Post triggered by sleeping puppy

It’s five thirty in the morning. The thermometer outside, the one that kept me awake entire nights not willing to move from 32 and more degrees at night, now shows 9 degrees. I have messages in my mailbox from my family worrying because I have been “inactive”. My bank account scares the shit out of me. Yesterday, I tried to book a flight back to Berlin, surprisingly cheap. I could not complete the transaction because suddenly I had difficulties breathing. I am lost right now. I don’t really know why. I cannot rationalise the notion of returning to Berlin being a mistake, because in our shrunken world a mistake like this doesn’t exist. So what if I go back and find out it was a mistake? The return costs me maybe 200 € and six hours. Knowing this, why does this step feel so big?

When coming here, I had only one agenda: find out what I want to do. And I have come closer to knowing. I want to write. I have not received such honest and positive feedback for anything I have done so far in my life. But the longing for security has not been killed by the hope rendered by all of these responses, as much as they have given to me. Since I have received my diagnosis, in a hospital bed in Portugal, by a nervous assistant doctor, all I can think about is: security. It feels like a sign, because security has been all I could think about ever since I can remember. And for some odd reason that I have yet to discuss with my therapist, this has always meant mainly financial security. Money seems to be the only security I believe in. I do not believe in people always being there for you. I do not believe in luck. I think this is because I saw what happened to my mother. It taught me that everything you think you have can be taken away from you in a split second. In the tiny moment it takes a doctor to inhale, form the words, and articulate them. Put the words between him or her, and you, in this room, in the practice, or the hospital. I always was terrified of this moment, and yet, after almost twenty years of being terrified, not a bit prepared for it.

I always knew it would be me who would eventually hear them, not my sister. I always knew I was the one who would not get away. Who would not get this life we have had paraded in front of our eyes while growing up. The boyfriend slash husband you met at the youth club or handball league, the minor complications of thinking for a time he might fancy someone else, the satisfaction of finding out he likes you, after all, the entire small town notsoexcitingbutexcitingenough romance, the parties, the going home early, the weddings, the houses, cars, dogsorcats, the babies. I get so many mails nowadays, people sending me pictures of babies and weddings of sisters, brothers, old friends. I don’t know which electronic face to make to these pics while living with a bunch of ERASMUS students in their early twenties in a house full of mice, dirt, drugs and cheap IKEA blankets. Am I pitiful or are they? Did I fail or did they? Am I on the wrong path, just kidding myself? Maybe I could have had all of that. I am quite sure I could have. Would I be sick now? I know this sounds petty, but I read that being unhappy for a long time is one of the few suspects in the nonexistent list of reasons for why people get MS. And this makes me angry. I think of all the damage my mother’s sickness has done to me, and all the resulting wrongs. My studies, my inability to know what I want and, even if I had a suspicion, to stand up for it, my first job and why the fuck I felt the need to go through with it. All of this sorrow, all of this pain. I have felt so much pain in my life, and desperation. Mostly pain.

I imagine a blond female teenager somewhere in the north of Germany. She is quite popular in school. Her parents are fairly successful with their local business. She has friends. Her grades are OK, not so good that her peers dislike her but not so bad that she needs to worry. She gets invited to the relevant parties. She is not fat. In her world she has nothing to worry about. She sees a guy at a party. She finds out who he is and it turns out they have some mutual acquaintances. She lets him know she is interested. He checks her out too, friends, family, etc. Good enough. It only takes one party, one keg. Some goodwilling friends. Sometimes I wish I was her. I know her. I see her picture in my local newspaper. I get emails from her with the latest baby pictures. I was her, once, also. And I gave it away. Sound mind and everything. It took one trip to New York for an internship to end all of these prospects. And one ERASMUS semester, three years later, to finally have full security that this had been indeed the right step.

I will never forget how I felt, sitting on my enormous suitcase in Berlin Ostbahnhof Station, after returning from my ERASMUS semester in Warsaw. One second out of the train, I had smelled the Berlin air. It has a distinct smell to it, one that had once meant freedom when disembarking the train from the small town I call home. This time it sent me immediately into a choking crying fit. I remember desperately trying to stop crying when I saw my friends coming up the stairs with a bottle of sparkling wine, eager to welcome me. I could not. I get the same feeling now when I try to book my flight back. But what does that mean? Am I bound to eternally run away? Am I just pathetic? Fooling myself?

The experience with the exboyfriend who wanted the whole small town house kids car dog deal while I wanted New York, take away food and coffee to go made me believe that the right man for me waited in the big city. The next five years in the big city taught me that there probably is no right man for me. Now, here in Lisbon, against all odds (because the expectations for this life-changing event were so high I knew – or better, thought I knew – nothing would happen), I actually found someone whom I could love and who could love me. Emphasis on the word could. Because it turns out against all temporal convictions he is not for me. But still. At least hyperthetically, if time, place and circumstances were different, he may have been. In any case, what I have thought impossible is not so impossible anymore. Maybe it is possible that there is also someone out there for me. I am right now trying to come to terms with the questions: does this new knowledge make me more devastated or more happy? More weak or more strong? I don’t have an answer yet.

Most of the time, right now, I feel only one thing: This is too much too ask. Oh, sorry, two things: This is too much to ask and why? Really: why? I am constantly screaming at the sky right now, from tiny streets, breathtaking viewpoints and the balcony of my living room. I want justice. I am a good person. I know this. I also know I am not much else. I am weak, hot-tempered, prone to drinking too much, eating too much, smoking too much, gossiping, bad at keeping secrets. But I am a good person. I do not deserve so much misery. Worrying about my mother, the old women in the street patting my hair, asking about her like she is already dead, the beingquietallthetime, the guilt hanging over her at the dinner table, the aggression from my father and my sister, directed at my mother, in their helplessness, but crashing into me as if into a bullet proof vest, leaving serious black marks.

When I really take the time to think about all of this, I arrive only at one conclusion: I deserve it all. The beautiful life. The sunshine and the flowers. The shiny cars and the happy puppies. The healthy babies and the trust funds. The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. A happy life in oblivion. But I do not have it, and never will. I have to think about disability insurance and death. Money and career. Getting off my parents’ back. Saving for my parents’ old age homes. I know what I need to do to make sure all of these things are taken care of. I have already cut many a piece of flesh out of my loins, so to speak, to achieve these tokens of security. Portugal has screwed up this route. Now I am struggling to get back there, even if I am not convinced it is the right thing to do. But I do not feel I can risk finding out.

I do not regret the detours I have taken. I resent the word detour the second I am writing it down right now. No, I refuse to be sucked into this logic. I believe that it was all worth it, no matter what “security” it might have cost me. The people I have met. The nights I have spent. All those hangovers. All those last cigarettes of the night. The sunrises. The great, amazing, mindblowing songs I am able to understand. All the happy and all the frustrating moments in foreign countries. Because I have been in foreign countries. Because I have met people from foreign countries. Because I have had my feet in these fucking waters, have danced at these fucking parties, have jumped off these fucking bridges, have had these fucking fights and love declarations in English, language of my choice and life.

I don’t know much about myself. It scares me. Maybe it’s normal. It is hard to ask other people about this. I know I like English, I like TV series and stupid movies, wine and good food, many many songs, people who have a way with words, intelligent humour. People who have a way with images. Actually I never like these people but am always just jealous that it is not me achieving what they are achieving. But still I do not move all that much. But before coming here I did not move at all. At least now I have a document named “script Lisboa” saved on my computer. At least now I have love in my heart. And a lot to write about.

It is 07:50 am in Lisboa and light. I have worked a night shift in the kitchen of a cafe, preparing hamburgers. I have mixed caipirinhas and poured beers. I have mopped the floor. I have had a baby dog fall asleep in my arms. This was the first time I ever held a dog. It was mindblowing. I know people who have babies probably are offended. But for me it was an amazing moment. Maybe this is all I will get. But I am at peace with the suspicion that it is more than many will ever know.

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Status Update – For better or worse, in sickness and in health

There is something about the light in Lisbon, especially on the river. I don’t know what it is. Something about the light, and something about the air – both the wind and the smell of it. I have had two moments here so far when I thought I lost grasp of the city. The first time I left an overcrowded tram in Belem, it was grey and rainy and the air smelled like wet asphalt. Suddenly I felt – Berlin. It was strange. The crowded tram, the climatised air heavy with the scents of wet jackets and wet newspapers – it robbed me for a moment of my sense of orientation, time and space, even. The other moment was similar. A giant parking lot in front of a giant supermarket as they can be found at the outskirts of cities all over the world. Dusk, rain, wet asphalt. Car smell. Nothing Lisbon-specific. But the moments passed. The rainy season has begun and many of the former traits of Lisbon – in my limited experience with the city – have indeed changed. But it is still Lisbon, and the light and the air are still there. Only for the past few days I was not able to really see the city and only now, that I can again, do I realise how much this has troubed me.

It started maybe two weeks ago, I did not pay attention, but suddenly my feet and legs were asleep. Constantly. Nao faz mal, I thought, I could walk and everything and was convinced that it was merely a jammed nerve that would unjam itself sooner or later. I have so many things going wrong in my body I cannot keep track, and with one of them being a crooked hip and another a broken knee – I figured, well… whatever. But on Sunday, when I realised at work that I had difficulties walking and kept bumping into people or walls with my feet I decided to go to the hospital the next day just to have it checked. No big deal. I would have gone to the doctor if I had one, but I made my experiences with that plight when trying to get my stitches removed some months ago. Easier just to go to the emergency room, as a foreigner. But there suddenly everything went out of control. After describing my symptoms the first doctor I saw became quite serious and told me I had to go to the neurology department. No problem, I thought. But then came the bed. And the hospital gown. My clothes were taken from me and everything I carried was listed in detail and packed into plastic bags. This included both of my phones, my book and my music. And then the waiting began. I spent 15 hours alone in the basement waiting room of the emergency service for neurology with noone to speak to, nothing to read, and no possibility to inform anyone about my whereabouts. After six hours, a doctor came and made some tests, the same as before, then scheduled an MRI exam. After eight, I took the MRI. After ten hours, I woke up from a restless sleep to find a piece of paper placed on my bedside table. No doctor in sight. Of course I read it. A mass in the spine. Could be a tumor. The next hours were a nightmare, but weirdly enough a calm one. No crying, no rage. Just a feeling of: I knew it. I knew this would happen. Then again some sleep. At seven the doctor woke me. He didn’t think it was a tumor. He sent me to another hospital. From then on I just let go and let everything happen to me.

The funny thing about hospitals is that often you don’t even feel sick when you enter, but that quickly changes. In the emergency room suddenly I was not allowed to go to the bathroom alone or walk – just wheelchair. But I walked there all alone, mind you. And these things quickly go into your head. But the real ordeal only started in the new hospital, when they stuck a giant needle into my spine and extracted spinal fluid for tests. After this, the next three days are a blurry haze filled with crying, unbearable headaches, nausea, despair and anger. I think I have never cried so much in public, without giving a damn what people think. Crying to get what I want (mostly painkillers), crying to be noticed, crying just to cry. Weird for me, but I think good. In any case, the legs were still numb, the pain only a side effect from an exam, not part of the real problem. And noone seemed to know what was wrong with me. Now they do. The diagnosis is multiple sclerosis, which I know little about. I do not feel the need to do any online research. I feel I want to know as little as possible about it for now. What I know is: It is not deadly. It is not a tumor. It is not cancer. The rest will work itself out.

Of course my parents’ first reaction when they heard I was in the hospital (again…) was: enough now, come home. They couldn’t understand, and I couldn’t really explain to them, why the fact that I am in a strange country was not even an issue for me in this otherwise horrible situation. Yes, I had a hard time understanding the nurses at times and also the other patients around me, but somehow I never felt isolated or alone or wishing: If only I was at home. It felt and still feels normal. I am in Portugal, so of course when I get sick I will be sick in Portugal. I chose Portugal, in sickness and in health, so to speak. In the night in the basement of the emergency service, with the alleged tumor diagnosis in my hand, one of the first thoughts was: If they have to perform surgery on my open spine, I will have to go back to Germany. It is over. In this night, as always in nights like these, everything seemed clear, and everything seemed doomed. I felt I was being punished for trying to break out and make myself happy. That it was just not possible.

The official diagnosis, which I received yesterday, did not manage to throw me back into this mood. Yesterday was the first day I could sit up a little bit in my bed and see outside of the windows of my eight bed room , see the beautiful view of Lisbon, more specifically Baixa and Bairro Alto, and the river. I was with my friend Agneta. She spent the afternoon lying on the bed with me, looking outside, giggling like teenagers and making plans. “It’s gonna be good good good.” My major concern: I want to come back here. Her reaction: Then you will. Paciencia. That is what I need, and it is so strange to say, right now I have it. Maybe I am in a state of shock, still, but I cannot really recognise myself. So, either shock or I really changed. I am calm and relaxed, positive instead of negative, hopeful instead of full of despair. I accept the things that I cannot change anyway. Yes, this is an unexpected change, but change happens every day. And it could have been a bus running me over. Could still be, today, tomorrow. I want to be happy. As simple as that. When I look out of this window I am happy. So, do the math, Rebekka. But – calma. Espera! I am not naïve. I will go back to Berlin. I will see the doctors. I will maybe even take a job to pay the bills and fill my bank account for my next emigration phase. I call it base camp in my head. But this is all too far into the future to speculate about. Again, the bus… paciencia.

Yesterday night my room was like the setting of a pyjama party. Six women, from 23 to 78, giggling and talking in the dark until 1 o clock. I was watching Tatort, a German TV show, but heard them still and smiled widely in the dark. In the end, it is not that complicated, is it? I feel like we will all get sick (sorry). We all know it. Life is short, blabla. Laughing is good. That’s pretty much it.

I think the image in my parents’ head was me lying in a strange country in a broken down hospital all alone, with strangers hurrying by without paying attention and doctors poking me with weird instruments. I am exaggerating. I tried to explain them that I felt fully taken care of and surrounded by friends. What friends? From your house? Yes, from my house but mostly from my work. From your work? Your colleagues? Yes. Colleagues, they are in fact. And bosses. But I don’t know. The people I have met here are all so nice, I know it sounds so stupid. But really. The place I work at, Cruzes Credo Cafe, seems to be a magical place that throws together people who are just special and warm. Like Agneta, my friend from Latvia. Two months or so ago, she thought I was a spoilt rulefollowing German (but at least she also thought I was twenty!!!!!). Now she was with me on this day when I got the news that I have MS, and she made the day special and managed to make me laugh so much. In the end it felt like a beginning, not an end. Like an impetus for making plans. I will never forget that.

Thinking about the intensity of feelings I have developed for some of the people I met here, I pause again and again and cannot believe I have been here for only four and a half months. How can so many things happen in this short time, while it still feels like I have a normal everyday life and routine. It is not like every day is a crazy travel experience. But still four and a half months, let’s see:

Lived in hostel, partied a lot, swam in fountain, jumped off a bridge, moved into Casa Marvao, was robbed, met so many new people there, traveled to Berlin, came back, took a job, met many people there, first stitches of my life, new people moved into my house, my computer died, fell in love, computer alive again, hospital again, robbed again (my cellphone from the hospital bed).

Now my computer is all I own, pretty much, and I will probably be evicted from my house this coming Friday. But it’s all good. In this moment I feel only happy. I see the view. I feel calm. There is a feeling of security inside me. Lisbon will always be there. Maybe the Chinese will buy it… but it will not vanish.

So, this is for sure the most unstructured and maybe senseless post I have written, but I hope I could convey some of the confidence that I feel. Don’t worry too much, friends out there. I am fine. And in a hurry, because I can go home now, and there is so much to do. You can find me on Praca do Commercio, looking out on the river.

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Be careful what you wish for

So habe ich noch nie gefühlt. Er ist es. Ich will ihn heiraten. Ich will mit ihm bei IKEA einen riesigen Esstisch kaufen. Er hat die nötige Ruhe, um der Vater meiner Kinder zu sein. Er merkt sich, was ich sage und was ich mag. Er bringt mich zum Lachen, jeden Tag. Er könnte mich vielleicht kennen.

Auf einmal macht alles Sinn. Ich verstehe, warum ich all die Jahre warten musste. Ich bin versöhnt mit all den Qualen, Enttäuschungen, Frustrationen, Ungewissheiten, den leeren Weinflaschen, den vollen Aschenbechern.

Nun muss ich nur noch lernen zu atmen. Ein und aus. Als sei nichts passiert. Nur das nicht vergessen, dann wird es irgendwie weitergehen. Wer atmet sieht meist den nächsten Tag.

Denn er ist nicht frei, und es ist wahrscheinlich, dass der verdammte Kalender, die verdammte tickende Uhr, der verdammte verdammte Sand alles zudecken, blockieren, verschwinden lassen wird.

Und dann beginnt alles von Neuem. Das Suchen. Das Nichtwissenwer. Nur diesmal wird es anders sein. Das Wissen darum, wie es sein kann, wie es sich anfühlen kann, das kann ich nicht mehr loswerden. Dass es ihn gibt, trotz allem.

Und dieses Gefühl wird mir den Versuch, mich einfach bloß zufrieden zu geben, unfassbar schwer machen.

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The Boyfriend

During the last couple of days I have been thinking a lot about relationships, couples and love. Actually I have been heavily depressed and begrudging. During my six years of being single there have been different phases during which I either enjoyed being alone or did not. The first phase was a celebration of my single status, for sure. But after a certain amount of time – two years to be precise –  I started to feel like I was ready for a relationship again.  Another two years later, I felt that I really really wanted one again. But nothing ever happened. Now, six years later, I have my moments of depression, moments of being happy to be alone, moments of doubt if I will ever find someone who wants to be with me, and then the worst moments, when I feel that I catch a short glimpse of the ugly truth that deep deep inside I probably do not want to have a relationship, or, more accurately, am not able to have one. These moments are the saddest ones.

During the last days I find myself interviewing people I meet about falling in love, relationships, commitment and so on. I feel like asking about a different culture. Why is all of this so foreign to me? After all, I did have one long and serious relationship, from age 18 to 22. But the problem is that I cannot remember what it was like. Literally. I have some images in my head from this time but the person in these images, in these memories, is not me. It is someone else. Browsing through these memories feels like remembering stories your best friend told you about her relationship. I can appreciate the stories, have a warm feeling when thinking of some special moments, but it is not me. Of course I have changed quite a lot since these days so it makes sense to a certain degree. But to this extreme? I am not sure. I wonder a lot about the boy meets girl routine that some people claim exists only in the movies. I do not think so, because wherever I look, I see couples. And all of these couples must have met in some way. And then have become a couple in some way. I ask people about their stories and often they are cute. Usually I notice the immense extent to which pure coincidence factored in the meeting and falling in love of a couple. Like a girl I know, who went to Brazil to visit a friend but then ended up hanging out mostly with this guy’s roommate because her friend spent much time at university. They talked, they fell in love, now they have been together for four years, separated, at times, by the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Their story is as nice as they are, both individually and as a couple, but these days it makes me sad. It seems stories like this can happen to everyone but me. And I really really wonder why. Do not get me wrong, this is not a fishing for compliments kind of thing, I do not want to hear that I am lovable etc. My frustrations is not built on a lack of self-esteem, on the contrary. I think I do very well deserve to find someone who likes me just the way I am, and I am this frustrated because I just do not understand why the hell is should be so improbable???!! All the basic factors are there, I am fairly friendly, not ugly (I think), open and communicative, with a sense of humur and a certain level of education. So what is the problem??? Confession: sometimes, back in Berlin, I would catch myself observing couples on the subway and sometimes thinking to myself: so even he/she can find someone who loves them but I cannot??” Mean. Can only bring bad karma, which I obviously cannot afford. But I cannot help it.

Some people have told me that one thing they notice about me is my very strong sense for justice, for right and wrong. Andf this is just wrong. But who is there to blame? I do not blame myself. I can blame the universe, but I would rather stay on its good side to have some hope for the future. Maybe I should blame Mr Right for not showing up. Actually it was a joke my friend made about this that finally elevated my mood again. We were imagining how funny it would be if, when the right guy finally came along, I would be really angry at him at first. My friend drily commented: “If he wants to be with you, he would have to be able to take that.” Well, I guess I am quite crazy and difficult, so she is right. But so are others, and they are not condemned to be eternally alone. Some people are really bad persons, and still married with kids.

What I am really interested in when speaking to people is what made them be interested in their current boyfriend/girlfriend as more than a stranger, an acquaintaince, a friend, a fellow human being. And I do not care about the sexual aspect of all of this, that is easy. Why this person? Why for more than just sex? And then, finally, how is the decision made to enter into a relationship with this person? What is a relationship, actually? You kind of give half of yourself to another person? Your thoughts your plans, your concerns? It all seems to far away for me. Yesterday night for example I was sitting in the living room with my many roommates, singing and talking and drinking, and while I was really enjoying myself, my thoughts still drifted away and I pondered the fact that some of the persons who were with me in this room had a relationship. Their respective boyfriends and girlfriends were not there with them. They were in their home countries, in their old life. But somehow they were there, still. Or my friends were somewhere else. How to explain this? They are there with me, with everyone, but at the same time they also, well, belong to someone else, in a way — no, I cannot grasp it. Nevermind. If anyone has any answers whatsoever on this, let me know.

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L’Auberge Espagnole Loco

So today finally I caught a glimpse of my old German soul – welcome back, dear friend. Somehow also nice to know some things do not change. I am quite tense these days, having decided to stay here in Lisbon until the end of the year, with no real security on how it will work out moneywise. I want to try something new, namely relying on fate and trusting that somehow everything will work out, somehow. So let’s see.

Anyway, I live in Casa Marvao, an old house that I would like to call squat house but cannot because I pay the same rent I pay in Berlin for a 12 square meter room. And the house is not to be compared with my house in Berlin. It is old and deep inside desperately hoping to be renovated, but to the outside it poses a face of pride and dignity in its antigue charme. I love my room, because it is my space, literally. Noone gives a f**** what I do here, so I started painting, which I have never done before. I am no artist, but I find it really relaxing.

The house is divided into approximately 15 rooms (never counted during my almost three months here), a kitchen, a living room, a spacious terrasse heading out to the backstreet where some neighbours live that want to kill everyone who lives there for making their lives miserable…. ah, and some bathrooms of course. I think it is a magic house, and I call it home. On the first floor live the owners of the house, originally from Marvao, who are approximately eighty years old and endure their young tenants with a mixture of warmth and resignation. The rooms are filled with people from all over Europe and sometimes even the world. During semesters it is an ERASMUS house, 100 %, but during the summer break I also shared it with medical interns, Americans exploring the traditional music scene of Portugal, and Chinese students attending a language class. When  I first came here, the house was filled with 15 ERASMUS students who had been living together for nine months already, and the house was a hellhole. I am talking about one week old chicken bones lying on the terrasse floor and mice running over my hand in the sink when I decided one drunken night to wash the dishes for a change. I am thankful to all these people for taking me into their group. Then they left and the house, which I think has a life of its own, became dark, silent and depressing. But it was at this time that I found a second home in the cafe where I work – more on that later.

In any case, new ERASMUS people finally arrived a week ago, or a bit more, and since then, again, everything changed. A new phase in Casa Marvao, a house that changes always with its inhabitants. This time I am offered the chance to see the beauty develop from moment one. While I have some kind of outside perspective on everything, having my own life here, being older and being the one person who has been living here for some time, I still get to be part of everything. Now I live with I think eight Spanish persons, two girls from Hungary, a German girl, a Swedish boy, a girl from Poland, a girl from Belgium and a boy from Italy.

It is still clean, often very loud due to the presence of three guitars, a lot of ego, and even more talent. What comes to mind first when thinking about Casa Marvao these days is this: wine, food, music. Every night someone, usually “the boys” from Spain and Italy, cook dinner for everyone. Then we sit either on the terrasse or in the living room, around a big table, like in a kitschy movie, and eat.

One sentence I loved very much was: “Pratos – nao.” — In Casa Marvao – no plates. Food is being put on the table on two or three big plates, and everyone has a fork. That is it. While this is due to the lack of plates in this house, it still represents for me the spirit Casa Marvao currently has.

Then there is wine, sempre, sempre, which we now buy in five litre cartons the woman from the corner shop in our street special-ordered for us, seeing the amount of bottles we buy there every day. And music, as mentioned before.

One story to illustrate the spirit of the house: the other day I was sitting on the terrasse, around noon, enjoying the first coffee of the day, when one of my Spanish roommates enters with three strangers who turn out to be from Berlin. We share coffee and get to talking, and it turns out she does not know them but just met them on the street when they helped her open the old heavy door to our house. She invited them up for a coffee and we ended up spending hours together. My roommates came home, one by one, and joined the group. Lunch was cooked and enjoyed, more coffee was made. Finally the three Berliners took off, with cameras full of images and minds full of appreciation and wonderment.

But coming back to the start: tonight I wanted to go to a concert, and mentioned this to some people in the house. Soon it was clear we all go together, so we take off, early, not to miss any bands. It takes maybe 20 minutes to get out of the house, and then another 15 to go to the venue. When we come there it turns out it does not open for another 5 minutes, so it is discussed to go somewhere to drink. Then I make the mistake to go ahead into the direction of a bar I know, and when the group finally catches up, I am informed that we will now all go back to the house for some wine and food. At this point I personally wanted to bite into my lower arm until I hit the bone (German soul) but I managed to go with the flow. Now food is being prepared while I write this, and then the plan is to go back. I do not see it. But whatever, we will have a good time either way. Bemvinda a Casa Marvao. More to come.

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The Bridge

I think there are many different reasons why you fall for someone – looks, humour, or, as scientists also want us to believe, their smell. Initial attraction may well be based on looks almost exclusively, but I think the falling in love part actually has a lot to do with how a person makes you feel, and, more specifically, how they make you feel about yourself. In my case this is usually things that I would like to be but am not quite: self-assured, funny, tough. This is the image most men I met had of me and liked about me, which of course begs the question what quality a relationship can have if the other person does not see your true self. Suffice it to say, I am still single.

The thing I hate most about myself is how I am always scared. Most people wouldn’t believe it, but I am in a constant state of being afraid. First, there is the little things, like breaking any rules, being at a party with noone to talk to, people not liking me, looking fat in an outfit, being too drunk (this fear is usually the reason why I get too drunk). But there is of course big stuff too, like never getting married and having children, losing someone I love, missing out on a career or alternatively sacrificing my creative ambitions for a career. And, the biggest fear of all: death. I know what you will think now: what is her point, that is nothing extraordinary. Everyone is afraid of death and those who say they are not are lying. Very well. Let me phrase it differently: my therapist once told me that while everyone knows that they will die I feel it. I feel death. I do not want to go into the details of how I got to feel the constant presence of death since my Mum got sick when I was a kid. You can make your own assumptions.

The point is, I am always aware. I cross the street, I see a car, I think I may die. Climbing something, swimming in the Indian Ocean, driving a car on the motorway, all not options. How do you fly, you might wonder. Well, I enter the plane in complete awareness that I may die. Literally. Not a theoretical mindgame that is then brushed away with the embarrassed grin of the enlightened mind that has all the studies to back up her hope that “it will not be me”. The real thing. Totally aware, with a note to my loved ones as always tucked between the clothes in my closet detailling who will get what from my selection of American TV series on DVD and a message that they should not be sad as I was happy when I died. Kind of. When I land I am shaking and I enter each city’s same looking airport terminal with the feeling of once again having gotten away and wondering about the universe’s big plan for me and when it will end.

Which leads me to the person I fell for this time. I would like to think that this was the first time I did not, as I always seem to do, fake, perform or whatever you want to call it. I travelled to Portugal to get away from a life of two years that was focused on working, career, building a future that I do not really want but that gives me a sense of security which helps with the fear. Portugal, the place where I was always the most happy and relaxed, a better version of myself, so to speak, seemed like a nice destination for going on a soul searching trip, to fulfil the cliché. It is the place where I let go as much as it is possible for a neurotic like me, which basically means travelling alone, connecting with strangers and breaking a 16 years long tradition of vegetarianism for bacalhau and later even a whole dorade. This is as crazy as I can get. I was here for the first time three years ago, visiting some friends I met while studying abroad in Poland and during this trip I accidentally stumbled across a country that I had previously known little to nothing about and that hit me in the face: I was in love. Portugal and me is like a love relationship. It is like falling for the totally wrong guy who does not fulfil one point on your list and who makes your friends sceptically raise an eyebrow: “That one – really? Well, if you think so…”.

As mentioned before, Portugal brought out as much good in myself as I had ever seen, so I was happy and optimistic. I was staying with friends in Porto and one afternoon, when crossing the bridge over the Doro to go to an early afternoon port wine tasting in Gaia, we saw local children jumping from the lower rim into the sparkling river.

I was appalled and scared, of course, whereas one of my friends, a daring live the moment girl from France, was immediately hooked and talked about wanting to do the same. I could feel the blood disappearing from my hands, as if my veins were shrieking, and my knees starting to shake at the thought alone. But still, the moment she said it, I felt that actually it was me reallly feeling this conviction. The image of these kids jumping into the water was a manifest of freedom, of letting go. And it stuck with me. It may seem weird for a generation well-versed in bungee jumping, deap water diving, paragliding and now, the newest trend, parcouring. And it was not the actual jump alone, down a distance of perhaps ten to twelve meters, that made this into my own personal challenge. I am not only afraid of heights – go figure – but also socially afraid, if you can call it that. I hope it is not because I am a German, but I am extremely reluctant to “break the rules”, whether unspoken or official, and of sticking out, being watched. Jumping off a bridge into a river lined with tourist cafes will not stay unnoticed. Even though it is not technically illegal, was a far as I know (it would be in Germany, I am sure), it is not what you are supposed to do. I think the step of climbing over the protective banister and navigating to the rim of the bridge is a much bigger step for me than the actual jump. I came back to Porto the next year, standing on the bridge with my friend and with shaky knees. There was noone jumping into the river that day, and I did not mention my thoughts to him. Actually I told noone about it.

Porto was not my destination this year, as I was planning to stay in Portugal for an undefined number of months and Lisbon seemed to be the better place to kill this amount of time. There is a hostel here in Lisbon that I have cherished since I was there two years ago. I have lived in many different shared flats in Berlin, my home city, but the first place I actually felt at home since I left my parents’ house is this place. Needless to say I always returned, even this year, with a permanent room in a shared house already waiting for me. In the hostel I moved into a six bed dormitory which was empty at my arrival, its inhabintants for sure out exploring the castello or chilling on the beach of Cascais. In the evening I met them, though, two girls from the US who were ten years younger than I am and a young guy from Finland travelling by himself. Already during the first evening, when we got to talk a bit, I realised that this man, Pauli, was everything I am not in the department of bravery, and I was fascinated but also jealous. Twenty years of age, extremely sun-tanned and casually attired, he emanated the optimisim, excitement and hope of youth, if I am allowed to use this term with 28. Physically just on the brink between boyhood and manhood, with some soft looking beard stumps and open, curious dark blue eyes, a slender body that looked as if he had just finished a major growth rush. But his dark voice and British pronounciation was that of a man and his self-assuredness and calmness made him seem mature beyond his age. Totally independent, he connected to the small group of travellers that quickly formed – consisting mainly of me, a Canadian guy, a young Englishman and, on and off, the American girls – without letting down a subtle guard that perhaps only I really felt. He wanted to stay unattached, in his mind already treading on the roads of his future travels (he had one month of interrailing and backpacking still ahead of him). He talked bullshit and laughed about silly things with the rest of us, but he seemed almost careful to avoid any bonding beyond that typical solidarity amongst travellers on the road, so to say.

I think what impressed me the most about Pauli was his calmness. Hard to believe that I had managed to move from my small hometown to Berlin, study for seven years, go abroad for studying and for internships, including flying all alone to New York, then work in one of the most challenging and toughening work environments I can imagine for two years only to end up in Portugal being impressed by a youngster who did not even have any idea what his major should be or what job he wanted to do. I felt so detached from his positive “I have everything ahead of me” spirit that I found myself taking on a kind of motherly position towards him on from the start, incredulously and only half jokingly reprimanding him for hitchhiking and driving with a drunken guy in Albania, making jokes about the age difference and how he was only a child, playfully hitting him with the fist against the shoulder in a very platonic, buddy kind of way. We were, after all, bunk buddies. Did I already know then, in these first days, how much I was attracted to him? I want to believe that I didn’t, but I cannot be sure. But one thing that is sure is that I cemented the relationship on this level from the start, even though I highly doubt that acting differently would have changed anything. But I am jumping ahead.

We were hanging around, Pauli and me, in the hostel, when he asked to see my pictures. The occurrence that preceded this and made it happen was what we came to call “the night of the fountain”, a drunk night out in the old town that ended up on Rossio square and ultimiately in one of its fountains. Thinking about this night makes me realise, as I am writing this, that I am probably right in thinking that I did not know from the beginning, as Pauli’s presence during this evening is a taken for granted reality and my memories focus more on flirting and ultimately spending the night with a Turkish man who I hardly knew. Amazing photo and video material was produced in this night, which was what Pauli wanted to see on my computer. I was surprised when he then asked to also see my Portugal pictures from the previous years. Usually I feel myself pushing my holiday memories, which for me are so vital and special, onto people who politely watch without getting the spirit, and it almost always ends with the stinge of disappointment and the feeling of being rejected altogether, of not being seen or understood for who I am slash want to be. When browsing through my pictures Pauli came across the ones with the kids jumping of the bridge, which of course caught his attention. I explained, and, after a sip of sangria, revealed the story behind the photo, namely my two year pondering over the idea to actually do it myself. His reaction: “It looks like fun. Let’s go tomorrow.” If it had been only him and me, I would have brushed away this odd statement with a laughter and would, as always, have made fun of my own fear, comedically displaying it by an exaggerated “Never ever ever.” Unfortunately, the sangria that was also present had a mind of its own, and before I knew it I heard me say: “OK”. A plan evolved, which was enthusiastically spread among the other hostel people, who now all got to hear the story I had offered before to Pauli: how I am always afraid, how I do not like it, how coming to Portugal was a big leap already and how I felt now was the perfect time to also take this other, physical leap, and that Pauli would come along to “jump just for the fun of it.” The thing is, it was a great party joke, people enjoyed my storytelling which I have mastered to hide my fear. Ironically, even in narrating the story of my fear I was faking, entertaining, not being myself. I am not sure anyone really got it. Except Pauli, as I would learn later.

That night I could not sleep. The pressure of what I had drunkenly agreed to do was weighing on my chest and taking my breath. It was not so much the fear of the jump as the fear of what people would think if I didn’t do it. Would Pauli be mad that he made a costly 6 hours trip for nothing? Would people in the hostel make fun of me and see me as a coward? Inside, I already knew what would happen, saw the plot unfolding: how we would go and I would stand on the bridge and not jump. Of course not. But I tried to tell myself that it would be OK, that Pauli would have his jump and in the evening I would just avoid being hurt by being my own biggest mocker.

I woke up at seven thirty and went down to breakfast, only to find out that I could not get down one bite. When Pauli did not get up I started to get nervous, as I had of course already a detailed travel plan arranged. But I was also hopeful – this could be my way out. If he changed his mind it would be out of my hands, I could always spin on the narrative of how I almost went to Porto and jumped off the bridge. Finally I went to my room and gently poked his arm. He opened one eye. “Hey” – I said. “How does it look? If you wanna sleep that’s fine, I totally understand, we would need to get going quite soon and it is early, and also it will cost 50 €.” I had managed to throw him off, he frowned when I mentioned the money and said he needed to think about it. I went back to the common area, surprised by the pain I felt at the thought of not going. Nervous as hell, afraid of both alternatives: that he would come or that he would not. Hurt by the thought that he did not care about me, which is crazy of course, but it is also me. My heart was racing as I was pondering the different possible outcomes of this situation when he came down and said: “I will just eat something quickly and then we go.” My heart leaped. The rest went pretty fast and blurry, packing up, rushing to the subway, barely making the train to Porto. Suddenly I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious around Pauli. He noticed my nervousness and I confessed that I was scared of not being able to do it. “Well, then I will jump and will have had a good time too.” he replied. Again I was surprised by the sting I felt, like he had not gotten the whole point. Of course if he had gotten it I would feel much more pressured. By the end of the three hour trip, I had come to the conclusion that I would definetely not do it but would be happy to take a picture of him. He shrugged.

We went straight to the bridge in Porto. Seeing it made my knees shake, which I tried to hide. It was not as hot as the last times I had been there, always in August, and no bridge jumping kids were anywhere to be found. The cafes at the shore were crowded, though. I saw some policemen. The thoughts were racing in my head: why is there nobody jumping maybe they have made it illegal in the meantime maybe it has always been prohibited maybe something changed on the ground of the river making it now deadly to jump into it will we be arrested will there be a fine I have too little money what if I float away from the shore after I jumped didn’t the kids have a boat last time we do not have a boat ok then its settled I cannot do it. Pauli checked out the banister and said: “Let’s have some lunch.“ We went to a pizza place and I reluctantly shared a selected number of my concerns throwing the fine thing into the conversation with a casual shrug. He picked it up: “Tha’ would suuuuck.“ (in his Finnish pronounciation, he would drag out the as, os and us in most words). “Puh”, I leaned back, taking a sip from my beer. Then it is settled. But Pauli just asked the waiter if it was illegal to jump off the bridge. The man could not been less surprised by the question, just said no and left. Damn, the plan was back on.

It was there in the restaurant that I told Pauli the real story of why I felt I needed to jump off the bridge. He was sharing with me his view of life, why he is not scared of anything like me, it was the typical things people say in his age, but also different. He had this calmness about him that made him seem both sincere and mature. I longed to believe him that everything would be OK. But he was him and I was me, which was incidentally the reason we were sitting there together. I asked him if anything bad ever happened to him, wanting to confirm my theory that only people who have not experienced truly bad tragic things can see life in this careless way. He did prove me right, and I told him about my mother. “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit”, he said, and it made me feel much better than most things other people have said to me when confronted with the story. The conversation was over for a while after that.

In the end I am not sure what did it, I must assume it was the second beer and the feeling of numbness and annoyance at the thought of once again shying away from something that is such a small deal to others. In the end this was not like climbing Everest. Kids did it, for crying out loud. I went to the bathroom to change into my jump outfit, cargo shorts and a tank top. It made me feel strong. As we went to the bridge my stomach began to turn, even though the current status of negotiation was that Pauli would jump first and I would think about it, perhaps even go up to the bridge and then decide spontaneously, no pressure. He went of, barefoot and shirtless, and disappeared behind a corner. I was sitting on the stone wall next to the river, trying out how to best capture this moment. Pauli appeared, climped over the banister without hesitating once, looked left, right and down, then searched the coast for me, found me, and immediately raised his arm – our signal for me pushing the release button – click, and he was in the water with a splash. The fall I had only seen through the lense, it seemed quick and unreal. He came out of the water happy but not overly excited, probably having done similar stuff many many times. “How was it?” “Ah, was fine. But the current is strong, it can carry you away. – Are you a good swimmer?” – “Dont know – you think I shouldnt do it????” – “Dont know, could be dangerous.” “Mmmhh – man, why did you tell me that? I had just made up my mind to do it.” “Really?” “Yeah.” “Then you should probably do it. – Just thought you should know.” “Why, thanks.”

I will never know what gave me the sudden impetus, but I almost felt an urge to get it over with so the bad feelings of fear, nervousness and pending failure and disappointment would go away. It was like I did not care anymore. Or perhaps Pauli making it look so easy had inspired me. In any case, I just dropped my stuff and started up the stairs, barefooted and shaking, to the car level of the bridge. The sounds of the cars and people in them were like blurry background noise, I was unable to see more than ten centimeters to the left or right of my feet and the view straight ahead. One blinking of the eye and I would lose it. The cars were jammed up behind me, waiting for the traffic light to turn. People were sitting in their cars literally half a meter away from me, watching me and making it impossible for me to climb over the banister, which for me was the hardest step in the whole venture as I had absolutely no idea how to navigate around the steel girders that formed the bridge to get to the landing. Pauli was gesturing, do it, my shaking arms rested on the banister, yelling against the wind: “I can’t with all the cars here”. OK so I won’t do it, I thought. Getting ready to walk the walk of shame back down the stairs. But then I saw it – a break in the never ending row of cars, caused by yet another traffic light which had changed to red and gave me approximately 10 seconds. Everything that happened next is a blur: me climbing over the banister, making it to the rim in maybe ten seconds, me thinking how funny it was that I never before trusted the strength of my own muscles to hold me up but that they actually did just that, me thinking how fast the water was running underneath me and that there was quite a lot of trash in it, me thinking that this is ridiculous and I can not simply jump, like make my feet stop being connected to the iron of the rim, that this is an absurd thing, me lifting my arm, me making a step forward.

Wind, a thought along the lines of “oh shit this is not going right”, and then my body meeting the water in a not perfect but not dangerous angle. Underwater, up, Pauli at the landing, swim there, take hand, lift out of the water in what feels like a weightless manner, lie on the warm stone. Realise. Adrenaline. Happiness. It felt like for the first time in my entire life I managed to step out of my ways, out of the behaviour I have adopted for so many reasons but do not like. I am a talker, I talk talk talk, but never do. This time I had done something. Actually Pauli was more surprised than I was. I got up to my feet and yelled, “I diiiiiiiiiiiid it”, and hugged him, both of us wet. He yelled back “You did it” and then narrated the story from his point of view, how he never thought I would actually do it, how he was terrified when he saw me climbing, that he thought to himself “what the fuck”, suddenly aware of the immense responsibility he had, if not officially then morally. Funnily enough he revealed to me only now that he was a licenced life guard, which earned him a fist hit on the arm. I was on fire, high above the ground and reflecting myself in his eyes, both literally and figuratively, I saw that he looked at me with a new respect and fondnesss. Nagging, will-not-stop-talking-when-she’s-nervous-which-she-always-is, insecure German in pre-midlife crisis changed into adventurous what the hell daredevil with whom one could actually have fun. We changed and I forced Pauli to drink beer with me in a bar at the river side. We then missed our train back and resorted to drink many more beers in a pub next to the train station.

On the train home, Pauli slept while I sat next to him, drinking beer out of a can and listening to music. Everything had changed. Since the moment I came out of the water, I felt a deep affection in me that scared me and actually hurt me, the longing to touch his dark brown arm with the almost white hair on it, lying next to me on the table. To always wanting to see myself in the reflection of his eyes. To be reassured by him (again: a twenty year old), to always have him by my side. It hurt, and I felt tears in my eyes and the eternal lump in my throat. I still do not know what happened, but I blame the bridge.

Arriving at the hostel was great, now being able to tell the story of how I jumped and showing off the immense bruises on my right arm and inner thigh. Pauli was a great wingman, offering his view of the story, painting me in a good light and letting me have all the credit. Our conversations were not mentioned. I felt weirdly distanced from him back there, like two people who hooked up secretly without knowing each other would feel awkward when suddently surrounded by what turn out to be mutual friends. I felt uneasy and went to bed early, not without butterflies in my stomach at the knowledge that he was lying in the bed right under me, not wearing a shirt.

Not much special happened after this. While for me a bond had formed that felt unbreachable and I had to restrain myself from not constantly hanging around in Pauli’s immediate vicinity, he seemed to get wary of Lisbon and anxious to travel on. We had two or so ok nights out, but we never again talked and connected like on the day of “the bridge”. Why should we, after all? It had been just a leisuretime adventure for him and we were back to being casual hostel acquaintances among many.

The night before Pauli left Lisbon, we went out and got pretty drunk. Sitting on the pavement in front of some bar, the conversation came back once again to “the bridge” when Mitch, the young Englishman, inquired how exciting it must have been to jump. Pauli just shrugged and said he did not care much for it. I was surprised, as was Mitch. I said something along the lines of “I thought you went with me because you like this kind of stuff, jumping from things, doing daring dangerous stuff.” And again with this sincerity and maturity that had hooked me from the start Pauli said, as if it was nothing: “No, I just went to help you do it. I knew it was really important to you.”

That night we ended up having a drunk discussion in the hostel kitchen about people you meet while travelling and how me and Mitchell were nothing but random people that he, Pauli, would neither meet again nor stay in contact with. I half-heartedly agreed with Mitchell that Pauli simply used the word random in a wrong way and did not mean what he said as harshly as it came across. Inside I was not convinced. I felt him pulling back, feeling entangled against his will in the romanticised thoughts of two less-adventurous travellers. Whether he, on a much deeper level, had felt the ties I so badly wanted to form between him and me I will never know. As I was cleaning the dishes, keeping quiet during the last rounds of the debate between him and Mitchell, I felt the tears coming and went to bed with an abrupt “good night” and a slammed door, not managing (and not really wanting to) to hide how upset I was. I cried that night, half hoping he would realise it lying in the lower bunk bed. In the morning I left the hostel and only came back to say goodbye. We hugged distantly and I said “Thanks for the bridge.” He said “It’s all good.” He left. I watched him leave secretely hiding behind a window in the upper part of the house. Then I went to my room and cried the rest of the day, in the end still surprised about the pain I felt in my stomach area. One day after that, I also left the hostel. End of story.

Now I stay in a students house but keep some my stuff in a friend’s place near Avenida da Liberdade. On the way between the two houses is Rossio square, and the route takes me by a huge subway grid in the middle of the pavement, with mysterious drafts coming from underneath that make your skirt fly up Marylin Monroe style and a neverending pitch black darkness that makes it feel like underneath is an abyss right into the core of the earth. I never walk over these things, not even the one that is one square meter in the middle of Hermannplatz in Berlin, where I live. Afterall, what is the point of risking a potentially deadly accident when you can just circumvent the grid which may take up to 10 seconds, not more? It just does not make any sense. The day after Pauli left I stopped in front of the grid. There was noone around. I inhaled, closed my eyes, and took a step forward. Opened my eyes – still alive. I walked on slowly, crossing the grid, my eyes closed until I felt the upward airflow disappear and the pavement under my feed again. I smiled. A man came around the corner, eyeing my suspiciously as I stood at the border of the grid, smiling frantically, eyes up to the sky, hands clenched into fists, breathing deeply. I skipped on, all the way to my house, reliving a limited version of the high I had felt after “the bridge”.

Since then, I make it a point always to cross every grid I come across. And I think of Pauli, flaxen-haired twenty year old Finnish man with no concerns except what to study (but what does it really matter) and where to travel next, alone with his backpack and the never changing blue black hoodie jacket, his Finnish English, his unshakableness, his lack of fear. Did I really like him or was it just “the bridge” that made me want to feel connected to him? Do I really want to be with him or is it just that I want to be more like him? I do not know and it does not matter. The pain will go away and he will become one of those friend-stiffs on Facebook whose pages you check out once a year. But what will stay is “the bridge”, that he understood its meaning and what he did for me that day, small as it may seem to someone who does not suffer from “the fear”. I hope I will be able to keep that for a while. I will need it.

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Eating Fish – An egoistic capitulation before my own self

Bacalhau assado - gateway drug or fullblown addiction????

This post is not easy for me to write because it means reporting something about myself I am not really proud of and am currently trying to come to terms with. I can however say that I am quite happy about it. Which is kind of a paradox, as you can see.

I have told some of you this already: when in Portugal, I eat fish. It started three years ago. First it was harmless stuff, some pieces of Bacalhau, hidden in the creamy sauce of my friend Joao’s awesome fish lasagna. Then the next year: a whole Dourada, grilled, with eyes and teeth. Now this year, I moved on to seafood, trying without any emotion but curiosity different octopus and gambas dishes. So why is this a problem? Because actually I am a vegetarian, kind of always have been. It is not a phase, not something I started as a teenager to be cool and belong to some left wing circles I was dying to be part of. I started as a child, and not out of any superficial reasons but out of a deeply felt sense of right and wrong, and, especially, empathy. See, I tend to put myself into the shoes of whoever’s fate I encounter, and this includes animals. Or at least I thought. Now I think it is limited to mammals. Not eating fish has never been an emotional thing, only eating animals such as cows, pigs etc. always was. But as “vegetarian” usually entails not eating fish, and as a child my fish experience was limited to fish sticks which I could live without, I just kind of went with it. And never gave it another thought, until that day Joao made the lasagna.

Why am I writing about this? Because this whole fish thing gives me the perfect metaphor to try and describe what is happening with me here in Portugal, why I am so happy, what the big questions are that I am pondering. Because eating fish is a stomach thing, not a head thing. It is against all the reason I have accumulated since I was a child, against the image and principles of the person that I have attempted (and pretended?) to be since – always. The person I thought I was. Not eating animals has something to do with reason, with determination, maybe even superiority. With a plan. Usually a plan to avoid any insecurities, or eleminate them as soon as they reared their ugly heads. Not studying film was part of that, not quitting my studies even though they bored me to death, my job in PR. Coming to Portugal was the first thing that was not part of the plan, and objectively speaking not even very smart. Living off my savings, not paying into social security, risking a break in my career, a black hole in my CV, maybe never being able to get back on the horse? What am I doing?!

At the end of my street there is this traditional Portuguese place with an outside grill onto which they throw whole fish and potatoes, serving that with a simple side salad and olive oil. I went to lunch there twice recently, and the second one made me realise the actual meaning of all this: that eating fish is stomach, not head. It is acknowledging imperfection, moving in a moral grey zone, admitting that I just do not have the answer. It is capitulation before my own self. And it feels good. I do not always have to be consequent, let alone stringent. I do not have to have all the answers. I can be selfish. I think this is the best part. Eating this fish, in my world, is selfish, irresponsible, putting my own indulgence over another being, however coldblooded. Putting enjoyment over reason. Eating the soft flesh off a fish, peeling a gamba with oily sticky hands, this is pure lust for life. It is almost vicious. And I love it. At least for now. When in Portugal.

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