this, he turned his eyes, solidly in silence, to hold them fixedly at the horizon. People would come to give the living room back to him, but which living room? Which people? His wife came, for instance: she came, carrying Clarinha, to try and convince him to come to the table, they would sing happy birthday. Not even the two of them together made him move his eyes glued at the sea.
He looked for the tower of the dredge and, not finding it, he concluded that the reflection of the water must have fooled him. The invincible dragon: He had bought the apartment because of the view and had noted that it was a ship – not simply a rock - in the second year, when he and his wife had come for a vacation, and he had sworn he would kill Guilherme, being at the time suspicious that he would never go beyond the desire to do so. And, eventually, it, the desire, also gave in and he was left with an unkind word for himself. Now he saw the sea wild and untamed. The crest of waves came forward, tearing apart stones and the eternally raw flesh of the beach.
Ana asked everyone to come around the cake table in order to sing happy birthday. The guests, pulling their bodies with enormous difficulty, looked like shadows in an old people’s home, but Ana realized that his father wouldn’t leave the sofa where he was sitting, facing the sea.
So, hardly was the candle lit, when the sea entered the living room, going through the windowpanes and taking over the party space with its blueness and fauna. Considering that it is the sea and that it is linked to the ocean, it surprises by being anything but violent, without blowing off the candle or even a clap. And the party carries on, perceived by smothered senses. There is candlelight underneath the sea. It is a drowned birthday party. Roots of smoke inside the water. Then, the fetid smell of the floating algae. In the end, things control their weight again. And this is the summary: the sea goes through the glass, and, tinted in blue, everyone celebrates Clarinha, who entertains herself with a cube of letters and numbers, her favorite present that afternoon. Everyone accepts the sea in the living room, sniffing the party and filling every little space. Everyone, except her grandfather, who, now, looking at the scene in its totality, hears a familiar voice. Fish cross the area without the courage to go for the food. Rust-colored crabs run around the floors, checking the burrows and considering them inadequate. And, yet, a voice crosses them and reaches her grandfather and, suddenly, he hears that he is stupid, stupid, stupid. And, as soon as he tries to see Clarinha, he can no longer see her, for she is hidden behind a shoal into which people are mixed. And they don’t notice him anymore, they don’t see him anymore. He is the sea where he hides himself and, because of this, he rises and walks towards Clarinha, whom he now sees in her grandmother’s lap, and, when he is sufficiently near to steal her from his wife and to forget for the first time that he is a man of his word, the sea starts its withdrawal. The white foam fan shall distance itself again and drag the fetid algae. As soon as grandfather’s head emerges, like iron and coral, he’s already seen by everyone, so he walks back to the chair, from where he sees the sea going through the glass, following all the process of returning to the waves and giving itself back to the ocean, now red in the horizon of the afternoon and crisscrossed in calmness by the vindictive dredge tower.
Running over his body, tiny rust colored crabs look for a burrow, frightened by the announcement of the cutting of the cake.
Translation by Lilia Loman