Portrait by Gertrud Orthof

No Snow

Dear Anton Pavlovitch,

I've never seen snow. But then, there are people who have never seen the sea. That was the gist of the entire conversation I had in a dream yesterday. I was told it was strange never to have seen snow, to which I replied that it wasn't strange at all. I live in a part of the world where it never snows. And when I travelled to places where it snows it chanced to be always before or after the snowing season. The snow and I never had the honor, the pleasure, and the infinite joy of a tête a tête. Too bad. But that was the way it was and nothing could be done to change it. I mean, it's not like the ending of Casablanca, which a crazed fan with fabulous computer skills has recently altered so as to have Humphrey Bogart turn to go away after the plane takes off with Victor Laszlo in it just in time to see Ingrid Bergman come out of the mist, all smiles, explaining that she had decided to stay with him. The snow, on the contrary, cannot by any means be edited into my somewhat uneventful little life. And that, for chrissake, was the end of that.

In the dream, that was worse than if I had insulted whoever was talking to me. So they asked if I had never wanted to see the snow. Why, yes. Snow is such an emblematic feature of life on Earth. Besides, it has been such a dramatic element in so many films. Of course I'd like to see the snow. But it never happened. London bridge did not fall down on account of this most unexpected of shortcomings in my formative years, and it's too late now for certain reactions. Running like a child, for example, while screaming "How beautiful! How beautiful!" or perhaps even throwing myself on the ground whenever I see snow for the first time. Such a display of zest for living might make people smile forty years ago, but sure thing it would make them feel embarassed now. Sure thing.

I thought the subject was over. I mean, no, I've never seen snow and that was final. Who cares? I'm not a "personality." I'm not famous. Not the kind of person people are always eager to learn more about. What difference does it make then if I've never seen snow? I probably will see it sometime. Or not. Or then again, yes, maybe. Know what? This was fast turning into one of the most pointless, if not one of the most downright boring dreams I would be able to remember in future. So I decided to put an end to the discussion by telling a true story: I once had to show someone around who was visiting Rio for the first time. This was someone who had been born and always lived in the interior. The morning I dutifully performed my work as a host, we went to the beach and walked to the spot between Ipanema and Copacabana, where the waves hit the rock very strongly. There, I heard this extraordinary thing: "It's the first time I lay my eyes on the sea."

So, there. There are those who have never seen snow. And there are those who have never seen the sea. What's the big deal? Silence. A sense of horror pervading the air. I might as well have committed a sacrilege. The dream was over.

I wonder why we have certain dreams, the message of which, if there is one, is presented in such a cryptographic way that there are times when I doubt even the best of therapists, in spite of being in charge of the dreamer for quite a while, would be capable of making heads or tails of such a disjointed pack of symbols.

I'm not well. I must see a number of doctors about quite a few things, like an old car that, all of a sudden, starts making trouble for the owner in a variety of ways. I'm having trouble with the veins in my feet and the lower part of the legs, especially on the left side. Sometimes my feet, especially the left one, get numb in a weird way, as if I had no control over them. [EDITING THE FUTURE: I saw an angiologist who asked magnetic resonance and established that there's nothing wrong with my feet. I asked him what I should do and he said, "Talk to your neurologist". He was referring to the drug I take for Parkinson's which is known to cause symtoms just like mine.]

My hips, especially the left one, ache when I walk, sometimes to the point of having to stop a little before going on as best as possible. I'm having to deal with such a horrible case of chronic nasal congestion that I must have already consumed an absurd amount of nose drops which everybody knows are terrible for the organism. I'm having digestive trouble. My herniated discs have once again started to cry havoc, meaning that the old back pain has come back for still another tour in the same way as Sarah Bernhardt is known to have done from time to time in America. And last but not least, seven years ago I had several skin cancer spots removed from my face and a "growth," as they call it, taken out of the back of my waist, which turned out to be melanoma. I haven't had a check-up since then, which borders on insanity. And I haven't had the routine prostate check up in over five years.

Odd pattern of behavior for someone who used to attach so much importance to health.

I may be going crazy, on top of everything. But somehow--I'll be damned if I know how I may have come to that conclusion--my unconscious is telling me that there's no point really in accomplishing some of the things that I have accomplished if I'm so careless, so irresponsible with myself. What's the point of having always lived near the ageless sea if you have never seen the snow.

If only things were so simple, and symbols so clear. It's been almost ten years since I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. There is no cure for it. I have become conscious of my body in a way that didn't happen before. It has become a burden. I don't like the sensation. Talking to my fabulous acupuncturist, whose sessions always begin with us going over what happened to me in the last week, I became terrified of the possibility of this carelessness with myself meaning that I have become self-destructive because I don't enjoy being alive the way I did before. In the language of psychoanalysis that sort of thing is called subconscious action. You act in accordance with a resolve you're not aware of.

Sometimes I feel that my son, my wish to write other things after the play that I have just finished (as well as doing a new translation of Waiting for Godot to Portuguese), and being able to make things a little easier for my 92-year-old aunt, with whom I live, are about the only things that make me grateful for being alive. Thank God for that. Much more than what many people have, I know. But there used to be other things. I don't mean a great love story, with fireworks and all. I mean the small pleasures that fill one's time on Earth. Those are gone. For good, it seems.