Don and Dean’s Summer Delight

It must have been sometime in the afternoon, although it’s hard to say. There was definitely a sunbeam crossing the barrier of apartment buildings, reflecting from the old lady’s window across the patio to land triangularly shaped on the wall – right above the pillow-case bit that was visible out of the corner of the blue-ish linens. The bed was covered with a citric green blanket, and next to it was the bookshelf and the armchair – basically the only furniture in the room – apart, perhaps, from the leather futon across the room (although that wouldn’t really qualify as furniture). The heat – at least they thought it was the heat – was sucking all of the moisture out of the air.

Dean wasn’t paying much attention to Don’s guitar stroking, but his attentive look suggested otherwise. With his thumb, he persistently rubbed his pinky’s nails with a movement along the white line the separates it from the skin. He was barefoot and shirtless. As if suddenly aware of a leg cramp that had been building up and grew into numbness, Dean rose to his feet, only to take a step to the side and blend into the armchair cushion. “It’s hot in here”, he said without addressing Don, not necessarily at least. There was the audible sound of the clock they had found downstairs, by the entrance door, just a few days ago. Normally, you’d have to concentrate on the tic-tac in order to distinguish it in the midst of sirens and school bells. Despite facing the back of the building, Don’s apartment was not free from these daily reminders of whatever life or death was going on out there. That Saturday, however, there were no impediments to the battery-run clock. It ran wild.

In a non-responsive answer to a non-question, Don looked up at the ceiling to what could’ve been imaginary clouds of heat floating motionless and heavy above their heads. The gaze made him aware of the texture of his own hair resting on his shoulders and the heat, the dry heat it generated where it encountered his neck. “I should shave sometime this week”, he thought to himself, more as an excuse than as a goal, conscious of his own affection for facial hair – anyone’s facial hair, especially his own. The guitar pick felt different – heavier – between his fingers. The moisture between skin and plastic was a layer, a tangible layer of matter. “Shabop shalom”, Don let out with gentle picking movements that made the strings resonate and break the clock’s determined and unstoppable march. “But marching towards what?”, both of them might’ve thought at about the same time, suspicious of each other’s synchrony, but one can never be sure. The clock did not stop at their hesitation.

It seemed to Don that only now did Dean switch positions – from the bed to the flowered themed cushioned armchair – but somehow the feeling was misleading, he felt. “What?”, he asked Dean, who understood where he was coming from and what he was aiming at. It didn’t bring either of them to the realization – one they had both shared in their intimate so many times before, yet never spoken of it – of the silent and gentle choreography they performed. And had they been aware of this unrealized epiphany of theirs, it would’ve pleased them to recognize such coherence between thought and action, intention and gesture, for rationally acknowledging the feat defeated its purpose by all means. They were successful in their ignorance.

“Another one?”, was Dean’s reply to the texturally aware Don. The question – not so much in search of approval as much as an awakening to his own desires – might have been a statement. “Another one.” It was too late now, for the words had already come out of his lips with an inescapable question mark. Paralyzed on the cushioned armchair, Dean knew that even so it wouldn’t have corresponded to his deep inner yearnings. Silence had done it; followed – shortly, perhaps – by the breaking of immobility that most faithfully revealed his wishes. He saw the movement he was about to perform; first in his head. Time moved thus.

“I can’t feel my hands”, Dean heard Don whisper, unsurprised and unconcerned, while playing the part he had been rehearsing in meditation. Staring at the pick in his hand – small, pizza-shaped, fading blue – he tried to remember the random information found on Wikipedia about the guy who first started commercializing CDs. The music had stopped flowing from his hands to the strings and from it, to fill the room, crowded by clouds of humid smoke. Again the clock was ticking. Dean too had heard it, he looked over at Don. “We’re out.” The words made Don look away from the guitar pick to the sunbeam – now fractured in cubic forms – and smile.

Their looks met half way. Not their hands. The tic-tac suggested not so, but time stopped and sped up simultaneously. It caught up to itself. They knew not how long afterwards their lids – all four of them – responded to both of their brains and, in vertical closing and opening, blinked. The pick was nowhere to be seen, although the guitar had been carefully placed by the armchair. The heat had dissipated into the breeze; windows open all the way. There was no tic-tac to be heard. The streets spoke and so did some neighbors, partying downstairs – a record playing piano jazz filled the bathroom with its resonance. But Don and Dean were not there to hear it. It was already Sunday. It was still summer, and with the evening, they had left the room and the smoke. Out there and in here, time was the same.

This story was published by Philos Magazine
(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 2020, during quarantine of Covid19)

Parece ser a tarde. É difícil precisar. O que é certo é que o raio de sol que corta a barreira de apartamentos empoleirados e se reflete na janela da velhinha de frente aterrissa triangularmente na parede do quarto, logo acima da quina de fronha que escapa da cobertura dos lençóis azul intenso. A cama sob o edredom verde cítrico está ao lado da prateleira de livros e da poltrona – os únicos móveis do cômodo, não fosse o pufe de couro envelhecido e desgastado que repousa displicentemente do outro lado do quarto (mas pufes não contam como móveis). O calor, é o que ambos pensam, drena o ar de toda sua umidade.

Dean não percebe, mas ignora as carícias melódicas que Don aplica nas cordas do violão de cabeceira, muito embora seu olhar alerta sugira o contrário. Com o dedão direito e insistência mecânica, percorre a superfície da unha do mindinho da mesma mão, seguindo a linha branca de sua extremidade dáctila. Está descalço e sem camisa. Subitamente tomado por uma câimbra hipotética que estaria levando seus membros inferiores à dormência, Dean se ergue de um salto em um movimento rígido, em seguida lânguido, e que termina com um passo ao lado e uma acomodação uterina no aconchego da poltrona. “Tá quente”, ele diz sem forçosamente se endereçar a Don. O ruído do relógio é audível; o mesmo relógio que haviam encontrado na entrada do prédio uns dias antes. Nem sempre é fácil distinguir seu tic-tac ritmado em meio a sirenes e sinais escolares vizinhos. Ainda que de fundos, o apartamento de Don não se isenta destes lembretes cotidianos da vida e da morte que se entrecruzam lá fora. Neste sábado, contudo, não há obstáculos ao relógio de ponteiros. E ele corre sem freios.

Respondendo sem querer ao que não foi indagado, Don ergue o olhar para o teto para traçar o contorno das nuvens imaginárias de calor que pairam sem movimento e sem leveza sobre suas cabeças. A mirada o alerta para a textura de sua própria cabeleira repousando sobre os ombros e também a do calor, seco, que se propaga no encontro dos cabelos com o pescoço. “Preciso fazer a barba esses dias”, pensa consigo, se justificando mais do que se motivando, sabendo muito bem de sua afeição por pêlos faciais – inclusive os de outrem, mas em especial os seus próprios. A palheta pesa diferente entre os dedos. A umidade entre a epiderme e o plástico que a recobre forma uma camada de matéria, real e tangível. “Shabop shalom”, faz Don com finos movimentos dedilhados que levam as cordas melódicas a ressoar e interromper a marcha determinada e indomada do relógio. “Marchando para onde, afinal?”, ambos poderiam se perguntar em silêncio concomitante, suspeitos de sua sincronia sem verbos, mas sem nenhuma certeza. Diante de tal hesitação, o relógio segue sem vacilar.

“Um outro?”, responde Dean à consciência textural de Don. A pergunta – menos em busca de aprovação que o despertar de seus próprios desejos – afirma. “Um outro.” Agora é tarde demais para isso, já que as palavras escapolem de seus lábios com uma implacável interrogação final. Paralisado na poltrona, Dean no fundo sabe que, ainda assim, a assertiva não faria jus a suas aspirações mais íntimas. O silêncio sim; seguido – quem sabe – pela quebra da inércia que traduz com tamanha fidelidade suas vontades. Ele vê o movimento antes de efetuá-lo. Assim move-se o tempo.

“Não tô sentindo minha mão”, é o sussurro de Don, quase inaudível para Dean, que se mantém sem surpresa ou preocupação, interpretando o papel ensaiado meditativamente. Encarando a palheta estendida sobre a mão – pequena, triangular, azul-desbotado – seus pensamentos se distanciam do quarto para a lembrança de informações aleatórias recentemente lidas sobre o cara que abriu caminho para a comercialização de CDs. Não se ouve mais música pela carícia de seus dedos sobre as cordas, e delas, para todo o quarto, agora todo tomado de vapor e fumaça umedecida. Adiante, o relógio, sempre adiante, batendo. Dean também o ouve e fixa o olhar de Don. “Acabou”. Diante de tal assertiva, Don desvia o olhar para a palheta e dela para o raio de sol – repartido agora em cubos assimétricos – e sorri.

Os olhares se cruzam. Não os dedos. Embora o relógio possa sugerir o contrário, o tempo acelera e freia simultaneamente, alcança. E chega a tempo. Não se sabe quanto tempo se passa antes que suas pálpebras – as quatro – respondam ao comando neural que ordena, sem negociação, que, em coreografado movimento vertical, eles pisquem. Não há mais sinal da palheta, embora o violão descanse cuidadosamente ao lado da poltrona. A umidade dissipa-se pela brisa fresca; janelas completamente abertas. O tic-tac não se ouve. As ruas clamam, assim como falam vizinhos no andar de baixo – o som de uma vitrola irradiando jazz ao piano preenche todo o banheiro com sua reverberação sincopada. Só não estão Don e Dean para ouvi-lo. É domingo. É verão, e com o cair da noite, deixam atrás de si um rastro de quarto e vapor. Lá fora como aqui, o tempo é o mesmo.

Esse conto foi publicado pela Revista Philos
(Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Abril 2020, durante a quarentena de Covid19)

What is Poetry?

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“Saint-Tropez”

Opening track to the album “Verões”, by duplodeck.
Released by Pug Records in 2014.
Original video “The Awakening of Annie”, by Zygmunt Sulistrowski.
Creation and editing by Pedro Salim.

Link

Summer Delight is a multimedia installation that dialogues with concepts of time, space, storytelling and randomness through still and moving images and sounds. Six flat screens display, in arbitrary order, a series of images at random time lapses. The text is divided in 16 pieces that are randomly narrated, through the central 5.1 channels sound system, interposed with moments of silence. Other four stereo sound systems are disposed in the same occupied space, playing the background sounds (internal and external), creating an immersive atmosphere for the narrative.

You can see here a linear video version of the installation and also the still frames and the text.

Summer Delight foi concebido como uma instalação multimídia de imersão, onde o diálogo entre tempo, espaço, movimento e aleatoriedade acentuam a experiência narrativa do espectador. Adaptado do conto “Don and Dean’s Summer Delight”, de Maria Bitarello, este trabalho pretende explorar os limites entre a narrativa literária e sua representação audiovisual. Em uma sala escura 6 telas planas dispostas na sala mostram, em ordem aleatória, uma serie de imagens de duração variada. O texto foi editado em 16 partes independentes que são narradas de forma randômicas através de um sistema de som central 5.1, intercalados com momentos de silencia. Outros 4 sistemas de som estéreo são instalados no mesmo espaço, tocando os sons ambientes e criando assim uma atmosfera imersiva para a narrativa.

O vídeo linear apresentado aqui é um dos desdobramentos desta pesquisa que busca as relações entre texto e imagem.

Project: Vinicius Berger
Story and Narration: Maria Bitarello
Assistant: Fábio Nascimento

Otto

Predictability. It’s the greatest asset an individual may have. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate predictability. It leads to punctuality. To boring. I like punctuality. It makes me feel safe. Although I appreciate a surprise once in while, I prefer playing with routine. And it’s only within a strict and rather boring routine that we’re able to recognize and appreciate a surprising event. And thus I’m back to predictability. It is the key to everything.

The Man and the Lady are predictable. I live with them. I’m thrilled about our rituals. At 6am, I wake up and start scratching the bedroom door. It’s not really shut, so I throw my weight over it and the handle clicks. They’re not yet awake, but that’s about to end. I jump on the bed, on her side. She sleeps next to the wooden box with all the small nice smelling candles and that pile of books. He’s next to the window, on the other side of their gigantic bed, and I’m less thrilled to crawl over him since he doesn’t grace my arrival with the same respect it deserves and because he’s to blame for everything that’s been happening between her and me. She usually makes me feel like the king I am. Or prince, I should say, since I’m still 1. She normally smiles and runs her fingers around my ears before doing the same to him, which I don’t appreciate at all, and whispering “It’s ok, I’ll go, you sleep on”. Yeah, you sleep on, we don’t need you. Today, however, this doesn’t happen. No royal treatment, no smiles and definitely no cuddling.

I can take a hint, ya know. I race to the kitchen and wait for her by the bowl, where she pours my favorite breakfast treats, the only ones I ever eat. Today, shockingly, she serves me that nasty pale looking grub that Oliver next door gets from the macrobiotic woman that feeds him. I should’ve seen it coming… The pouring lingers, each beige flake bouncing against the bowl, in slow and torturing motion. I’m disgusted. It’s true that I like it when she watches me do whatever it is I’m doing, especially eating. It’s in my animal nature to be needy. But now I don’t mind that she leaves me alone for a minute to go brush her teeth and get changed. I’m busy drooling over the bowl – not eating its contents – and bringing the grub to waste. I won’t eat it and no one else should. Before she gets back, I trot across the living room to pee on the plant next to the TV set and proudly state my point. This has been known to work in the past and for park buddies as well.

I’m ignored for most of the day. He walks around the house in PJs, scribbling notes and sometimes talking to himself, while she’s gone. I enjoy this moment of solitude and chase birds in the yard, roll on the grass to scratch my back, bark at strangers walking by our front door and nap on the couch while no one’s there to see. The afternoon goes by in a flash as is normally the case and she punctually slides the key in the keyhole early in the evening, bringing peace to my inner sense of time. She’s back. We take our evening walk before sitting down to watch TV shows together, me on the floor, leaning my chin against her knees and thighs. During commercial breaks, she gets up and I either linger on or chew on a shoelace I’ve hidden under the couch. When the TV is clicked off, she goes back to the bedroom, closing the door on me, and just before I’m shut out from their evening, I get a glance of the Man, in bed, still scribbling, welcoming her in his arms. It’s more than I can bare.

The tyranny of the Man lasts too long now. Why does he get all the warmth and affection these days? I am the loyal one, every single day licking her toes when she comes dripping out of the shower. I’m the one pushing my nose into her hands when she’s lost in thoughts or chasing my own tail when I sense she’s bored. Why am I to blame? He’s the fat one. I’m as slim as race dog, although I’m more of a tramp, myself. Of course he’s the one stealing cake from the fridge, not me. How would I even open the fridge door? I know I’m ingenious and clever, I’m flattered by the compliment in form of reprimand that the Lady has been giving me in daily doses, but I must refuse authorship for the midnight snack-attacks. Believe me, I know it’s him. I sleep closer to the kitchen, I see him come by at night and I also see the reflection of the fridge light on his prescription glasses. This twilight ritual always repeats itself at the same time, every night, when the clock bell rings, striking some dead hour no one’s supposed to acknowledge. A dead hour the Lady ignores in her sleep and which I would normally do too if it weren’t for the fat one or an occasional ambulance siren storming up the road, blasting through the walls and stirring herding instincts in my gut. It feels like I’m being called by my clan, back to the wild. It’s ephemeral, though, and I go back to my normal domestic self. I truly don’t know what takes over me… it must be something very primitive.

When the Man flicks on the kitchen light switch, I, in canine alertness, raise a stiff neck and shake a threatening black-spotted tail, playfully hitting it against the wooden floor. He shooshes me down and I acquiesce, awaiting his departure. He leaves crumbs behind, which I instinctively eat, unwillingly covering up his tracks. Over and over we repeat this ritual of ours. The following morning, there are never any traces to be found on the floor, thanks to your dumb narrator. What comes next anyone can foresee. My prints are all over the place. You don’t need forensics to figure that one out. Can you blame her? I can’t. I blame him.

I decide to react. I take pride in my half-Dalmatian intelligence and stamina. It takes all of the strength in me to look away from that yellow brick road where chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough pave the way from kitchen to bedroom, my own stairway to heaven. Don’t do it! Don’t do it! I shiver and moan, I feel excruciating pain, I drool while mechanically getting up, laying down, getting up, laying down, before finally rushing down the hall, desperately licking the floor in search for bits of crumbs, wagging my tail in every direction and filling myself with satisfaction, no guilt. I head back to my cushion by the counter, I circle around it once or twice before embracing absolute comfort, and go back to sleep. A satisfied sleep. Predictable; I am, that is.

6am. I jump up, walk around in a circle, silently walk to the bedroom and jump up on the bed. I sniff her hair, and she greets me with honest satisfaction. And him… well, he’s still asleep. We get up together and are happily heading towards the bowl when she freezes by the kitchen door. I’m still here, I’m still here, lets be happy!, I’m screaming in doggy stare. I follow her stare now and there it is. The fridge door is open. I duck and wait my punishment, unfair but certain punishment. Cake glaze is spread over the floor and the plate in which it once stood is empty. Ears down, tale still, I await severe reprimand, yet hear none. Instead, she leaves my side and walks back to the bedroom. She stops at the door and slightly pushes it door open, just enough to see him asleep. A mountain of flesh and hair, he sleeps heavily, breathing loudly. She looks at him, both sad and worried, not moving a muscle. When her right hand drops next to her hips, I already know my lines for the next act. I humbly walk up to her, lean against her leg, and await a friendly pat on my head. Surely enough, I get what I want. Predictably. Everything is in its right place.

Today will be a great day. It will be like any other day in Otto’s life.

Svannah, my roommate in LA, an inspiration to this tale...