Prolepsis

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[Ler a história em português]

When he goes to get fresh air on the balcony, Phil is immersed in the everlasting dance of the treetops that strain to mask the urban reality of cement and brick. His light red hair may not take any more walks than is fair and necessary; but his mind knows no such restrictions: this greenery hypnotizes him once more, and his imagination runs wild until he sees —feels— the eternally-damp soil of London under his shoes, the lavender twitching in the wind, and the tiny hand of little Colin, who in turn intertwines the fingers of his other hand with Adrien’s.

On the way to the urban farm, Colinho is jogging alongside his parents, chattering about how his first day of preschool went and endlessly asking why, why, why. Phil entertains him by teaching him the numbers in Portuguese, Adrien fills his ears with little French stories, and then they hum Thinking Out Loud, because they always find a chance to sing their song. At the farm, Colinho laughs out loud and starts suddenly at a growl and goes through the names of the animals in all the languages of his universe. When his son craves a treat, Phil realizes he doesn’t know if his choice would be a muffin, an éclair or a brigadeiro, and this uncertainty pulls him out of his reverie.

The interruption does not bother him, however, because the return to reality becomes a delightful limbo where the time he spends in the treetops passes in slow motion. He is struck by how his subconscious always chooses the most British names that exist (today he had a Colin, but yesterday he imagined a Prudence, Thursday a Freddy and before that a Daisy,) and he finds it very funny how right away, he lusophizes them, as if his mother tongue reasserts itself almost indignantly after his years and years of residence in England.

His return to reality becomes complete with the ping of a new email. Every time the name of the social worker pops up on his screen, his heart skips a skip, he crosses his fingers, calls Adrien (“a message from Ginnie”), and the two steam open the digital missive together. They sigh: once more, news without news, yet another joint interview.

They never quite know what the next appointment with Ginnie will bring. Adrien is a bit short with words, but for the talkative Phil there is always more and more and more to discuss. In the individual interviews, over a rambling two hours, he outlined in painstaking detail his favorite uncle’s love life, the feuds that characterize the dark side of his family history, and how his grandmother defied the rigid social norms of 1960s Brazil when raising her daughters. The joint interviews force them to stare deep into each other, to confess beliefs they had not even realized they had before, and to decisively make distant and intangible decisions. And it’s not just exploring each other: with each meeting, Phil and Adrien feel like they’re delving a little deeper into their own depths.

Despite their initial fears, the pandemic has actually given them certain advantages in the process. Meetings with the social worker before the lockdown meant both were obliged to ask for a day off work, arrive with very British punctuality, comb their hair, dress up and conceal any nervous tics that should suddenly manifest. But now everything is much easier, because Skype appointments are easily fit within the workday, haircuts are less scrutinized, and talking from the warmth of home brings a more relaxed atmosphere.

At the last interview, Ginnie warned them that during the next stage they would have to decide the age. In the event that they opted for a baby, one of them would have to stop working for a year, but their company would only grant them thirteen paid weeks, but London is very expensive and they do not have that much savings, but they could pull it off if they moved to a cheaper flat, but moving is a sign of inconsistency and the adoption agency demands rock-solid stability, but maybe with government assistance, but all this would only be affordable for Sir Elton Hercules John himself.

In the next interview, they will have to talk about why they want to adopt. That’s what Ginnie tells them, as well as the date and time, which they confirm immediately. Adrien grumbles and walks back inside; Phil prefers to do his grumbling on the balcony and searches and searches for a slightly less hackneyed reason that he can give. Before leaving the breeze on the balcony, Phil takes one last look outside and feels a certain friction between the overwhelming inactivity of those streets (where nothing seems to be happening) and the elation of the imminent change that will come in weeks, months, a year? Unlike the world out there, their lives are filled with speed and excitement.

Today it’s Adrien’s turn to cook and, since he knows that Phil tends to melancholy, and that he misses the nights out in Camden, he has prepared fish and chips, just like at Poppies, accompanied by a pint of beer and the best songs from his favorite bar, The Hawley Arms, temporarily closed, but reopening today only in a nondescript London home. To avoid dwelling on Ginnie’s questions and the fears, expectations and challenges of parenthood, they catch up on how telecommuting is going: Adrien has been putting together a hummus commercial for the Luxembourg market, and Phil has been collecting drawings from their friends’ kids to appear on the television channel where he works. As their social life extends only to their counterpart, the conversation chosen for this special evening soon peters out, and they cannot prevent the future from returning to their lips, and they find themselves talking of when the three of them will go to Mantes-la-Jolie to visit Adrien’s parents, of what a good example Phil’s loving goddaughter, Lily, will be, when they visit Petrópolis to officially present the new member of the family, of the living room dance sessions to the rhythm of the Spice Girls.

Every night—even Camden nights—the couple watches a show, and today they’re in luck: they have a new episode of one of their favorites. But at six minutes and sixteen seconds, Adrien is already sound asleep, as usual, so Phil has to resign himself to finishing Killing Eve tomorrow, because he knows the moral code of their sacred union has some immutable tenets and thus that he cannot watch even one more scene by himself. More nocturnal by nature, Phil still has a long time before exhaustion will set in.

Since Friends doesn’t do anything for Adrien, Phil spends two episodes stifling his laughter at every single joke, even though he knows them by heart. Between jokes, he glances out of the corner of his eye at his husband, who, when he sleeps, overflows with tenderness and seems centuries younger. Little by little, he curls up next to him, and Adrien’s body turns automatically to snuggle up, as if magnetized within the sleepy inertia of his idyll. At that moment, as every night, Phil falls asleep with the absolute certainty that their bodies fit perfectly, and he remembers Colinho and Prudencenha and Freddinho and Daisynha, and his eyelids surrender to nostalgia for the future.

{Translated by Adam Lischinsky}

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More tales of the pandemic based on real stories at
Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
by Patricia Martín Rivas

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

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