© Cláudia Lancaster & Gonçalo Duarte

On the Road

Dear Jack *,

I am in the Algarve, in a landscape where the land ends and the sea begins, I wake up early because my body and my mind are still on the 6h45 stupid schedule from the children’s school. They try to programme us from an early age so we can more easily enter the automated world of labour, in the grown-ups’ world. The world of Capital. This side of ours is very idiotic.

Two pigeons land in the açoteia wall where I’m at – açoteia is a terrace on top of a building – they seem in love, they seem to be looking for some privacy under the sun, just like me, who stand up to give them the leftovers from my toast with butter, but as soon as I draw a gesture of movement, they move away. First one and then the other.

I hear the sound of the city mixed with the twittering of birds, air conditioning, cars…

I am in the Algarve on a work trip, but the audio background easily transports me to other landscapes, to those journeys of being and letting yourself be, when your only desire is to be alive, life known through a ray of sun. One day I would like to write a book, a book on journeys, on paths – like you – there’s something about places that don’t belong to us, about people who don’t belong to me, about the landscape that shows itself exactly the way it is, with no desire whatsoever to be different, that fascinates me like no other thing. Places unknown to me and where I am unknown. Even if deep down I wish to always have a place to return to, to always have someone – not necessarily waiting for me, but someone on the other end in case I get lost, someone to look for me and maybe find me – to bring meaning to the journey. I am not sure if I’m not more of myself in these places I don’t consider mine, with people I don’t take for granted, I ask myself if by being more like myself in this manner I don’t end up belonging more to you, to everyone.

Alface woke up a little after the bells announced it was 11 am. It is so funny that the bells still toll in the 21st century – this is Europe, Jack, bells playing history, playing music to some foreigner passing by, taking a detour from the path of wisdom. The boys (Tiago and Augusto) left to take care of technical issues, we have a rehearsal at 2 pm. I think I need to take a bath. I think about the book I read yesterday, very beautiful, I was a gift from my João, he brought it from Brazil where he flew after we returned together from an adventure in Sweden. All together! And what an adventure, it could’ve ended badly, but it was nothing, it’s over. We have learnt to love each other even more.

As I was saying about the very beautiful book I got, the title itself was good enough for me – “I travel because I have to, I come back because I love you”. I cried reading that book, it has a very special poetry, it has an image and a composition that are very moving, the whole way the sentences are separated and linked in the travelling images, of encounter and loss, it takes a path for an encounter. And I think about the books I bought from André Príncipe, in his photos and films from his journeys, landscapes in road sex, life and death, to loose yourself only to find yourself. I think about the choices each one of us will have to dare to take to be (to continue being). Clarice says “to be happy is a great responsibility, few have the courage for it”.

After the book I saw the DVD of the movie that came with that edition, the boys had gone shopping and Alface was taking a nap or perhaps she was also reading, in the canopy bed she landed into. Watching that film also made me feel filled, even though the dramatic tone of the narrator’s voice perhaps over dramatized what in the poetry of the book’s reading had come to me as more real. On the other hand, the film adds a power to the images that is a bit lost to the burden of words when you read the book. It is a paradox, like the beauty that lies out there on the loose.

When I went to bed, after we adventured into the Algarve’s night for some fun – that only summed up to a coffee, a whisky and some photos that might be of some importance for some future memory – I watched the movie again, I think I watched it at the same time as João, who was in Lisbon with the kids, I sent him the YouTube link via Skype and we said see you tomorrow. I fell asleep watching the film and already I feel like watching it again, maybe one of these days I decide to watch it again. I say one of these days because there are these days and then there are the other days, which are different from these ones… because actually, Jack, what kills me is the everyday life.

But Jack I write to you essentially because this year the catchphrase for Verão Azul is on the road, it makes sense to us the idea of knowledge going through landscapes, places, people, and here in Europe it is even easier to walk from one place to the other – like G. Steiner used to say – “landscapes have our dimension and coffee houses are still important, they still give meaning to Europe” – but at Rossio the Gelo (Ice) coffee house has been melting for a long time. And at Brasileira tourists go on pilgrimages to take selfies with Pessoa. We look more like each other and perhaps that’s why we are more alone, but I’m not quite sure how to talk about this. I give thanks everyday that there are still poets.

Around her we still walk or try to walk in order to reflect, but things aren’t getting any prettier, thousands of people lose their lives trying to swim to Europe, the pirates who try to save them on sea are arrested, and your America builds walls to close ways. You’ve had the Vietnam War and now wars are far more disguised, and there’s the climate crisis, we need to fight for the survival of our species that in reality it was the species that fucked this all thing up. America killed Martin Luther King, Brazil killed Marielle Franco, people fighting for change still risk being shot at or incarcerated, if you’re different from the norm you have to fight a lot and in some places you have to run or even escape, from rocks, dogs, cities, countries, from who you are. The lust for precious minerals is still killing indigenous people and devastating our lung. Plastic life – the one you complained so much about – is still barring us, literally nowadays. Mummies are still alive and there is no party in sight, but you always believe it will be soon because in spite of them “tomorrow will be another day”.

I remember my coffee is getting cold and I take a sip, and now I really have to go take a bath.

Dear Jack, you can see that out here the landscape hasn’t changed that much and to walk though it is still the best way, “follow me I’m right behind you””.

Thinking about you.

Yours ANA

p.s. a hug to all the route companions (in life and in art) that weren’t mentioned here.

* this letter was originally written in 2016, in Viseu, addressed to André Uerba, a dear friend, and later adapted (with cuts and additions) for this editorial dedicated to Jack Kerouac.