(especially with reference to songs or poetry) a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.“her songs are based on love poems and evoke a melancholy known to the Portuguese as saudade”
I came by his house late into the afternoon. He was alone, it seemed. I sat across the row in my car and watched his wearied, watery face as he carried black, straining bags out his pegged door and out to his truck. A small girl rode loops on her bike. Her father shouted her for supper. The sun began setting and so after a time the truck was loaded, and he threw a tarp across the bed and secured it. Then he set himself back on his deck and just sat, staring at the neat lawn beneath his feet as the sun slowly shrank behind him.
We sat there, both, a long time, he staring nowhere, I accounting him. Two women pushing a stroller crossed the road to speak to him. One put a hand to his shoulder. He grasped it with a polite, devastated kind of gratitude. They held their palms to their hearts as they backed delicately away. Platitudes. Theatrics of unknowable feeling. The world turned a slow, spectral blue. A man smoked a cigarette two houses down. Returned inside, framed by gold as he crossed the windows. A pickup rumbled down the road. Disappeared, its note fading with the daylight.
I climbed out my rental and stretched. He looked over to me. I matched his gaze. He looked away. A child sang a nursery rhyme in a garden somewhere. I crossed over to him and stood at the verge of his lawn, watching him. He looked up at me. I asked if he was moving out.
“Why? You want to buy the place?”
I didn’t answer. I asked if he was moving out.
“Not right now,” he said. “Maybe some point soon. You want to buy the place?”
I asked if they’d talked about it. If they’d discussed him moving out. If the decision were made or not. He took me in. Looked me up and down. Slowly, like a man appraising a drop into murky water.
“We know each other?” he asked. I said we didn’t. He glanced up and down the deserted street.
“You want to sit down?”
I sat, crossing the lawn. Each step felt like a profanity which cut two directions. For all my soul I wished it were other.
And so we were shoulder to shoulder, looking out across the low, flattened and cluttered plain of his desiccated life. I asked what he’d been packing away.
“Clothes,” he said. “Mostly clothes, going to charity or a thrift store or whatever I pass first.”
We went to silence again. A car pulled up across the way and a pretty young girl climbed out the passenger side. Went around to kiss the driver. They giggled together. The door of a house opened and a middle-aged man stood in the threshold, looking out. The pretty girl disengaged from the car and the man waved a stony greeting as the car pulled away. The girl followed the man into the house. The door closed. It was dark by then and we sat side by side on the darkening porch of his house, watching the street without, his windows sole unlit on that dusky autumn evening.
“I know,” he said finally. “I know who you are. She talked about you.”
Even in the darkness I could see the water running down his cheeks. I sniffed once. Twice. Tucking away, as I was well versed, all the immeasurable weight.
“She wrote you before she went. Did you read it? I thought you might come before she left. I’m sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye.”
I leant back on my elbows. Looked up. Four or five faded stars speckled the deep, deep sky. There was no moon. No hint of familiarity in that dark and devastated reach.
“I said goodbye,” I told him. “I said goodbye many years ago. I already got to say my goodbyes. There was – ” I faltered. Paused. Coerced my thoughts.
“There was a time I thought I couldn’t live without her. Like my body and mind would shrivel to nothing in her absence. And when she left, when she had to leave, when we had to be apart, then I thought I might die. With all the meaninglessness of it all.”
I paused again.
“Excuse me,” I spat passed his lawn onto his driveway. He shrugged. “Excuse me,” I said again. “But I didn’t die,” I continued. “Life… life just keeps on. No matter how big the hole feels, it won’t kill you. And there’s the sick irony of it. A car’ll kill you. A stone, a fall, they’ll kill you flat, but a gaping, raw-edged hole dug right into the core of you… you’ll live passed that a thousand times over. Its like our bodies betraying us. Disregarding all that hurt like it just doesn’t exist. I’m rambling. We… I got to say my goodbyes, did my healing other the last eight years I did my healing and my hoping and my everything else and I… and now it’s done. Done with absolute finality.”
He looked out over the dark street. Spat on his own lawn.
“It’s done,” he said. “But it’s not over. We still have to hurt.”
I nodded as sagely as I could manage, blinking fiercely.
“Does it get easier?” he asked. I got the sense he wasn’t asking me. I didn’t bother answering. Didn’t have the heart to tell him it never did. That the deep pain never really left. Only ever got quieter.
“I keep dreaming about her. Dreaming this whole ugly, broken thing was only a dull imagining,” he says. “And then in that half-waking transition I’m stumbling in the dark trying to keep a grasp on her. But she’s like smoke, disappearing out my grip. And then I’m just cradling sand or ash or fine, disappearing silver water that fades off my skin into vapour.”
I closed my eyes, pumping tears from their edges. Some things are universal, even in translation. Need blending want and hurt and helplessness. Melancholia and suadade, listlessness, tension that never lets loose.
A car pulled up the street and turned into a drive. A late-night jogger passed somewhere behind the house, the dull, slapping footfalls their only announcement, approaching, passing, retreating. We sat a long time in speculative silence, both bound in imaginings of the same vanished face, never to return.