The next time I saw Gil was at a dinner party his brother Otto was giving for his twenty-fourth birthday. My brother's friend Sara had taken me there and as soon as Gil spotted me he came to sit on the chair next to mine. This time he was wearing a tie, if you can believe it. He said:
"I need your phone number."
Not hello, how are you, just I need your phone number.
"Okay," I replied, and so we went looking for a pen at the bar. I wrote my number down on a piece of paper with the words wine, coffee, main, soup, dessert, bread and beverage printed on it. Gil seemed very happy just to see me.
I must admit I kind of missed him too, although this was only a few days after we had last seen each other, at Subtle. Sara had dragged me along with her to the dance floor, and Gil didn’t dance. He just stood there, on the side, smiling and drinking whiskey. When I looked around for him again, he was gone.
"What happened to you the last time?" I asked him, while we were heading back to the dinner table.
"Oh, I had to go," he told me. "I didn’t want to impose myself on you too much."
"I see. That’s sweet," I commented, and he smiled and put his hand on my shoulder.
I remember looking down at the red carpet of the restaurant and feeling my knees go soft, and then I just remember opening my eyes and seeing a lot of faces staring surprisingly at me, with the lights from the ceiling shining behind them.
"Lara!" said Sara. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," I replied, trying to get up, surrounded by helping hands. "I just fainted, that’s all."
"Just fainted?" Sara asked. "Do you suppose that’s normal?"
"Yes. For me it’s normal. Let’s just eat, shall we?"
"Are you sure you’re all right?" Otto asked me.
"Yes, Otto, I’m fine, I’m fine, I swear."
Everybody was looking suspiciously at Gil, and he was just smiling. Actually, he looked like he was going to burst into laughter but just managed to control himself.
"Let me take you outside to get some fresh air," he proposed.
"Great!" I said. "That’s exactly what I need!"
"I’ll come with you," said Sara.
"No, really, I’m okay, Gil will take me outside."
Sara consented, and Gil and I went out to the huge balcony of the building’s penthouse, where the restaurant was settled. We could see the old castle of Lisbon on top of a hill, and the moon above it, just like in the postcards.
We could see the square of Martim Moniz, with the illuminated water fountain in the middle and the trams circling around it on their way to other squares. We could see the mixed people from the Portuguese colonies, who came to live in Lisbon hoping for a better life, hanging around the square, dressed in fancy clothes and distinguishing themselves from the boring Portuguese.
We could see some prostitutes and a couple of transvestites going up to the neighborhood called Intendente for their night work.
I could see Gil with his tie and his outdated clothes looking at me with his hypnotic eyes and a persistent smile on his face, and I could picture myself looking very weird as usual, like some kind of mad dark creature who had just fainted at the touch of a hand on her shoulder.
"What did happen to you in there, Lara?" Gil asked me.
"Oh, you know, reality is so much better than dreams," I replied.
"What do you mean?"
"I’m not really sure."
"I see," he said. "Well, it doesn’t matter, anyway."
"Exactly," I agreed. "Let’s just eat, shall we?"
"Yes," he agreed, and into the restaurant we went.
Nobody paid particular attention to us again, which was a relief, except, of course, for Gil’s aunt, who happened to be sitting next to me and him. I don’t know why, but she started talking to me as soon as I sat down and she never stopped again for the rest of the dinner.
She asked me all kinds of questions about myself, but most of all she told me quite a lot about who she was. How she was born in Africa and was the sister of Gil’s mother, how she taught philosophy for many years, how she’d been to the Himalayas, how she had lived in Macao, the small Portuguese colony in China, how she took care of her nephews who were like sons to her, how she had two daughters of her own called Dina and Monica, how she got divorced because men were not to be trusted, except, obviously, for her lovely and gifted nephews.
She was wearing a beautiful black Chinese dress with white flowers as a pattern, and her hair was also black and tied up with two Chinese sticks. She looked very charming and, for some reason, reminded me of Elis Regina, the best Brazilian lady singer of all times, as far as I’m concerned.
Gil’s aunt finally asked me how old I was, I told her I was almost sixteen, and she replied:
"You’re too young for him, dear," and I thought to myself: ‘If she only knew that the one I like isn’t even the youngest.’
By this time Otto wasn’t in love with Sara anymore, and he already had another girlfriend called Luciana, who was older and reminded me of Jacquelyn Kennedy.
Luciana was about as much older than Otto as he was older than me, and there they were, together and happy. These were the moments when I really hated my life.
As for Sara, I’m quite sure she was having some sort of affair with Andresa. It hadn’t been Otto who had broken up with her, it had been the other way around. Sara and Andresa now wore their hairs very short, were much skinnier because they had started smoking heroin, and were closer to each other than ever before.
Nobody could penetrate their jokes, their talks, their secrets. They were the absolute pair, and once Sara told me that one night, when they were very drunk, Andresa and she had French kissed.
"Is my Aunt Agate bothering you?" Gil asked me when she left the table to go to the toilet.
"Oh, no, she’s lovely," I said. "But she told me I’m too young for you…"
Gil smiled, and so did I.
"Maybe we should be careful when we see each other," he suggested. "But I really don’t see why we shouldn’t be friends."
When his Aunt Agate came back we stopped talking, and she went on about her life in the Portuguese colonies of Africa.Gil and I didn’t speak much for the rest of the night, and I went back home with Sara and Andresa.