The Sorrel

The hand on the knob closed the door slowly. It is at a gallop that one leaves. Trot sorrel, gracefully as the cavalry in a civic parade. The grating of the old door hinge gave the goodbye a taste of prosaic daily life. He had never put a single drop of oil on the door’s hinge. She had never forgiven him for it. He had never understood why she was so disturbed by such banalities. She had never known why he couldn't accomplish such a simple task.

He walked two steps facing the door, his back to the street. He heard the key utter the final word in the separation process. Slow movement. As a horse that halts, stomps its leg, raises its neck and sways its mane, and begins a new trot. He went down the stairs to the empty street, as if the world had drawn itself back to allow him to run the pastures where the dry grass does not appease the hunger. Here, horsey! Don’t go missing the trail that starts at the end of love.

Running through roads. Through this one, through another, a third and a fourth. There are no limits even though the number of existing roads is limited. His commitment: to roam through the roads, to roam for the sake of roaming. Inventing the roads. In that moment, freedom was disguised as helplessness. Horses march to streams when someone takes off their saddle. The stream of men is the bar. He would not go to the bar.

Love is gone because there is a creaking sound at the door’s hinge. Love is gone in a stained dress shirt in the weekly laundry. Love does a somersault and falls on its bottom where there is no ground. Love, this childish game.

The street is not empty any longer and he crosses the sidewalk absent-mindedly. Inside him incredible scenes start to pile up. Love is a comedy written by an inexperienced comedian. There’s a hint of slapstick, but this is not the worst. The comedian thinks he can make one laugh at the horrifying everyday banalities. The door creaks. The shirt ends up as a cleaning rag.

Two young women pass by him. He can hear one of them say: “I’m crazy about Vinny”. If he could, he would tell her that someday Vinny will not take proper care of the matters of their house. Even she will not take proper care of the matters of their house. And those things will lethally hurt desire and complacency, the pillars of love. No, he will not tell her; certainly, he will not tell her. This would be like spreading words in the wind. Men and women were made to be led into temptation and to be deceived by the confidence trick implicit in the idea of love. Of minute love, without claims of being eternal.

The girls go; the horse stays and takes shelter in the shade. With a sway of the tail, he scares away the flies. He blinks his eyes. The horse, after work, free in the pastures, instead of growing quiet begins trotting again, sometimes he bolts . It is the horse’s fate. If it were not for the fences the horse would go far away. Would he?

The streets fill up with people during their lunch break. In the house he used to live up until not long ago, the poorly maintained pans, dirty pots, broken wooden spoons e so many other run-down utensils will be in full swing. The children need to go to school. The wife has to pay her parents a visit, tell them what happened. She will march as a mare. Even she, forlorn but strong, able to carry the weight of the world over her shoulders. Her parents, already old, will not understand the situation. Another woman? No. Then why? She will not be able to explain: you know, he never oiled the door hinges and the creaking sound of the opening and closing, day and night, was wearing me out. The children, suspicious, could no longer sleep. She will not be able to explain anything. There is nothing to be said but between the two of them. They never said anything to each other – and they never will.

He balks by the wall at the square. He crosses his legs. Men are nothing but this; their gestures – and their silence. Only trifles compared to what they could be. He feels like calling out the old man in a dark suit and asking him if there is anything the years teach. (May he not hear the word solace). In fact, he will not hear a word. The man must live withdrawn.
New streets. Streets with trees. With eroded sidewalks. With children playing. Dead-end streets. What do they tell us, the dead-end streets? They ask us to come in, to move toward the wall, to touch the wall with our hands and return to the beginning, which now is the exit of the dead-end street.

He will not have the chance to go back and ask for forgiveness. To go back from the market and say he bought “the oil”. Two drops and all the doors of the world fall in profound silence. More: the shirts regain their first lushness. Miraculous oil, the liquid of love.

Love is a creation. A darn expensive electronic toy made for a few. For men and women that are still to be created. The game before the gamer. The rib before Adam.

Everything that passes through his mind comes and goes. Uncertainties are nourishing grass for his hunger. He goes up and down the street. He crosses bridges, squares and one of the streets on only one foot as if playing hopscotch. As if playing.

The moon takes its place in the sky. The city withdraws; it is as if everyone was giving him the chance to ride on this immense meadow, the space of the loveless ones. And that is what he does. He dashes off. His hoofs break the silence, but still there is no one attracted to the never-ending clacking to lean out of a window.

He halts his frantic race and looks up, straight to the sky. The black sky. He takes from the sky a nicker of a wild colt. It echoes, but does not break the crystal of the lives kept in peaceful misery with silent hinges and impeccable dress shirts. Men and women, ready to embrace ordinary life in silent acquiescence, carry on. They all do.

Everyone but the horse. Not him anymore, now tired in the darkness of the night.

ALEXANDRE BRANDÃO is a writer from the state of Minas Gerais who now lives in Rio de Janeiro. 

He is the author of No osso: crônicas selecionadas [In the Bone: Selected Narratives], with stories from his blog by the same name, as well as A câmera e a pena [The Camera and the Feather], Estão todos aqui [Everyone is Here], Contos de homem [Male Short Stories], and Qual é, solidão? [What's Up, Loneliness?]. 

Alexandre won the Bolsa de Autores and Funarte awards in 2000 and is one of the writers for the group Estilingues, which has been publishing books independently.

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