It was some January day in 1976.
I struggle to travel back to the memory of one day I have tried to bury in the most secluded corners of my existence. Slowly and painfully images are retrieved, flashbacks of episodes that should perhaps never be brought back to light or perhaps they have to.
It was indeed a surreal day.
Engraved in my heart is Rapolana, looking me deeply in my eyes, his favourite “menina Macua”, he knew it would be many years before he would see me again, but he knew that day would come. I seem to remember looking back at the farm house as my father drove away and our dogs ran after the car in an eternal goodbye, those knowing they would never see us again.
We left the platoon of Vila Pery, heading to Beira.
I cannot possibly grasp who I was and looking back at me I cannot understand how being seven years old I was already who I am today, only not consciously aware of these rivers of emotion that always seem to push me into life and living, sometimes into surges of creativity and determination, some few times into self-destructive behaviours that I am more often than not ashamed of.
That day in Beira, was a happy day. January, summer, heat, water, beach!
My mother left us at the swimming pool, “Piscinas do Ferroviario”. I swam, privately proud of my sudden ability to swim under water. But all went wrong. I did not know where I was, I saw flashes of memories that did not belong to me. I remember looking and seeing myself tangled in bubles of water as if a sudden vortex had appeared out of nowhere and just to forever remind me that my existence was not to be a standard one. I knew I was gone when suddenly one hand pulls me out of the water and onto the side of the pool. I looked at this man, gigantic to me, long curled hair and beard. He had saved me from drowning and I don’t even know his name. I know he was Spanish, some kind of prisoner and I remember he gave my sister a tiny little smoking pipe, we now know the use of it but then my sister jokingly used it to smoke her cigarettes.
So incomprehensible are my endings and beginnings, so unimaginable is this lonely road I walk, that not even my mother knew of this episode until recently. I guess I never told and my sister was perhaps too scared to tell, fear of being blamed for something that was not in her control, herself suffering this mystical abandonment we share. Or perhaps that day was so sorrowful that this tiny, fractional suffering meant nothing.
My mother tells me she picked us up and we went to the Valente family house for lunch – “feijoada”.
But that is not my memory.
My memory takes me to the moment when I silently buried my pouch in the sand of the beach. Maria do Céu Leça had made it for me, for a “passerelle” contest at Soalpo, which I won in my age group.
That moment, I consciously buried it in the sand, my adult mind knows why but I cannot remember my thoughts and feelings then. What I remember is how upset my mother was that I had “forgotten” it there and my eldest sister so upset – I seem to remember having something of hers inside the pouch.
I would leave behind another piece of me in Luanda airport – a bottle of perfume Assunção had given me which I solemnly left on some arm chair as we were being rushed out of the airport.
These things I do in life, then some unconscious old soul calling, now a gesture with purpose.