Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art Writing

THEY USED TO CALL IT THE SMILING MOON

Carpe diem – he said… This was the first expression he gave me…

I was sitting on the couch in the corner of the room, being suffocated by more and more people who were coming into my house. It was another one of those boring dinners that my parents would give to celebrate something that they didn’t know exactly what it was (or at least I never knew). My 13 years and I were lost amid the adults and the adult-wannabes; like my sister Helen, 16 years old.

– Brat, isn’t that your weird friend, the one who has the head in the clouds? – Helen said, and her words were followed by a disgusting laugh, of course.

I was about to say that he wasn’t weird at all, but as soon as I laid my eyes on that wheat hair, and I saw those intellectual glasses roaming the room in search of something or someone, I gave up starting an argument. I ran to those friendly freckles and grabbed them by the arms.

– Gabriel!

– Ad sumus! My gift to you.

– And that means?…

– Here we are!

Gabriel and I had this game. Because he knew Latin very well, every time he met me, he would give me an expression as a gift.

– Come with me! – I said and dragged him out of the room. He followed me (as if he had a choice), his tortoiseshell glasses swinging on his face.

We stopped in my favorite place in the entire world: the tree house. There, away from Helen’s and other ones’ eyes, we lay on the floor in opposite directions. One facing the south and the other facing the north. Our heads, side by side. Our gazes set in the rectangular opening of the roof, through where we could see the Moon and the stars. Our little piece of sky.

– Why do you like Latin? – I started the conversation.

– Because I like it.

– Why?

– Because I like antique things.

– Sometimes I doubt that you’re only 13, Gabriel.

– I’m not. The woman of the tarot cards told my mom that I’m an old soul. I’m the reincarnation of Galileo Galilei. My mom was relieved to hear that.

– But isn’t Galileo the one who was forced to deny all that he said and was arrested for life in his house?

– Yeah. And he also went blind because he spent too much time looking through the telescope.

– And your mother think this is good?

– …

– Gabriel?

– Did you know that when we look at the sky we’re looking at the past?

– I’ve read it somewhere.

– Many of the stars we see have already died. The thing is that their lights take so long to get here, that we see something that doesn’t exist anymore.

Silence.

Sometimes, it was like this. We talked, talked and talked and then… Silence. Gabriel always said things that made ​​me think. Sometimes it was so much thinking that I had a headache. This was one of those moments. For a few minutes, our eyes stared at the heavenly time machine and I thought about the past.

Gabriel was the only child of some (very) rich friends of my father’s. They wished their son had been popular. Then, they wished he had some friends. Then, they were happy that Gabriel had (at least) one friend: me. Gabriel wished not being seen by the world. Meanwhile, I was struggling (with great success) to be invisible. One day, in our volunteer invisibility, Gabriel and I met. This happened in another of those purposeless dinners made by my parents. From that day on, we decided to be invisible together (unlike the rest of the world, one invisible can see another invisible). Thanks to me, Gabriel’s parents were relieved that he didn’t have social problems and became a frequent presence in our home.

– The moon is smiling today – I said.

– They call it the sleeping moon.

– I prefer the smiling moon.

– Smiling moon… It could be a song. “Smiling moon… Smiling moon… You are my smiling moon…” – Gabriel started to sing totally out of tune. If I didn’t know other people could see Gabriel as well, I would swear he was an imaginary friend. – Did you know that the day on the Moon lasts almost 30 Earth days?

– Really?

– Really.

– Huh… I would never ever be able to live on the Moon. Imagine! Deal with my sister for a one-month day? Impossible!

– In this case, it’d be better to live on Saturn. The day there has only 10 hours and 39 minutes.

– And I could also enjoy the view of the rings.

– Totally.

– Gabriel, what do you think people would say if they could hear us talking now?

– They would say that our conversations aren’t natural.

– Aren’t interesting.

– That our lines seem forced.

– That people our age don’t speak like this.

– We’re strangers in our own language.

– Aliens.

We laughed and the laughing made our heads turn towards each other. My eyes stared at his lips. My lips stared at his eyes.

– I think I like you, Gabriel.

– Carpe diem – he said.

I already knew that expression. It was the first one he gave me, 3 years ago, when this Latin thing started. Carpe diem… Seize the day… Because everything ends, you must enjoy the moment.

And so, our lips faced each other. His upper lip touched my lower lip. My lower lip touched his upper lip. Softly. Innocently. Uniquely. A non-ordinary-first-kiss for a non-ordinary-duo. And in that moment, I wished I lived on the moon.

SHE

She is always there: sitting on the floor, looking at the ceiling, her head resting on the wall. Never moving her colorless eyes. People pass in front of her, day after day. Different people each day, but she… She remains. The eyelids tired from salting the skin every night, they remain. The strong nose in contrast to her moon face and her plump body covered by eccentric clothes, they remain. Everything about her is big and small at the same time. The hair, so lankly straight that no clip can keep it tied up, weighs on the head that the neck is tired of charging. Her mouth is tired. Her arms are tired. While everyone goes, she stays. Repeating the same actions in an endless loop every single day: the melancholic woman projected on the museum wall.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A current Newcastle University Creative Writing MA student, Mariana Klinke is a Brazilian writer, graduated in Film and Television at the University of São Paulo (USP). She has worked on several fiction and nonfiction projects for TV, such as: Brazil’s Next Top Model (Sony), 10 Years Younger (SBT/Discovery), Sing If You Can (Zodiak Media) and Brazilian Idol (Fremantle). In 2014, Mariana was granted a Chevening Scholarship, funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel.