Friday, August 05, 2005

An afternoon with Mario

I once again went up the hill today to Baixa-Chiado and looked for Mario, hoping first to offer him some lunch and secondly, hoping that I could convince him to have a conversation with me on film. I searched for quite some time, but did not find him. As the afternoon grew hotter and more arid, I began to lose hope that he would be around and started toward the steps that lead back down to the center of town. As I walked toward the metro entrance, I saw him holding his sign, the one that speaks of his illness and his hope and his needs...the sign he uses as a prop when he is begging for scraps of food or drink or money.

I walked up to him and asked him if he had had lunch yet and if he would be willing to join me. He agreed, but insisted we go around the corner where people were less likely to make him unconfortable with their glares. We found a sidewalk cafe and ordered a meal. I coaxed him into eating a salad with some chicken on it and he asked for a coca cola. As we talked, I asked him if there was anything else he needed. He pointed to the heavy sweater he was wearing in the heat of the day and said that he needed a t-shirt and some money to buy a place to shower. I gave him €20. He finished his lunch and then left his wallet, his sign and his backpack with me while he went to buy a new shirt and to shower.

About an hour passed before he returned, but he did, indeed, come back. We ended up going up to the park where Paula Sousa and I had talked the day before yesterday and he and I filmed a conversation about his life with AIDS on the streets of Lisbon. His English was broken and he had more difficultly this afternoon than he had last night, but I think the image of his soul came through. I was quite moved by many of the things that he had to say, even if I made them mean things in my own mind that he had not intended. It is hard to know for sure when we don't share a common language. At one point, he asked me to put my hand on his forehead to check for a fever, and the poor fellow was burning up with heat. I asked him if he wanted to go to the doctor and he looked at me as if I had just made a huge joke.

At the moment of goodbye, we shook hands and then hugged one another. He promised me that although he might one day forget my name and what we did together today that he would never forget my face. We exchanged addresses and I left him as he went in one direction and I went in the other toward the valley below.

I hope to see him again, well and happy. Last night, he was quite depressed and claimed to be hopeless. Our conversation, he said, gave him hope. I told him that the point of my film is to get people to talk about HIV and AIDS again and through that to give hope to others.

This morning I visited "La Casa do Fado", the museum dedicated to the Portuguese musical form called "Fado" or "Fate". The songs follow a strict set of rules and are usually quite sad, speaking of "saudade", this Portuguese concept that is part homesickness, part taste, part smell, part feeling, part love, part anger, part this and part that and which can only be described by the person feeling it. It is partly that realization that we are truly alone in the world because our perceptions are not the same as someone else's. Today, I have saudade for having to leave Lisbon and my new friends here.

With hope for a new and cooler day, I will board the train tonight at 10pm to return to Madrid for one last day in the Spanish capital. Then I hope to find cooler weather in Nice upon my arrival there.



Blogger Brad said...


The 2nd edition of the International Carnival of the Pozitivities is up, including a link to this post. Be sure to check it out when you get the chance!


8/08/2006 09:14:00 PM  

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