ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 02

The Suicide´s heaven

Author | Autor: Ricardo Lísias

Translated by Angel Gurría-Quintana

Ispecialise in collections, but gave away my stamps over ten years ago. I have a
single watch, and from my grandparents I inherited a small amount of money and
nothing else. I don’t keep foreign coins, I don’t have shoeboxes full of postcards
and I don’t catalogue mugs, cigarette packs or key rings. I have a toy Pan Am
airplane, but a collection worthy of the name would require, at least, a small fleet.
  The decision to give up collections and become a specialist was not made
consciously. When I entered university, I had already rid myself of the bottle
caps and most of the stamps collected over a few years. I got through my entire
undergraduate degree without thinking about collections. Every now and then, a
lecturer would say that historians love the dust on documents, and that he had
himself spent many hours poring over all sorts of collections. In courses on the
history of art, some collectors were always referred to. But beyond that, collections
did not interest me much at the time.
  It wasn’t always like that: during my childhood and adolescence I amassed
almost two thousand bottle caps. As for stamps, mandatory for almost anyone
who has been obsessed by collecting, I managed to arrange two beautiful albums.
I also gathered everything I could find about the football team I liked when I was
twelve. In that case, however, I was driven only by passion, which could never be a
key element of a serious collector’s business.
  Nowadays, I don’t even watch Brazil’s World Cup games.

As a teenager, I loved arranging my bottle caps. They were all grouped by their
country of origin and then, in smaller groups, by the drink from which they
originated. I basically divided them into soft drinks, which were plentiful, alcoholic
drinks and water bottles.
  I was proudest of a series of bottle caps with Arabic characters that I had
managed to get through a distant relative. I tried to understand what was written on
some of them, but since I couldn’t I was forced to make an exception in my catalogue
and was unable even to classify them by country. As for my three Japanese bottle
caps, to this day I don’t know if they were from a bottle of water or a soft drink. I
never thought they came from beer bottles: a teetotaller gave me the lot. 
  Twenty-three bottle caps from India were unusual. They were a gift from an aunt
who, despite being barely out of her twenties, had suffered an unbearable romantic
heartbreak, and after spending a few weeks crying and screaming meaningless
words, decided to go find herself in a small town three hours out of New Delhi.
  I must have been around fourteen when she went there for the first time. My
grandfather tried to maintain some kind of supportive poise and only managed to
say over and over that she would change her mind and would come back soon to
finish her law degree. The fact that he paid for his disillusioned daughter’s airfare
remains a sore point between him and my grandmother to this day. Looking back,
I think my aunt was last in Brazil some ten years ago. As far as I know, she hardly
calls even at Christmas.

About two years ago, I plucked up the courage to ask for the whereabouts
of my disillusioned aunt. My grandmother started crying, my mother ate
another spoonful of rice while signalling her disapproval with her left hand, and
my uncle, always competing with his younger sister, said disdainfully that she was
somewhere between southern Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
  He said she spends her time wandering with a group headed by a monk
who claims to be the reincarnation of the spirit that controls every living being’s
emotional side. Not only humans’. At that moment, choking with laughter, my sister
almost spat out whatever she was chewing on. I had just ruined our Easter lunch.
  I don’t find the story funny. I don’t believe that monk exists, of course, but
I always liked my aunt. Her brother, the joker, unnerves me a bit. When she first
returned, I think in 1990 (I can’t remember the exacts date because, since I started
missing everything, I lost the notion of time), I was very impressed by the way in
which she gave me the bottle caps she had brought.
  For your collection, Ricardo. I can’t forget that phrase: for your collection,
Ricardo. She gave me the parcel with a far-away gaze. We were all waiting at the
airport. She saw us as soon as the arrivals door opened, waved and walked towards
us very slowly. My grandmother started crying. My aunt hugged us one by one.
Later, if I’m not mistaken, I was the first to get a gift. For your collection, Ricardo.
  For someone who loved riding his bicycle, and always felt very intense
affections, her gestures seemed too vague. I examined the bottle caps on the way
from the airport to my grandfather’s house, where we would celebrate her visit.

If I’m not mistaken, my disillusioned aunt returned to Brazil eight years later. We
were at the century’s end. We didn’t see each other: her visit coincided with a
difficult post-graduate examination. I was very focused, and when I finally managed
to return to São Paulo she had already left.
  I never forgot my mother’s look of desolation as she told me that her sister,
who had become a nun, warned that the world would suffer a great catastrophe, if
it did not in fact end at the start of the 21st century.
  She never returned to Brazil. Always affectionate, during that second visit she
left me some more bottle caps. But I was already studying to become a specialist
and, with the arrogance inherited from my uncle, I threw them out. To study their
origin, as any good collector would do, did not even cross my mind.
  Since all of that happened, I’ve come to understand that to feel a longing for
the past means, in some ways, to have regrets. I try to remember a few things. Had
I not thrown out the bottle caps, for instance, my aunt’s phrase would make sense
to me today. For your collection, Ricardo.
  But I have no more collections.
  Last week I went back to the rubbish bin into which I threw some of my bottle
caps, the most valuable ones. The others, I left for the bin collector the following
morning. I had no hope of finding them: after all, it’s been almost twenty years. I
think that’s right: twenty years. I just looked at the people in the metro station and
its environs. And sadly I found nothing that meant anything to me. 

My bottle cap collection came to a sad end. The month after I finished secondary
school, a little before Christmas, the class got together for a farewell party. It was
one of those meetings at which every promises that they will always stay in touch.
  I want to see my classmates again. I sought them out on three social networks
on the Internet, but since I can’t remember their names, I didn’t find anyone.
  At the party, we would start a new phase of our lives. Naturally, plenty of
alcoholic beverages would be available. Today things are different, but back then it
took us longer to start drinking.
  Because the girls would be there, we anticipated that the evening would lead
to the experiences we had fantasised about during our school years. For some
reason, probably the last shred of my adolescent pride, I thought that taking my
bottle caps would put me in a better position to conquer one of them. That was
the plan: seduce them with the best part of my collection.
  Today I think such pride demonstrates that I truly have a collector’s soul. I will
take my bottle caps, the girls will surely be impressed, and I will choose the one
with whom to crown the end of my adolescence. I didn’t have the slightest doubt.
  It didn’t work.

All this self-indulgence is making me uncomfortable. Before André’s suicide, I
had never wanted to look back. Now, I’ve started missing everything. Because
I cannot help remembering an enormous number of episodes I lived through, it is
inevitable that I should start to weigh them up. And so, I regret many of them.
  When it all started, my first reaction was to hate André. I’m ashamed to say it:
he had barely been buried and already I cursed him, speaking to myself as I walked
down the street. The first crisis happened when I left the police station.
  I had to make a statement. As far as I could tell, I was the last person contacted
by André. It all went without a hitch. To be honest, I was surprised by the policemen’s
politeness. As I was leaving, one of them asked if I knew the legendary Manoel
Camassa, a police commissioner who collects coins and election paraphernalia. He
even owns several ballot boxes.
  After I said goodbye to the lawyer I had hired as a precaution, I began feeling
out of breath. The vertigo grew, so I sat down in a square, but a beggar came
over and started bothering me. He called me a cry-baby. I think he called me a
little cry-baby. I stood up to face him, but my sight darkened with anger and he
disappeared. Then I ran away shouting. I must have cursed everyone, but it was
certainly André that I cursed the loudest.

Ihad never shouted so much. I always dealt silently with my problems. I organise
and reorganise them in my head, as if they were in a collection, until I find a
solution. I react in the same way when making decisions. That graduation party I
mentioned is a good case in point. Of course I didn’t finish secondary school in the
way I had planned.
  I took around two hundred bottle caps. I was careful to wipe them with a cloth
beforehand. I was a bit apprehensive about the Japanese specimens: if they stood
out, my inability to explain whether they came from water or soft drink bottles might
undermine my ability to charm the girls. Not to mention that, in such an environment,
it would be disappointing to admit that a teetotaller had given them to me.
  I decided I would start by showing them the three bottle caps of Polka, a beer
made in the south of Brazil in the 1940s by a German descendent. Later, as far as I
was able to investigate, it stopped being an artisanal brew and was bought out by
a large conglomerate.
  At the party I would add that in various places around the world the
international drinks industry gobbled up small and local enterprises, leading to an
obvious deterioration in flavour. If I finished my story by saying that the owner of
Polka created some sort of beer fest, I was sure to captivate someone.

Icaptivated no one, of course. An hour into the party every one started feeling
melancholy, and each time I decided to open my little plastic bag with the ten
rare bottle caps, people said that perhaps we could get together again in February.
When the atmosphere threatened to become too heavy, we shared each other’s
  One guy would be helping his brother out at a little shop in Canada. Two of
the girls had found jobs with a famous stylist and I, the collector, was burning the
midnight oil to get into university to study history.
  We agreed to leave early, to make the farewell easier. It wasn’t, and to this day
I dislike thinking about it.
  Slightly drunk, I sat alone on the metro and studied the ten bottle caps all the
way home. For your collection, Ricardo. For some reason, I no longer felt proud of
my collection.
  The carriage was empty, and in my mind the journey took a long time. I gave the
best part of my collection to a guy who seemed very sad and was sitting close to
me. Perhaps a friend of his had just killed himself. We mustn’t ask about such things.
  It wasn’t like that: angry, sad and a little drunk, but excited about the new
prospects, brimming with curiosity about what would come my way, therefore
quite confused, I threw the bottle caps into a bin at the metro station near my
house. They were no longer a part of my life.

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