It was early dawn, the dirt road crossed the sunflower field in the Uruguay countryside and Federico thought about paths that lead to nowhere. He couldn’t tell for sure if what he trod upon with his leather trainers was made of light dirt or sand. It was Luiza who spoke of dirt, and she was much more into nature than he was, since he was born at the capital city. When Federico announced the day of their departure, Luiza asked if they could leave the house early in the morning—that house where they had lived together for so many years—so they could spend some time there before the long journey.

She walked ahead of him, the dress pressed against the body by both hands, the sandals hanging from her left index finger, the red highlights in her hair blowing in the wind. She turned to her husband and, while pressing her feet firmly on the ground, as if she were trying to bury them, she said: “In São Paulo there won't be sunflowers.”

Federico kept walking without answering her, until she repeated, raising her voice:

“In São Paulo there won't be sunflowers.”

He held a slow pace, a well-tempered voice, “We'll buy sunflowers every day. There is a flower shop next to the supermarket I told you about, downstairs from our future apartment.”

“There won't be a field.”

“It will be good for you. Their professionals are better than the ones we have here.” He got closer to his wife.

“There are better doctors in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, anywhere else smaller than São Paulo.”

“But that’s where I got a job that pays enough to—” He regreted what he was about to say. Luiza stared at him with teary eyes, trembling chin. He embraced her and touched her long hair. “Everything is going to be fine.”
They remained in each other’s arms until the sun rose behind the grassy hill on the other side of the highway.

“Let's go now, Luiza.”

“I will stay here for a few minutes more,” She let go of her husband’s arms. Federico remained at the same place. “Go. I am able to stay here by myself, please,” He didn't move. “Please, Federico. Don’t you trust me?”

“I trust you,” he answered calmly, as if he meant it, and walked slowly back to the car.

The automobile parked at the plain field after the shoulder on the road, under the crown of the carob tree, had its backseat filled up to the top by cardboard boxes closed with tape. Federico decided to make some space in order to see through the rear-view mirror. Organizing things always made him less nervous. After repositioning the “fragile” box and the one labelled “crayons/brushes,” he closed the back door and looked for the stuff stacked inside. He thought the void he was felling was hunger.

He made himself comfortable on the car seat, ready to drive. Two blue butterflies whirled around in front of the windshield. At the field, a yellow lining spread itself until it met the horizon. At some spots, the morning light gave a golden hue to the thin layer of mist above the sunflowers. Federico didn't believe in beauty anymore; he just wanted to get out of there. He thought she was taking too long, but he didn't want to go back to the neighboring road. Luiza would get nervous if she noticed he was nervous  And he would be even more nervous if he realized that she didn’t realize anything, not even where they were. Each time he left her by herself, he was afraid to go back and discover she didn’t know anything anymore.

Luiza slept until border with Brazil, where they had lunch. The wind had stopped blowing and the ruthless sun reduced shadows to almost nothing. The cicadas were calling for the siesta, but the couple could not stop. They were passing through Rosário do Sul when the wife seemed very agitated. The husband thought it was better to give her medication early. He needed to drive in peace until late at night, until he got tired, until he could find a cheap and safe place to spend the night. He took the pill bottle from his shirt pocket and shook it in the air. She sighed deeply, looked down and did as she was told.

“Are you ashamed of me?”

“You're paranoid. We've already talked about it.”

“If you are not ashamed of me, why are we running away?”

“We are not running away. We're going to a place where people will treat you well in streets, a place where doctors are professionals, not your old friends or buddies from the club.”

“Are you ashamed of me?”

Federico punched the steering wheel. Two blue butterflies whirled in front of the windshield.

“Luiza, please. I'm loosing my patience.”

“Don't yell at me,” she said almost crying.

He took three deep breaths, held her hand, and spoke as if he were talking to a child, “I didn't want to yell, I wanted you to listen to me.”

She didn't say a word. She took the notepad and started to draw. He kept the same tone. “What are you drawing, sweetheart?”

“The sunflowers.”

“We're going to frame it. Van Gogh painted a lot of sunflowers.” 

“Yes, he did.” She looked at her husband, who could not face her. “Van Gogh would understand me quite well. We could be good friends,” she kept looking at her husband, who could still nor face her.

“Yes, you could be good friends.”

By nightfall, right before Cruz Alta, they stopped at a convenience store that should have been nice and clean some decades ago. There was only soda and packaged snacks for sale. The packages were greasy. Next to the fridge, a skinny rooster walked over something that once was a pool table. Newspaper was spread out on the floor, surrounding old buckets that had probably been placed underneath leaks in the ceiling. The railroad that led to Santa Maria could be seen through the backdoor. Luiza staggered groggily through the store until she reached the restroom. Federico felt guilty when he thought she really fit in well in that place. He felt guilty when he realized that he could go back to the car by himself, put it in first gear, and take off skidding over the gravel that covered the lot in front of that pigsty to take the highway without looking back.

He went outside to get some fresh air. Two boys were stoning a one-eyed scabby dog. Luiza was back a few minutes later. She yawned twice, her eyes were half-closed. They got into the vehicle slowly and headed north.

After a few kilometers, they came across an old, beat-up freight train. It was going in the opposite direction on the railroad that bordered the road on the left-hand side of the car. Behind the wagons, which passed by slowly, the sun was setting big and red. Luiza slept while hugging her drawings and, for a few minutes, Federico believed everything was going to be alright.

LEILA DE SOUZA TEIXEIRA was born in Passo Fundo, State of Rio Grande do Sul, in 1979. She graduated from Law School at the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University.

Interested in literature, she pursued the Additional Certification in Creative Writing at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul and participated in several literary workshops.

She has short stories publishes in collections, such as Inventário das delicadezas (2007, “Inventory of Courtesies”) and Outras mulheres (2010, “Other Women”), as well as VOX Magazine (2011) organized by the Euvaldo Lodi Institute (IEL), Rio Grande do Sul Branch. She is also the creator and curator of the Vereda Literária, an annual event that discusses literature and takes place a few days of the Porto Alegre Book Fair.

Em que coincidentemente se reincide (2012, "That Which Coincidently Relapses"), her first individual book, is a game of mirrors, in which one story complements the other and gives it new meaning. Death, illness, relationship, war, and artistic creation: everything happens in cycles that are repeated and reflected, despite not being identical.

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