Authors: Paulo Coelho
Tags: #Romance, #Literary, #Fiction, #Visionary & Metaphysical, #General
And what caused your depression?
“Nothing in particular. But why so many questions? Are you feeling depressed, too?”
Of course not!
Best to change the subject.
We talk about the politician I’m going to interview in a couple days’ time. He’s an ex-boyfriend of mine from high school who probably doesn’t even remember that we once exchanged a few kisses and that he touched my breasts.
My friend is thrilled. I, on the other hand, try not to think about anything, keeping my reactions set to automatic.
Apathy. I haven’t yet reached that stage. I’m still at the complaining one, but I imagine that soon—in a matter of months, days, or hours—a complete lack of interest will set in that will be very hard to dispel.
It feels like my soul is slowly leaving my body and heading
off to an unknown place, some “safe” place where it doesn’t have to put up with me and my night terrors. It’s as if I weren’t sitting in an ugly Japanese restaurant with delicious food, experiencing everything as though it were just a scene in a film I’m watching, without wanting—or being able—to stop it.
up and perform the usual rituals—brushing my teeth, getting dressed for work, going into the children’s bedroom to wake them up, making breakfast for everyone, smiling, and saying how good life is. In every minute and gesture I feel a weight I can’t identify, like an animal who can’t quite understand how it got caught in the trap.
My food has no taste. My smile, on the other hand, grows even wider so that no one will suspect, and I swallow my desire to cry. The light outside seems gray.
Yesterday’s conversation did no good at all; I’m starting to think that I’m headed out of the indignant phase and straight into apathy.
And does no one notice?
Of course not. After all, I’m the last person in the world to admit that I need help.
This is my problem; the volcano has exploded and there’s no way to put the lava back inside, plant some trees, mow the grass, and let the sheep out to graze.
I don’t deserve this. I’ve always tried to meet everyone’s expectations. But now it’s happened and I can’t do anything about it except take medication. Perhaps today I’ll come up with an excuse to write an article about psychiatry and social security (the newspaper loves that kind of thing) and find a good psychiatrist to ask for help. I know that’s not ethical, but then not everything is.
I don’t have an obsession to occupy my mind—for example, dieting or being OCD and finding fault with the cleaning lady who arrives at eight in the morning and leaves at five in the afternoon, having washed and ironed the clothes, and tidied the house, and, sometimes, having even done the shopping,
too. I can’t vent my frustrations by trying to be Supermom, because my children would resent me for the rest of their lives.
I go off to work and again see the neighbor polishing his car. Wasn’t he doing that yesterday?
Unable to resist, I go over and ask him why.
“It wasn’t quite perfect,” he says, but only after having said “Good morning,” asking about the family, and noticing what a pretty dress I’m wearing.
I look at the car. It’s an Audi—one of Geneva’s nicknames is, after all, Audiland. It looks perfect, but he shows me one or two places where it isn’t as shiny as it should be.
I draw out the conversation and end up asking what he thinks people are looking for in life.
“Oh, that’s easy enough. Being able to pay their bills. Buying a house like yours or mine. Having a garden full of trees. Having your children or grandchildren over for Sunday lunch. Traveling the world once you’ve retired.”
Is that what people want from life? Is it really? There’s something very wrong with this world, and it isn’t just the wars going on in Asia or the Middle East.
Before I go to the newspaper, I have to interview Jacob, my ex-boyfriend from high school. Not even that cheers me up. I really am losing interest in things.
to facts about government policy that I didn’t even want to know. I ask a few awkward questions, which he deftly dodges. He’s a year younger than me, but he looks five years older. I keep this thought to myself.
Of course, it’s good to see him again, although he hasn’t yet asked me what’s happened in my life since we each went our own way after graduation. He’s entirely focused on himself, his career, and his future, while I find myself staring foolishly back at the past as if I were still the adolescent who, despite the braces on my teeth, was the envy of all the other girls. After a while, I stop listening and go on autopilot. Always the same script, the same promises—reducing taxes, combating crime, keeping the French (the so-called cross-border workers who are taking jobs that Swiss workers could fill) out. Year after year, the issues are the same and the problems continue unresolved because no one really cares.
After twenty minutes of conversation, I start to wonder if my lack of interest is due to my strange state of mind. No. There is nothing more tedious than interviewing politicians. It would have been better if I’d been sent to cover some crime or another. Murderers are much more real.
Compared to representatives of the people anywhere else on the planet, ours are the least interesting and the most insipid. No one wants to know about their private lives. Only two things create a scandal here: corruption and drugs. Then it takes on gigantic proportions and gets wall-to-wall coverage because there’s absolutely nothing else of interest in the newspapers.
Does anyone care if they have lovers, go to brothels, or come out as gay? No. They continue doing what they were
elected to do, and as long as they don’t blow the national budget, we all live in peace.
The president of the country changes every year (yes, every year) and is chosen not by the people, but by the Federal Council, a body comprising seven ministers who serve as Switzerland’s collective head of state. Every time I walk past the museum, I see endless posters calling for more plebiscites.
The Swiss love to make decisions—the color of our trash bags (black came out on top), the right (or not) to carry arms (Switzerland has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the world), the number of minarets that can be built in the country (four), and whether or not to provide asylum for expatriates (I haven’t kept pace with this one, but I imagine the law was approved and is already in force).
“Excuse me, sir.”
We’ve been interrupted once already. He politely asks his assistant to postpone his next appointment. My newspaper is the most important in French-speaking Switzerland and this interview could prove crucial for the upcoming elections.
He pretends to convince me and I pretend to believe him.
Then I get up, thank him, and say that I have all the material I need.
“You don’t need anything else?”
Of course I do, but it’s not up to me to tell him what.
“How about getting together after work?”
I explain that I have to pick up my children from school, hoping that he sees the large gold wedding ring on my finger declaring: “Look, the past is the past.”
“Of course. Well, maybe we can have lunch someday.”
I agree. Easily deceived, I think: Who knows, maybe he does have something of importance to tell me, some state secret that will change the politics of the country and make the editor look at me with new eyes.
He goes over to the door, locks it, then comes back and kisses me. I return his kiss, because it’s been a long time. Jacob, whom I may have once loved, is now a family man, married to a professor. And I am a family woman, married to a man who, though he inherited his wealth, is extremely hardworking.
I consider pushing him away and saying that we’re not kids anymore, but I’m enjoying it. Not only did I discover a new Japanese restaurant, I’m having a bit of illicit fun as well. I’ve managed to break the rules and the world hasn’t caved in on me. I haven’t felt this happy in a long time.
I feel better and better, braver, freer. Then I do something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was in school.
Kneeling down, I unzip his fly and wrap my mouth around his penis. He grabs my hair and controls the rhythm of my head. He comes in less than a minute.
“God, that was good.”
I say nothing. The fact is that it was far better for me than for him, since he came so quickly.
is followed by a fear of being caught.
On the way to the office, I buy a toothbrush and some toothpaste. Every half an hour or so, I go to the toilet to check that there’s nothing on my face or on my Versace shirt, intricately embroidered and perfect for hiding stains. I observe my work colleagues out of the corner of my eye, but no one has noticed (or at least none of the women, who have a special radar for these things).
Why did that happen? It was as if someone else had taken over and propelled me into a situation that was purely mechanical and non-erotic. Did I want to prove to Jacob that I’m independent, free, my own woman? Did I do that in order to impress him or in an attempt to escape what my girlfriend called “hell”?
Everything will continue as before. I’m not at any crossroads. I know where I’m going and hope that, with the passing of the years, I’ll manage to change my family’s ways so that we don’t end up thinking there’s anything special about washing the car. The really big changes happen over time, and time is something of which I have plenty.
At least I hope so.
When I get home, I try to look neither happy nor sad. The children notice at once.
“You’re acting funny today, Mom.”
I feel like saying: Yes, I did something I shouldn’t have done and yet I don’t feel the tiniest bit guilty, just afraid of being found out.
My husband gets home and, as usual, he kisses me, asks what kind of day I’ve had and what we’re having for supper. I give him the usual answers. If he doesn’t notice anything different
about the routine, he won’t suspect that today I gave oral sex to a politician.
Which, it should be said, gave me no physical pleasure at all. But now I’m mad with desire, needing a man, needing to be kissed, and needing to feel the pain and pleasure of a body on top of mine.
When we go up to bed, I realize that I’m terribly aroused. I can’t wait to make love with my husband, but I must keep calm; if I’m too eager, he’ll suspect something is wrong.
After I shower, I lie down beside him, take the tablet he’s reading from his hands and put it on the bedside table. I begin stroking his chest, and he immediately becomes aroused. We make love as we haven’t done in a long time. When I moan a little too loudly, he asks me to keep the noise down so as not to wake the children, but I tell him I don’t want to, that I want to be able to express my feelings.
I have multiple orgasms. God, I love this man! We end up sweaty and exhausted, and so I decide to take another shower. He comes in with me and playfully turns the showerhead on my clit. I ask him to stop, saying I’m too tired, that we need to sleep and he’ll just get me all excited again.
While we’re drying each other off, I suggest going to a nightclub sometime—another attempt to change my routine at all costs. I think it’s then that he suspects something has changed.
I can’t tomorrow, I have my yoga class.
“Since you’ve brought it up, can I ask a direct question?”
My heart stops. He goes on:
“Why exactly do you go to yoga classes? You’re such a
calm, well-balanced person, and a woman who knows what she wants. Aren’t you wasting your time?”
My heart starts beating again. I don’t answer. I simply smile and stroke his face.
I collapse onto the bed, close my eyes, and, before I fall asleep, think: I must be having the kind of crisis that comes after ten years of marriage. It’ll pass.
Not everyone needs to feel happy all the time. Besides, no one
be happy all the time. I need to learn to deal with the reality of life.
Dear Depression, please keep your distance. Don’t be nasty. Find some other person with more reason than me to look in the mirror and say: “What a pointless existence.” Whether you like it or not, I know how to defeat you. You’re wasting your time.
with Jacob König goes exactly as I imagine. We meet at La Perle du Lac, an expensive restaurant on the lakeshore that used to be good but is now owned by the city. It’s still expensive, but the food is awful. I could have surprised him and taken him to the Japanese restaurant, but I know he would think it was in bad taste. For some people, décor matters more than food.
And now I see that I made the right decision. He tries to show me that he’s a wine connoisseur; he talks about “bouquet,” “texture,” and “legs,” the oily drops that fall in rivulets down the side of the glass. In truth, he’s telling me that he’s grown up and no longer a schoolboy; that he’s learned how to behave and has risen in the world; that he knows about life, wine, politics, women, and ex-girlfriends.
What nonsense! We’ve been drinking wine all our lives. We can tell a good wine from a bad one, and that’s all there is to it. Until I met my husband, all the men I went out with—men who considered themselves “cultivated”—acted as if the choice of wine in a restaurant was their big moment. They all did the same thing: with great solemnity, they sniffed the cork, read the label, allowed the waiter to pour a little into the glass, turned it this way and that, held it up to the light, smelled the wine, rolled it around in their mouth, swallowed, and, finally, gave an approving nod.
After witnessing the same scene endless times, I decided to change my group of friends and join the college’s nerds and social outcasts. Unlike the fake, predictable tasters of wine, the nerds were at least real and made no attempt to impress me. They joked about things I didn’t understand. They thought, for
example, that I really ought to know the name Intel because “it’s written on every computer.” I, of course, had never noticed.
The nerds made me feel like a plain-Jane ignoramus, and were more interested in pirating things on the Internet than they were in my breasts or legs. As I got older, I returned to the safe embrace of the wine tasters until I found a man who didn’t try to impress me with his sophistication or make me feel like a complete idiot with conversations about mysterious planets, hobbits, or computer programs that erase all traces of the webpages you’ve visited. After a few months of going out, during which we discovered at least one hundred and twenty villages around Lake Léman, he asked me to marry him.