The most interesting thing about Felipe was not his personality, but rather his lack of thereof and his desperate need to find one. He was mediocre in many ways and special in none. He didn’t really excel in anything, nor had any specific hobbies or passions. Even his looks were average. He was not too tall, neither too short, not fat or thin. He had black wavy hair, brown eyes, hidden behind his thick, dark rimmed, glasses, normally-sized nose, sunken cheeks, stoopy shoulders, a small belly. This were all his characteristics that would never distinguish him in the crowd.
His grades in school were average and he eventually got into an average university, where he decided to study a solid and average profession, eventually becoming an accountant. Women were never too interested in Felipe but he managed to have a couple of girlfriends by the time he reached the wise age of 30. Both of them were called Marina and were slightly on the chubbier side, with long brown hair and flabby underarms. Both Marinas left Felipe, with the excuse of not being ready for a serious relationship. Both ended up getting married to someone else within a year after the breakup. Felipe never thought too much about this. It was just not his nature. He simply decided to stay away from women named Marina, and focus on his day-to-day matters.
Felipe had a small apartment in Botafogo, which was located above Mauricio’s boteco, a dirty little establishment, where the neighborhood’s bums would gather for a chopinho (tap beer), in between sleeping, eating and pretending to add some value to the world. Felipe hated the noise coming from the boteco at every hour of the day, but he had little choice but accepting this arrangement as this apartment was the best he could afford with his junior accountant wages. The best feature of the apartment was its bathroom, which despite its ugly blue tiled walls was quite pleasant due to its nice big window, whose view was not obstructed by neighboring buildings. The bathroom was also the quietest place in the house as it was not facing the loud Voluntarios da Patria street with Mauricio’s drunks.
After a day’s work, upon arriving home, Felipe liked to lock himself in the bathroom and open the big window to let the breeze in. He would stretch the shower curtain with its psychedelic design, sit on the edge of the bathtub with his guitar, put on his sunglasses, and start composing songs, pretending he was at least Bob Dylan, or perhaps someone more recent, like Jon Bon Jovi. His English was not too good, so he would write the lyrics in Portuguese, hoping some day to get them translated. The only problem was that his Portuguese was not so good either, so after scratching his head for half an hour or so, he would resort to writing the lyrics of old popular Brazilian songs and pretending that he was the original composer of those classics. A couple of hours would go by in this manner, which would bring him closer to the dinner time, when he would go downstairs to the closest snack bar and have his standard meal of cheese and beef pastels or a typical plate with rice and beans. If it were a game night, he would spend the evening at Mauricio’s cheering his favorite football team. On other nights, he would watch the novela (soap opera), before hitting the sack. His nights were always dreamless, and when he would wake up, he always wished that at least at night his imagination would work harder.
Felipe’s days would go on like this probably forever, if not for that one Wednesday. He was as usual, grabbing his guitar and heading into his bathroom. Failing to notice the socks he had left the night before, he slipped on of them, and fell forward, hitting his head on the bathtub edge. At first, he didn’t know what to do. Like most men, he couldn’t deal with the sight of blood, which was slowly trickling down from a cut on his forehead. He decided to call for a cab and go to the public hospital, where he knew he could get free care in case it were something serious. This is how he met Simone. Simone, was only 20 years old, but with the will power of mature lady. She was very petite at 1.50 m, and 40 kg, with long black hair she would pin with a pen behind her head and big brown eyes that held the wisdom of generations in them. She never wore any makeup or accessories but made a point of always wearing dangling earrings that perfectly matched the fierce, yet slightly bohemian attitude, extenuated by her high cheekbones and long eyelashes. Simone came from a family of doctors and was following her ancestors and studying medicine at the Rio de Janeiro public hospital. She took care of Felipe’s cut and scolded him for his carelessness, speaking to him in a manner of someone 10 years his elder, despite being ten years younger than him.
“This man is a disaster,” she thought to herself. He was slightly overweight, his clothes were not too clean and didn’t match one another. He kept mumbling and apologizing about the accident, as if she was someone who needed his explanations. He seemed lost to the world. It was fair to believe that if tomorrow he didn’t show up to work, or stop calling his acquaintances, most likely no one would notice his absence.
Despite all of the above, she could spot the kindness in the heart of Felipe and the warmth that emanated from his friendly face. She was very young but she has the knack for reading people. “Perhaps, there is some potential there,” she mused to herself. Simone has always liked projects and personal challenges and she definitely saw one of those in Felipe.
She had recently broke up with her latest (and not so greatest) boyfriend and was in dire need of distraction. She could tell that Felipe was interested but he couldn’t properly articulate his thoughts, as he was obviously intimidated by her presence. So of course, in her determined manner, she instructed him to wait until her shift was over so that she would take him home as she also lived nearby, sharing an apartment with 5 other medical students. The grateful, but very bashful, Felipe, silently complied. This was how their relationship took off.
Simone hated television, she also never drank or smoked or had any interests in sports. Under her guidance, Felipe discovered the cultural side of Rio, they visited the many museums, frequented outdoor concerts, went to poetry nights at the local improv societies, hiked the mountains in Tijuca forest and went jogging around the Rodrigo Freitas lake.
Simone hardly ever slept and she would spend her nights studying over her medical books or using Felipe as her guinea pig for calibrating her medical instruments, or studying the human body behaviors. He would stay up to keep her company, doing stuff around the house to keep himself entertained. Replacing the burned out hallway lightbulbs, hanging the painting he bought 3 years ago at the Ipanema hippie market, and even repainting the hideous blue bathroom tiles, were only some of the tasks he undertook during those days.
Aside from changing his habits, she went after his appearance as well. Starting at this closet, she made him throw away his flannel shirts and t-shirts from his university days (to which he was aimlessly clinging while the memories of those days were slowing dissipating through the holes in them). His old and dirty shoes (whose soles were practically talking) received the same treatment and were soon replaced by trendy sneakers with clean grey laces. She forced him to get a proper haircut and shave on regular basis. Under her instruction, he even started using cologne and replaced his bar soap with proper shampoo.
Simone, who had a bit of a napoleon complex (as many small-sized people tend to have), was enjoying the process and the free hand she was given in transforming Felipe’s life. Felipe, on his side, was nothing less but thrilled to comply with his new regime, as it was the first time in his grey life that someone cared enough about him to bother. It was a match made in heaven.
The results of the experiment soon became evident. Felipe looked better and even felt healthier after losing some weight with his new exercise regime. He was not sure, but he thought he noticed several times on his daily commute to work, women, both younger and older, sneaking picks at him, something that has never happened to him before. Even the snobbish department secretary, who normally made a point to ignore him (he was not important enough in the food chain), commented that he looked different lately.
Simone was feeling happier as well, watching Felipe’s transformation with a pride of master creating a great painting. Her grades were also improving as she could escape her noisy apartment and numerous roommates with their varied issues and focus on her studies with Felipe providing the background white noise. She also learned to appreciate the quiet bathroom and brought her purple poof, placing it in the corner of the room, where she would spend time over her books while Felipe strummed his guitar, sitting on the edge of the tub.
to be continued…