From: Sarah Jones <email@example.com>
Subject: Pastéis de nata
Date: 2 September 2013 8:52:52 AM GMT+02:00
To: Justy Phillips <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, mish meijers <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Eden Mitsenmacher <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Tommie Soro <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Esther Miller <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, angelica clunes <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, christian capurro <xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Carly Fischer <xxxxxxxxxx>, nancy mauroflude<xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, xxxxxxxxxxxxx
The little girl is laughing behind the counter, it's bursting from behind her crooked teeth. She is wearing thick glasses and a bow in her dark hair. Her laughter is rocking her throat forward and her head back. Her shoulders shudder and her little toes curl a fraction harder to stop her from falling forward. Her hands are sparking little fists, hot on the palms and spring loaded. She is exploding shrill sounds into the still clean air of the tiny café.
She is laughing at me. Her father is the man behind the counter and he's trying to tell me something and I can't understand. His eyebrows are pushing together gently like the bows of two curved hulls, the figure heads might gently kiss before the pulsing generosity of the tide turns. His dark eyes are wide and gentle, he is willing me to understand, like I might be able to momentarily cloak myself in his empathy and come out speaking fluent Portuguese. He is willing me, coaxing me, begging me to pick out some small thread and weave myself some meaning that I can wear this coming season. He hears his daughters spurt of laughter like those canon fountains that shoot hundreds of metres into the sky in Las Vegas. An almost imperceptible tick starts to tug at the corner of his weathered lips, at the corners of his crows feet, those star shaped creases at the outsides of his eyes. Her bubbling joy is a tiny hook ripping everything outwards and upwards into what will be a smile. A smile he is trying so hard not to show me. He is losing the energy to will me to understand, he is falling softly back into his little girls laughter. His eyelids sink quickly to let me know that in some way he knows her innocent laughter feels cruel.
I stay standing there. I watch him turn to hide his smile. The girl sucks in air to stifle her own shocked little eruption, she has her eye on her father now and she senses him hiding his complicity with her fun. I watch her chest fall as the last of her laughter escapes from behind her pink cotton t-shirt. She looks at me, her eyes drag up and down and all over me, the sagging half curls at my back are dyed a crass shade of blonde and she seems fascinated with their fall. My eyes are blue, I'm tall, I'm well dressed, I'm a tourist, I'm always alone, she's seen me twice before, her father has taken my order many times, I've lived here for three months, it's supposed to be a year longer. I am taking Portuguese lessons but I'm so slow to learn, the pronunciation seems mostly impossible. The little girl knows me by sight but she's never heard me speak and now her fascination with me is overflowing from her, she laughs into the space of my confused stare and her father's unanswered questions. She's almost hysterical, like it's too much for her that I should be unable to understand the simplest of things, the small thing that her father is offering me; the tiny thing that I can neither accept nor politely refuse.
From the end of the street it looked as though the city was on fire. We had run hand in hand with all of the others as the plastic shields the police held pushed us down towards the water. Look down on the police line from above; it is a shallow ice cube tray, each officer freezing slowly in his hollow. We ran from one side of the long street to the other, running forwards, looking backwards, zigzagging the bins that weren't yet burning. It wasn't warm or cold, our skins piqued with adrenaline, some peoples faces showed real fear. Some people sold water to the rushing crowd, pockets of burning trash, pockets of micro-economy, pockets of real fear. It's not our fight. Mumble something about solidarity, my mastercard is melting in my pocket and the number will still buy me a plane ticket out of here when you break my heart.