At the beginning of every year, when I see a calendar for the first time, I immediately look for a particular day in September and see what day of the week it is. Friday, Monday, Sunday, it can be any. It can be like the original date, a Wednesday. This year, it’s Tuesday.
On that day in September, the people closest to me congratulate me as soon as they see me. At certain times in my life, on that morning, I have woken up to special breakfasts, served in bed and, quite possibly, with a flower. This year, there will be no special breakfast. Fine, no problem.
I have paradoxical feelings about that day. I like it and I don’t. It doesn’t bother me if nobody does anything but I like it when they do. The day after or later, I don’t see any reason for people to apologise for not having said anything, but when they do, on the day, I smile inside.
In recent years, mobile phone messages have punctuated that day, tweet, tweet, tweet. The device becomes some sort of restless bird, randomly tweeting in the morning, afternoon and evening, bringing best wishes and happy returns. There are also those people who want to talk.
I’m always surprised they remember. Since the advent of Facebook, more people do. Many keys of many computers are pressed just to wish me well. Perhaps it’s possible to devalue that collective gesture, I prefer not to, I prefer to thank people for it.
The link between time and space is so direct that, sometimes, it seems that one wouldn’t exist without the other. The days and years are counted by the turns of the planet. The second hand moves and stops, second by second. The place where I was that day in September, which I recall every year, like a second hand stopping, was Portugal. I was born, I arrived in the world.
The place I was born was Portugal, without a shadow of a doubt. Portuguese was spoken, even within the soul.
That aspect defined my life, and continues to do so. I can land on Mars, I can land somewhere even further than Mars, I can become the Vasco da Gama of a new galaxy; however, the place from whence I left will always be Portugal. On a journey, the starting point is as important as the point of arrival.
For me, the image that best represents Portugal isn’t a monument or a traditional dish. For me, the image of Portugal is my mother: stood in the doorway of the house, my mother looking at me, just about to say some sentence that includes my name and a request or recommendation. Phone me where you get there, Zé Luís. Drive carefully, Zé Luís.
Portugal is my home.
On a particular day in September, I was born, I arrived in the world. And the world was Portugal and, like all countries, it had qualities and defects. And also I, like everyone, had qualities and defects. I still have, we still have. That doesn’t prevent us from doing anything. We are mid-journey, we don’t forget the point from whence we set off and we don’t miss any chance of imagining the point where we want to arrive.
by José Luís Peixoto
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