MAC or PC?

After a year or so of having a writer’s block, I decided to buy a Macbook. It was clear as mud to me that the cause for my inability to produce anything half-decent to that date was the lack of appropriate equipment and the right setting to use it in. I knew that the thing to do was to show up with this magical machine at a Starbucks, buy a tall-skim-latte and strategically position myself at one of those corner tables overlooking incoming customers. I would then open the lid, display that lit apple icon to the world and immediately turn into a younger and slightly less fashionable version of Carrie Bradshaw. The prose would then just start pouring from my beautifully manicured fingers into the blank word processor page and while being narrated inside my head (not exactly sure if it would have had an accent or not, but it would have certainly possessed a “know-it-all”, articulate tone).

I planned it all out carefully. I dressed in my cutest “writer’s outfit”: it was a safari-inspired piece with tight leopard print trousers and a zebra-striped tank top that matched my 7” platform striped sandals. A golden buckled belt, gave the whole look the perfect final touch. Of course, I also wore my big sunglasses to ensure that I kept the mysterious look and were able to stare at people without the risk of being discovered. I put my red lipstick on and dropped my newly purchased Mac inside my huge purse amidst the jungle composed of keys, Victoria Secret’s body mist (a girl’s best friend), a hand cream, a makeup set, spare large earrings (one never knows when those may be needed), tampons, my overstuffed wallet, three pens and a highlighter, two fashion magazines and a pair of flip-flops. I marched out of my messy apartment and trotted on those high heels to the nearest Starbucks.

As I was getting my skinny latte, my eyes caught sight of a handsome guy next to me. He was wearing blue jeans and a brown 80s style jacket and had a mischievously flowing hair that somehow reminded me of Robert Redford. He looked a like a mix between a history professor and a venture capital investor. Or perhaps a shift manager at the printing sore. I was not entirely sure. Robert was holding a folder under one arm and trying to put his coffee cup inside the cardboard holder with his other.

Being the good soul that I am, I immediately reached to help him, but as I was stepping in, my heel twisted to the side and I started falling forward. My bag flew out of my hand and landed in a huge bang on the shiny linoleum floor. I followed my lipstick rolling to one corner of the room while my wallet sped to the other. But this was not all. Instinctively, I tried to reach out with my hands and fall into Robert’s strong arms but instead I dropped my coffee cup and landed on my knees right in the puddle of coffee that was already covering Robert’s brown shoes. That sure has gotten his attention.

When all apologies were uttered and the red in my face almost dissipated, I had time to collect my scattered belongings. I then remembered my Mac which was the original reason that got me to that darn Starbucks. I reached for my bag and found it. I was staring at a cracked panel and broken glass. Mac didn’t make it.

Needless to say, Robert and I did not end up living happily ever after. I was back to square one with no computer and with the same writer’s block.

Should I have bought a PC instead?

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An ordinary guy

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…

My Second Life

This happened around the time when I found out that the last of my childhood friends, a perky second grade teacher, got hitched and left me as the last single girl from my high school graduating class. There I was, a successful young woman, in my late 20s, single household, top 25% income bracket, 18+ years of education, two advanced degrees, a yuppie apartment and a brand new silver A3, crying into my pillow every night after yet another 14 hour workday full of crazy bosses and lazy subordinates. And her, who never spent any time on studying and barely graduated from college, marrying a carpenter, spending Sundays grilling in the back yard and watching football, and cannot look happier or want anything else from life but make flower arrangements and raise children. Of course, I had to go to wedding, smile like an idiot, wear that hideous yellow chiffon dress that made me look like snot, and then spend the rest of the time avoiding food bombs at the kids table, where of course I was seated as the not +1 guest. After fueling on some self-pity tequila shots, I finally did some thinking and realized I made big mistakes on the course of my life, channeling my efforts into useless things such as education and career growth, which basically landed me a role of a social outcast and doomed me to be forever unhappy, going to boring weddings, dressed like snot. It was then, just when little Johnny spilled his grape juice all over my snot dress, that I had a brilliant brain wave – I finally figured out just what I needed to do to get myself out of the rut I was stuck in!

When I woke up the following day, I marched my hung-over self to the office and delivered my resignation letter, signed with red lipstick. The shock on my boss’ face, after all those years of torture, was indeed a picture worth a thousand words. Upon returning back home, I gathered every book or copy of the Economist I ever owned, ripped my college diplomas out of their golden frames and dumped everything into the garbage bin. I then drove to the nearest court office and submitted an application to change my name, Rebecca Goldberg, to something much more appropriate – Mindy Star. After all, a new life deserved a new headline!

My body was the next in line for a transformation. I always wanted a classy tattoo, but was too afraid to get one. I was also worried what my colleagues or clients would say if they saw that I had one. But, as my new self, as Mindy, I entered into the tattoo parlor near to the Court office and asked for two! On my right breast, I got one of a heart pierced by an arrow engraved with the word “juicy”. For my lower back, I chose a large green and red dragon, spitting fire over my love handles. I was just about to ask for a naked silhouette of myself, to cover my entire right arm, when I realized there was just so much pain that I could take in one go and decided to postpone for next time.

With my body freshly tattooed, it was time to bring on (or in) the big guns! I called doctor Zilber, a well known plastic surgeon, and gave him an open check and a mandate to give me the body of a star. Two months later, I had the full package: Lips like Angela, breasts like Pamela, stomach like Demi, buttocks like J-Lo, and the attitude of Beyoncé.

I just had to put on the final touches to reach perfection: I bleached my hair, got Paris Hilton extensions, whitened my coffee stained teeth, bought a new wardrobe (tube dresses, red platform shoes, sparkling jewelry) and arranged for a fake diploma in secretarial studies from Oak Tree Community College. I painted my room walls in pink and covered my floors with sheep skins. I got some stuffed animals and read every edition of Star Magazine since 1995, while listening to Britney and Justin Bieber on infinite repeat. Mindy was then ready to take over the world and there was nothing that could stop her!

I started tottering regularly to the Four Seasons Hotel bar, where I would smile broadly, bat my eyelashes, and strike meaningless conversations with older business men about the latest Kardashian fashion or the upcoming super bowl. As long as they could stare down my low cut, shimmery tank top, they didn’t really care what I talked about, and anyways, it would just be a conversation starter before they would go on talking about themselves, basking in my admiring looks and “awwww” and “woooww” sounds I would utter in regular intervals.

After a few of those visits, I finally met Earl. He was a southern gentleman; bold, chubby, boring, 30 years older, and absolutely perfect with his 500 million net worth, accumulated from a successful media business. Just the perfect amount to live in relative comfort! It was love at first sight; me and Earl’s money, Earl and my silicon and listening skills. Lucky enough, his wife got run over by a car a few years ago and he really needed a companion to attend formal events with. We were married in Vegas a month later and this was when I started my happily ever after.

Earl has two additional great qualities: first, he is basically an impotent, and second, he is always traveling for work, which leaves me all the time in the world to split my life between our chateau in France with my personal trainer Jacques and our house in Malibu with my passionate wannabe actor / pool boy, Alfredo. My main day to day difficulty is to decide how to share the time between them as it is always hard to choose between Jacques’ excellent massage skills and Alfredo’s killer margaritas.

Eh… How foolish I was in my youth, choosing such a wrong path! Good thing we sometimes get a second chance in life.

A morning routine

A morning routine

At 7:00 AM, the annoying alarm wakes her up. She curses the hell out of it, hits the snooze button and covers her face with the thick, soft, white and wonderful dawn comforter. She then tucks her knees in and transforms herself into a tiny human cocoon, an ancient mummy, a little pig in a blanket. She turns her mind blank and pretends the world is over, to be awaken again 10 minutes later into the cruel reality. The scene above repeats itself five more times until her self-conscience forces her to take action and get out of bed. She then drags her legs across the room into the bathroom, always managing somehow to either bump her knee or elbow against the door frame, almost clashing into the bathroom door. The shower and morning espresso normally wake her up partially and once she staggers back into her room to get ready, it almost always seems to be just 10 minutes to the time when she is supposed to be in the office. She then frantically grabs her undergarments from the dresser, her clothes from the cupboard and her jewelry from the night stand. She somehow manages to throw everything on herself and jumps for the makeup table. She dubs her face in cream and powder, sweeps some eye shadow on her tired zombie eyelids, almost poking her eyeball with the brush. She blushes her pale hallowed cheeks and she is finally ready to go. But then! Where is the god damn mobile phone?! and the yellow belt?? And the pointy shoes?!! She starts running around the apartment in circles, desperately attempting to locate those essential items. She ends up putting on the green belt with the red flip-flops and storming out of the apartment almost tripping on the door mat. She starts running to the subways station, avoiding the slow grandmas, the moms with baby carriages, the locksmith booth, the fruit vendor who always seems to be occupying the worst place possible on the sidewalk. When she enters the station, she hears the train arriving and runs down, skipping two stairs at a time. When she finally hits the bottom of the staircase, hopefully with her feet and not her face, she arrives just in time to kiss the door that just closed in front of her. And of course, she is late again. It is already 20 minutes past her start time at this point.

“That’s it. This is the last time this will happen. Tomorrow I will wake up half an hour early”, she tells herself for the one millionth time.

Patterns

She enters the train in Flamengo station, all bundled up in her black high-collar jacket. She is in her late twenties. With dark skinny jeans and black heels, the only source of color in her somber ensemble is her sparkling chandelier earrings.  She is going for the simple chic look, as always, trying to blend in. She could almost successfully pass for a local (carioca) if it weren’t for her short, wavy blond hair. In Rio, young women come out of the factory with long, brown, and straight(ened) locks, in this order of frequency so she is clearly not from here.

The sadness in her eyes is reflecting the gloomy, rainy, early winter evening. She is having one of those bad days when one just wants to crawl under the covers and sleep until happy times are back. Unfortunately, this is not an option; her friends are visiting from overseas and they have to be entertained.

As she finds her spot, pressing her back against the train wall, she notices Him. Early 40’s. Carrying a black HP backpack (“just like the one they gave us at work..” she is thinking). Handsome face, strong features, dark wavy hair. He is tall and fit. “Must be a runner,” she notes to herself. They just manage to exchange a quick glance before something strange happens.

Three young men in their mid twenties enter the train carrying musical instruments and occupy the space between our two strangers. They are an interesting bunch: Guitar Boy (dreadlocks, hands covered in kabbalah tattoos), Tambourine Boy (blond hair under a hipster hat, eyeglasses taped with a band-aid), and Saxophone Boy (black hair, looks like a football fan in his Vasco athletic shirt).

She is expecting a typical cacophony (she was so used to blocking those out during her New York subway days) but she is in for a surprise: the three musicians start playing light samba music, slowly rocking their bodies in harmony. She is captivated and when she looks around the whole wagon is rocking along. It is as if the air received an injection of sudden energy or everyone just simultaneously decided to take their happy pills. She catches herself smiling and rocking from side to side, just like everybody else and then she notices him again, doing the same thing, just on the other side of the music circle.

She feels the urge to cut across and introduce herself but then, the train arrives to its destination in Ipanema. He gets off and she follows, focusing on the black backpack walking in front of her. He stops at the escalator. Then, filled with that earlier energy, she passes him, walking up the stairs. He surveys her slim back, and those skinny legs in the skinny jeans, getting away from him. He speeds up and passes her again. He exits the station, boards the connecting bus most foreigners take to Leblon, and gets into the window seat. “Will she follow again?” He wonders.