The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cleavage Meets Desire - Apartment Sold

My home for 7 years, and it all began like this.

On a sunny autumn afternoon in Lisbon I was leaning against a pinkish 8-floor apartment building waiting for the real estate woman with a promising telephone voice.

Earlier in the morning I had driven the Toyota pickup truck to the University Campus, parked in a dusty eucalyptus stand turned into a parking lot, and then took the subway to the Rossio Square. 

Downtown, sitting at one of the colorful outdoor cafés, I watched a two-way stream of faces, bodies and attires that contrasted with the quiet beach town where I had lived for five years. It was like being in a film in which something dramatic is about to happen. Sometimes a young woman shot me a look, but nothing materialized except the fantasies in my head. Being alone in a city is like that.

By the time the waiter took my money, the empty beer glass and the sandwich dish, the big-city novelty was already fading and the faces in the crowd were losing their mystery. I walked down Rua Augusta - a beautifully cobbled wide street for pedestrians lined with upscale shops - until the next intersection where I waited for streetcar 28 going west to Campo de Ourique.

The old streetcar jolted and clanked snaking along narrow streets of old quarters where pedestrians, looking more like villagers that city dwellers, walked the narrow sidewalks hugging old plastered walls trimmed in stone blackened by diesel exhaust. 

Back on the main street, the streetcar picked up speed, then labored up a hill past the parliament building and onto a flat open area. I saw the Jardim da Estrela park to the right and the massive white-stone Basilíca da Estrela church on the other side of the street

It was still early when the streetcar stopped in front of the park, and I got off on impulse.

Here's a link to a video of streetcar 28 to the sound of Fado music.

Estrela Garden in Lisbon
Jardim da Estrela Park
Near the entrance gate there was a glassed café and restaurant. Most of the tables next to the duck pond shaded by large trees were occupied with patrons eating lunch in the company of pigeons and sparrows looking for fallen crumbs and scraps.

Breathing the scent of foliage and flowers, the spring sunshine warming my body, I recalled the real estate woman's voice over the phone as I walked the main path past old people on park benches, teenage couples entwined on the grass, two more gate entrances, another duck pond and back to where I had started. 

I then followed the streetcar tracks leading to Campo de Ourique, which struck me as a picturesque town within a city. Sooner than I thought, I was facing a fairly modern pinkish building with its own square on a street running all the way down to the Tagus riverside. 

I was thirsty by now and drank a mineral water at the counter of the small café on the ground floor. Then I went outside and leaned against the wall in the warm sun.

When a woman pulled into the parking lot in a black Audi A3, glanced in my direction and double parked unhesitatingly, I knew it was her. She walked briskly toward me wearing a knee-length black skirt, matching blazer and a white blouse. As she got closer I noted that she was petite, even in high heels, and her light complexion contrasted appealingly with her wavy black hair.

“Are you Mr. Horacio?” she asked.

I said yes with a quick glance at her push-up bra cleavage that revealed more than what you’d expect from a real estate saleswoman who looked five or six years older than me.

She introduced herself as Julia and we shook hands. After some small talk, we went inside and took the elevator to the third floor. I stood towering over her as she searched for the key in her bag, opened the door and then politely ushered me in with a smile and a sweep of her arm.

First she showed me the small dreary bathroom with an electric water heater bolted onto the wall above the head of the bathtub.

"It's a shame about the bathroom," she said shrugging her shoulders, "otherwise, it's such a lovely apartment."

It didn't take long to see the unfurnished one-bedroom apartment that, in addition to the bathroom, had an unusually large bedroom, a dining/living area and a narrow kitchen leading to the balcony overlooking the square. 

As I looked out the window at the buildings and cars parked everywhere, I began to have second thoughts about this whole Lisbon business. In any case, this was temporary, just another stepping stone on a directionless escapade. The real hesitation was whether I wanted to live in a city at all, even for a short period.

"It's an excellent opportunity for the price, wouldn't you say?" she broke the silence in that upbeat manner salespeople put on to drum up enthusiasm.

"Perhaps," I replied vaguely, looking at a stain of red lipstick on her upper teeth before she closed her lips.

"And as for the bathroom," she went on looking into my eyes, "I can recommend someone who'll do a excellent job for a reasonable price."

"But the water heater over the bathtub, now that's a problem," I said smiling, planning to use it to my advantage.

"Vá lá, there's a solution for everything," she patted me on the arm playfully. "Let's have another look."

We stood in the small dreary bathroom staring at the large water heater bolted over the bathtub.

"Do you prefer to shower or to bathe?" she asked.

"I prefer showering."

"That's perfect. The bathroom needs to be renovated anyway, so you can throw out the tub and divide the space into a shower stall and a heater compartment," she said and ran her fingers lightly over the inside of my lower arm.

"Perhaps," I said, feeling the effect of her touch.

"And you can also use the heater compartment for storage," she added, her voice noticeably huskier, and touched my back just above the waist.

"Is it wide enough?" I asked, really feeling it now as we stood very close.

"Of course it is." she said and quickly glanced down at me.

"Maybe it would be large enough for you, but I don't know about me," I said and felt her arm brush mine as we seemed to lean toward each other.

"Can I step into the bathtub just to get an idea?" I asked, no longer concerned with my growing condition.

"Of course, please do."

I stepped into the bathtub with a chuckle. "I'll pretend I'm showering," I said playfully and went through the motions.

"You'll get your clothes all wet," she laughed.

"It will probably be a little tight," I said, "It's hard to tell without a real wall."

"I'll be the wall," she volunteered, kicked off her shoes and stepped into the bathtub laughing embarrassed.

She positioned herself like a partition close to the heater, facing me. Her chest heaved slightly when she said "Now try it."

And I did.

Julia showed me the apartment two more times before I bought it. We also went for dinner a few times, until it became clear that a divorced woman with two children and a wannabe writer live in very distinct realms.

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