Yesterday I met one of the most interesting women I've ever had the privilege of knowing. One of those people we only see in the cinema, but yesterday she magically appeared before me.

I was sitting at a table in one of those typical cafés of Lisbon, lost in all the excitement characteristic of a late afternoon and completely absorbed in a piece of paper, in which I was writing something. Suddenly, and without noticing it, an eighty-year old woman sat at the table next to me.

“Do you usually write in cafés, young man?” I was confused. Not only because that’s not something I usually do, but also because I didn’t look at what I was doing as true writing. Just a few random thoughts, disjointed and impulsive.

“I did that for many years. Right now I don’t need paper anymore, I keep all inside here.” She took her hand to the forehead. In front of her was a small cup with black coffee and a small cake of puff pastry.

“Can I ask your age, young man?” I’ve just turned twenty-seven, I answered. I never liked this question. For some people I’m too young, for others, just too old. And on top of that, I did not feel free to satisfy my curiosity in this case.

“You look younger, I’m telling you.” This was the first compliment of the conversation. I like to be praised, and this one was particularly good, coming from an old being, yet very decent. She seemed wise.

“During my life I wrote a lot, and especially a lot of crap. More in German than in Portuguese, I think." Okay, I admit, I was extremely curious. I asked her why.

“Oh, I thought you would never ask!”, she says proudly. “I’m half German, half Portuguese.” I then revealed her I also had lived in Berlin for one year. I never liked to end in second place, when it comes to self-praise.

“I know it very well. It is an ugly city, even aggressive, but still wonderful. And, above all, very rich, all sewn.” I wouldn’t have said it better. Who knows Berlin has a relationship between love and hate, although it might be rare to happen between people and cities.

“I love the Germans, so spiritual, introspective and philosophical. Do you know any German philosophers? Are you familiar with Kant, Nietzche, Heidegger?” I’ve studied the last one, I answer timidly. “Oh so you know Heidegger? How come? Do not tell me you are an Architect!” I chose to be honest, and I told her that was true, even when I wasn’t having the best feeling.

“I know plenty of them. Strange people, very charming though. And very sensitive. Are you sensitive?” I didn’t know what to respond, I even blushed. She understood the red tone of my skin, as she changed the subject.

“So young, yet already graduated. I have three degrees, you know: the first one was in Advanced Studies in English and German, of course. I traveled extensively throughout Europe to complete my studies. I know French as well, but that’s another story, much more interesting!” My spontaneous laugh made her look directly to me. Behind the lens of the glasses, her blue eyes revealed the complicity of being understood.

“Well, after that I took Economics and Finance. I always thought that if we know Economics, we are able to help the World. And finally I attended Law School, because I was tired of being cheated. I finished it last year” She passed her all life studying, I thought out loud. “Not all my life son. Just until today!” I became bothered by my reflection.

“But I worked a lot, as well. In big corporations, in Public institutions and I was a teacher for eighteen years.” I noticed teaching was important for her. Once more, her eyes were sincere.

“You know, as teacher I was able to understand that we should not require more from people than what they can give us. But we can always demand more from us to help those people.” I did not understand what she meant, but she carried on. “For instance, once I told my students Hitler had socialist ideas. Some people were very disturbed. Later, I discovered that two girls from that class were orphans from the Great War.” I finally understood what was going on there. I too, met some of the sons and daughters of Germany. Not from the War, but from the Separation. Some of them saw an orange for the first time when they were eighteen years old.

“But you know that the political party led by Hitler, the Nationalsozialismus, was concerned to rescue Germany from misery! I have never understood how, in the midst of such people as the Germans, was hidden a man with that ferocity and meanness.” I tell her that the main problem about the Germans, are themselves. I read this in some book, though I do not admit that. I wanted to seem smarter.

“That’s true, young man! The German people are odd, armor-plated. They never treat us as a friend, but an acquaintance. Das ist nicht mein Freund, das ist mein Bekannte. But if we break the armor, there stands a friend for life." I recognized that. It took me time to make friends in Berlin. But I eventually succeeded.

“The Germans have difficulty in being happy. They are a restless people. Are you happy, young man?" There it was, the question about happiness. It stalks me like a vulture, ready to devour my stomach to the minimum setback. I told her that I have moments of happiness.

“Well, of course. Did you think happiness was a continuous line? It’s a line, of course, but dashed. Do you know my trick to be happy? Finding the pleasure among small things. Forget the great idealisms, they are cumbersome and lead to frustration. We cannot change the World all at once. But we can have little pleasures every day.” My eyes glazed in hers, and that should have bothered her. She stood still and looked at me. Then, smiled.

“I like talking with you. You don’t talk much, but you seem to understand what I’ve been telling you. What’s your name?” I answered. “You are named after a Saint, you knew that?” I said I did. “You are a Catholic as well?” I said I had been. “But you have got faith, that I can tell. Religion does not matter. What matters is believing, which sometimes becomes really hard.” I know that well, thank you. I know that well.

“Well, young Tiago, I’m going home now. Bach expects me. I come here everyday, at this time. This is the time of doom.” She laughs and approaches to whisper: "You know that this cafe is the cheapest in the neighborhood? I have already compared the prices of everything. The cakes are also smaller, though." I see the whisper as a secret, and I decide not to comment.

“Please do comeback one of these days. We have a lot to talk about.” She looked to the old mirror and fixed her hat, with a colored feather on top. Then, she left.

I didn’t have time to answer that I wanted to come back. Maybe I will.


  1. Tiago que história tão gira!!! Nem imaginas o gozo que me deu lê-la...
    Até a mim me apetece tomar um café, na hora da desgraça...

  2. Obrigado Tia!

    Fico contente não só que leia e se interesse pelo meu blog, como que goste daquilo que escrevo!

    Um beijinho

  3. o fantástico desta escrita é que por dez minutos conseguimos sair da secretária e voar realmente, até uma esplanada lisboeta, o cheiro a outono e a folhas, a luz do sol entre as árvores, o sabor do café... e o brilho nos olhos dessa mulher sábia.
    tens o dom da palavra.