Throughout the mid-90s, José continued to play and make progress with his guitar. While also frequenting the nightspots where he could find those lost souls closest to his own.
José had an exceptional music teacher. Silvano was considered one of the best in the country, or even in the world. To be sure, in José’s world, there was no doubt.
Silvano’s mother died when he was still young. As he got older, he would use all his accumulated suffering to atone for the sacrifices he would demand of his hands.
After he reached the first peak of recognition for his work, it would be just a matter of time until he became a universal legend on classical guitar. However, instead of growing more famous, he only grew fatter.
José well remembered the day he understood why his master did not wish to go further. Perhaps, ironically, it was at that same moment he decided to give up his guitar lessons.
José hated the day more and more. Only night brought him comfort. The light, the sound of the streets, its excesses — of energy in some cases or hysteria in others — he found simply unbearable.
He did, however, find occasional pleasures. Sitting in the “tascas,”* writing down whatever came to his head on their white paper tablecloths. Or simply listening to the music playing there. These became his golden moments.
He devoted less and less time to his studies. To be honest, he had never devoted much time to them. And not surprisingly, the years started moving past the enrollment he had never changed since his first year.
*Tascas are typical Portuguese taverns – dimly lit, with traditional food and drink, and frequented by old people and artists.
For José, everything was always fine, at least on the surface. Any less-than-positive comment or remark was always taken with a smile, and a, “Don’t worry be happy*” answer.
His mother, as well as his friends, worried that he was becoming unable to manage his life, unsure of the dividing line between the crazy and the prudent. But it was not an easy conversation to have. As José had no idea where exactly that frontier was.
As a result, his connection to the world surrounding him changed little. Except for the new songs he learned to play. And as a result, the new girlfriends — or those a step down from that category – he attracted with each new tune.
It was enough to look at the photos that kept changing on the glass-top of the desk in his room to realise how his repertoire was growing.
When he attempted to understand the concerns of those around him, he was baffled by their lack of curiosity about life and what it had in store for each of them.
So to avoid their continuous complaints, he gave serious to serious matters. Finishing college. Finding a serious job. Earning a serious salary.
But just the idea of having to do all this made him feel short of breath. And in that very instant of panic, he would stand up and walk around trying to wake himself from that nightmare.
The lives that paraded around him all seemed wounded by an even greater evil. People who never realised their arms could give them flight. Because they felt only the gravity of cement blocks on their feet.
It made him remember his high school teacher explaining the inescapable downward force gravity exerts on us. But it always seemed to him an enormous conspiracy meant to keep everyone in line.
* "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a song by musician Bobby McFerrin. Released in September 1988, it became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. The song's title is taken from a famous quote by Meher Baba. The original music video stars Robin Williams and Bill Irwin. The "instruments" in the a cappella song are entirely overdubbed voice parts and other sounds made by McFerrin, using no instruments at all. In one of his favourite spots, Esboço, located in Alfama*, he ran into old university colleagues. Here, a favourite place for new talent, they had their first painting and sculpture exhibitions.
Opposite the table where he was sitting, was a large canvas that took up the entire wall.
To the sound of East-West**, José tried to understand the composition before him, but as hard as he tried, he couldn’t make any sense it.
From one end to the other, each image was repeatedly questioned by the next one.
He loved that painting.
He asked at the counter if the painting was for sale. It was. But there was no way he could afford it.
He loved that painting. It fascinated him.
* Alfama - Is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the Castle of Lisbon and the Tejo (Tagus??) river. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning fountains or baths.
** East-West is the second album by The Butterfield Blues Band, released in 1966 on Elektra Records, EKS. It was recorded at the famed Chess Studios on 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It peaked at #65 on the Billboard pop albums chart. The tune was inspired by an all-night LSD trip that "East-West"’s primary songwriter Mike Bloomfield experienced in the fall of 1965, during which the late guitarist "said he’d had a revelation into the workings of Indian music.