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“DAYBRAKE” Clara Pinto-Correia

Clara Pinto-Correia is a Portuguese-born novelist, journalist and educator. The daughter of a physician, she was born in Lisbon and earned a doctorate in cellular biology from the University of Porto. She was an adjunct professor in Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She wrote a weekly column for the Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias. In 1984, she published her first novel Watercress (Agrião), followed by Goodbye Princess (Adeus, Princesa) in 1985. Adeus, Princesa was made into a movie in 1992.

By Clara Pinto-Correia

Edward and I adopted each other back when he was thirsty and I was forty. We openly call each other bro and sis. He’ long been one of my best confidents, the person I can always count on whenever I need help in an emergency, make it an entire moving, fixing up a new house, or installing a safety key even stronger than the first one. And, back then, for a long time, emergencies were my life.

Edward was also good at listening, dispensing opinions without making it a point I follow them, never saying ‘see, I told you so’, and sometimes, when we both could, coming along to the nearest beerhouse so that we reminisce about both our earlier lives in Angola, and his dream of building a huge resort by the Cunene river, where his Ancestors’ lands were. That one would always make me laugh my heart away because, exactly at the passage Edward wanted to build the resort, the river is full of crocodiles.

         ‘You really think I can fix you with a sponsor for this project, you moron? You know I’d go get the Moon for you, but not a river full of fresh-water crocodiles!’

         However, the jokes I enjoyed the most throwing his way were the ones about the clothing he wore to the house whenever he came to work.

         ‘Bro, you just don’t get it, do you? When a construction worker comes to the house of a woman who lives by herself, we expect him to wear all these sexy outfits and accessories, like this all camouflage ensemble cinched at the waste, all these exiting things showing in the back pockets, a great tool box… cigarette in hand already… ah, and when you lean forward to examine something, the crack in your ass is supposed to show! And then women go wild with excitement, because the whole thing is so sexy. Now, you come in here with your contraband Sacoor Brothers …How’s that supposed to make me feel?

         He laughed. He obviously enjoyed the whole diatribe. But he never changed his clothing style, nor did he ever make a move at me in response to my provocations. One day he simply announced, with the typical smile of the guy proud of himself, that, in retaliation for my constant nastiness, he had started going up to the bathroom to get some puffs of my perfume before leaving the house. That fragrance being brutally expensive, of course I could have killed him. But life is made of options.

         Now at one time, early in June, when the summer heat was already settling in, and the jasmines in my patio were going wild with smell, my artist friend Vera came over by the end of the day, in order to help us install a grand outdoor program, with a huge TV and seven of boom-boxes hiding around for special effect. Vera’s from Mozambique. She likes Edward a lot, they make a quite a good dancing pair, and she always brings lots of good Indian munchies if she knows we’ll work through the night.

As Edward set one box ready she went over and started painting it as a continuation of my buganvilia, in a fine, laborious, delicate pattern. I helped both of them, brought cold wine because the night was warm, at some point we all had to take off clothes within the due limits of decorum because we were all sweating,  and we laughed ourselves silly for a couple of hours. Then Vera opened her box of goodies, I went get the coolest wine, and we sat in the patio’s table, facing the river, under the old lemon tree, to eat and drink and watch the boats go by.

         And no. Seriously, no, I don’t know what led to what – but it did. And so we did it all. We went inside to my bed for comfort and I just remember everything we were doing quietly unwinding in front of me like a big river until, slowly, peacefully, I fell lightly asleep.

         The door to the garden was wide open, so that we could still smell the jasmines.

         Then I heard the pigeons starting their courtship. A rooster called in the distance. The birds started singing their morning song. And finally, ever so slowly, from de depths or darkness across the river just in front of us, the light of day started creeping through the sky.

         I got up and went make coffee for everybody. Vera and Edward woke up as I moved, looked outside, hears he birds, saw the sky, and immediately realized we were back in reality. Edward gave Vera a big parting kiss. Then he gave me a big parting kiss. The two of them left holding hands in silence holding on the each other’s protection, as I went seat outside with one more cup of coffee to watch daybreak explode as the remainder of the night was going away.

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