Please, save me the waltz

Translation of a letter from Caio Fernando Abreu to Sérgio Keuchgerian.

Porto Alegre, August 10th 1985.

“… this thing that we call love, this confusing place between sex and family organization…”

Sérgio, I didn’t know how to start — so I began copying this phrase above, that Caetano Veloso said during an interview to JB, I was reading it on the way, couldn’t get rid of this idea.

Now I’m here, writing to you from my old room, that my mother maintains exactly like in the old days, as if I was ever coming back home. It’s been — how many years? — I don’t know, 15, 20 years, something like that.

It’s raining. It’s cold. It’s good to be here. So good. I feel protected. We spend time looking at old pictures, drinking wine and laughing a lot. My brother Felipe left the house dressed in a black leather outfit to “fool around with a supermarket cashier”. Márcia looks so pretty. And Rodrigo, my nephew, he’s two years old and almost doesn’t seem not to know me. I left them watching an old Beatles movie, Lennon repeating “don’t let me down” — and now I realize that my English is so precarious that I don’t remember if it is d’ont or don’t.

Tiered, tiered. I almost didn’t sleep. And I can’t get you out of my mind. I’m writing because I can’t get you out of my mind. I hesitate to say anything like forgive me or anything like that. But I want to tell you a few things. Even if I don’t see you again. I think of you with strength and affection. Axé.

You were mean, yesterday. I was mean, too. Less so to you, more to myself. Afterwards I couldn’t sleep. Tossed and turned around the house until almost 8 in the morning. I would have called you, if it wasn’t so inconvenient. I ended up calling Grace, asked for patience, cried, spoke, listened.

It wasn’t anything with you. Or almost anything. I’m so disintegrated. I spent the rest of the night facing my disintegration. I’ve put so many fears on you, so many locked up things, so much fear of rejection, so much pain. It’s difficult to explain. So many stiff stuff on the inside. Barbs. A hurry, an urgency. And a horrible compulsion to immediately break any beautiful relation that has barely started to happen. To destroy before it grows. With refinements, with voracity, with writings that come ready to me and faces that overlap each other. Not to be hurt, I lie. And also take a careful measure to hurt myself, without paying attention to see if I’m hurting others too. I did not want to do you harm. I didn’t want to make you cry. I didn’t want to demand anything from you. Why is it that Zen all of the sudden escapes and transforms itself into Sem? [meaning without, both words sound similar in Portuguese] I cannot control it.

I write to you with a lit cigarette and a cup of Boldo infusion. The writing-desk is very old, it is one of those that had a lid, looks like a piano. There’s a poster of Garcia Lorca in front of me. An enormous portrait of Virginia Woolf. And I can see on the shelves, all of the sudden, all of Proust, and a lot of Rimbaud, and Verlaine, Faulkner, Ítalo Svevo, William Blake. Some Picasso reproductions. Some Da Vinci ones. A pierrot that is so pathetic. An exoteric stone still from Stonehenge, England, a little indian box. All of my pieces here. And you don’t know me, I don’t know you.

Writing to you is an absolute necessity. I wouldn’t be able to sleep again if I didn’t write. Zelda, there’s also the only romance written by Zelda Fitzgerald, Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, that died crazy, in a fire, at an asylum. It’s called “Save me the waltz”. “Reserve-me a valsa”, isn’t it beautiful? It reminds me of Brahma, if people danced there.

Please, save me the waltz.

I fantasized. In my deranged exercise to step onto the tangible, I pretend I don’t fantasize. And I fantasize, fantasize. Until the last moment I waited for your call. I waited for you at the airport. Casablanca, last scene. All romantic letters are ridiculous [here he refers to a Fernando Pessoa poem, I’ll put a translation at the end]. That confusing place that Caetano talks about. And I was only starting to enter a state of love for you. But I didn’t allow myself, didn’t allow you, didn’t allow us. Pedro Paulo telling me in my ear “I’ve never seen this light in your eyes”.

I didn’t want to know. So artificial, so trained. I hate to hear my own voice in a tape recorder or having to see my own image in video. I sound fake for myself. The calm, the balance, the words spoken slowly, as if I was choosing them. Rarely a more spontaneous gesture or tone. I’m such a good actor that no one realizes my bad acting.

Do you understand all this?

Pause. Doorbell. The sunday paper. I go downstairs, another boldo infusion. Rubens Ewald talks about Aqueles dois, says it is excellent, talks about the “dignity and delicate treatment of the subject”. I remember Sérgio Augusto’s critic, how it hurt me inside. It’s in the past.

When I ask do-you-understand-all-this I’m not underestimating you. Oh, god, forgive me. I don’t feel any aggressiveness towards you. And I like your stories. And I like the person you are. It’s a little bit of work to decode all the contradictory emotions, confusing, adding them, subtracting them and taking this sintesis in a single word: like.

I slept three hours and woke up listening to “Quereres”, de Caetano [translation and link at the end]. I repeated it, many times, each time louder. “Ah, bruta flor do querer.” I used to argue so much with Ana Cristina César, before she welcomed death (rightly? I still ask myself that, I’ll never know the answer): our pampered & neurotic need to elaborate suffering and rejection and bitterness and small daily melodramas to afterwards sit Tormented & Lonelly to write Beautiful Literary Texts.

The writer is one of the most neurotic creatures there are: he doesn’t know how to live in real life, he lives through reflexes, mirrors, images, words. The non-real, the non-palpable. You used to say “what a difference between you and one of your books”. I’m not what I write or am, but in many different ways. Some of them are weird.

There’s no subtext to what I write here. I don’t think it is nice for us to disperse like this, that’s it. Find, loose and nothing else, never more, it’s too urban — and I grew up practically in the countryside, until my 15 years in the countryside, sky and fields. I don’t know if we can continue to be friends. I don’t know if at any time I got to see you completly as Another Person, or, all the time, as A Possibility to Solve My Neediness. I’m trying to be clean and honest. A possibility that I needed to devour or destroy. Because I still haven’t mastered this discipline, this macrobiotic of the feelings, this frugality of the emotions.

I’m imbued with passion. I have not been for a long time.

And all of this plague, my friend. What has been keeping me alive today is the illusion or the hope of this thing, “this confusing place”, the Love someday. And all of the sudden it is forbidden. I’ve been feeling too bad seeing my capacity for love being destroyed, prohibited, forbidden, at 36 years old, so little. I still haven’t even lived. And I’m not even promiscuous. Of a romanticism not post, but pre everything — of a romanticism that demands sexuality and love together. Never got it. Some glimpses, visions of splendor. I ask myself if until my death — could it be? Could it be love this neediness and this search for love, never finding the actual thing?

From my heterosexualities, two dead children, nothing remained. From my homosexualities, this slow panic and immense solitude. The times are so grave. I came to get some energy. Yes. I need to see the land, I need the pampas’ horizon. It is already acting on me, my shoulders are relaxed. I looked in the mirror and that line between my eyebrows is gone.

I don’t want to become a heavy, frustrated, bitter person. I’ll not be like that. So I hesitate, slip and virgo’s obsession with perfection and libra’s aesthetics of the next day tell me “what a shame, what a shame, what a shame”.

I could say I had/we had drank too much. I could say that I was really afraid of coming to Porto Alegre. I could tell you about my last few months, eight, ten, twelve hours a day on the typewriter, talking to almost no one. To myself, sometimes. Singing also. All of this, if I had told you, could maybe have helped to ease your pain.

All of the sudden it crosses my mind that you might be hating all of this and finding it long and tearful and confusing. But I don’t want to be ashamed of anything I might be able to feel. I try not to be scared by the idea that the time here is short, that I’ll go back to São Paulo and might never see you again. I know I don’t get too scared, and face everything, and rebuild the pieces, we embellish or day-to-day — it all will arrange itself. All but death.

But from all of this, I’ll stay with so much good stuff… A nice memory of you, a will to take better care of myself, to be better to me and to everybody else. A will not to die, not to suffocate, to keep feeling enchantment for someone else that the future will bring, because it always does, and then not to repeat any behaviour. To be new.

When I tell you about the age, when I tell you about the time, and we didn’t have time — I wanted to talk to you about Chronos, Saturn, the turn around the Zodiac when you turn 30 years old. Your star is very bright, you have good signs on your forehead. I understand your Pluto and your Moon trapped at house XII — emotions and passions imprisoned -, and also Uranus, every impulse blocked. In the same house, the house of Karma, the one of the spirits that suffer most, I also have the Sun, Mercury and Neptune. We are very much alike, in completely different ways: we are astoundingly alike. And I think this is the reason I write to you, to take care of you, to take care of me — not to want, violently not to want in any way to be in your memory, in your heart, in your head, as a dark shadow. Forgive my precariousness and my unable tries, clumsy, to hold the apple in the dark [this is a reference to a Clarice Lispector book]. Cherish me.

I’m cherishing you right at this minute. I wanted you to be here and to show you many things, big, small, and not important at all, a few. Be happy, be very happy, be bright, want to be happy. You are really beautiful and I’m trying to send you my best axé vibration. Even if we get lost, it doesn’t matter. Even if it became past before it could become future. But I hope that whatever come is good, for you, for me.

With care, with immense affection, I hug you strongly and kiss you,

Caio F.

PS: I write to you, finally, it occurs to me now, because neither you nor I are disposable. And tomorrow there’s sun.

Fernando Pessoa

All love letters are


They wouldn’t be love letters if they weren’t


In my time I also wrote love letters

Equally, inevitably


Love letters, if there’s love,

Must be


But in fact

Only those who’ve never written

Love letters



If only I could go back

To when I wrote love letters

Without thinking how


The truth is that today

My memories

Of those love letters

Are what is


(All more-than-three-syllable words,

Along with unaccountable feelings,

Are naturally


Caetano Veloso — O Quereres

Where you want a revolver, I’m a coconut tree

And where you want money, I’m passion

Where you want rest, I’m desire

And where I’m desire, you don’t want it

And where you want nothing, nothing lacks

And where you fly really high, I’m the ground

And where you step on the ground, my soul jumps

And gets liberty in the vastness

Where you want family, I’m a crazy guy

And where you want a romantic, I’m bourgeois

Where you want Leblon, I’m Pernambuco

And where you want a eunuch, I’m a stud

Where you want yes or no, maybe

And where you see, I don’t glimpse reason

Where you want the wolf, I’m the brother

And where you want a cowboy, I’m the Chinese

Ah, brutal flower of desire

Ah, brutal flower, brutal flower

Where you want the act, I’m the spirit

And where you want tenderness, I’m lustfull

Where you want free form, I’m decasyllable

And where you seek an angel, I’m a woman

Where you want pleasure, I’m what hurts

Where you want torture, meekness

Where you want a home, revolution

And where you want a bandit, I’m a hero

I would like to want to love you love

Build us a sweetest prison

Find just the right compatibility

All meter and rhyme and never pain

But life is real and it’s one of biases

And just look what an ambush love set up for me

I want you (and you don’t want) as I am

I don’t want you (and you don’t want) as you are

Ah, brutal flower of desire

Ah, brutal flower, brutal flower

Where you want a rally, an arcade game

And where you want romance, rock n roll

Where you want the moon, I’m the sun

And where pure nature, I’m insecticide

Where you want mystery, I’m the light

And where you want a little corner, I’m the entire world

Where you want Lent, February

And where you want a coconut tree, I’m a howitzer

Your wanting and your always being up to

What in me is in me so unequal

Makes me want you good, want you bad

Good — you, bad — your wanting way

Infinitely personal

And me wanting to want you without end

And, wanting you, to learn the total

Of the want that exists, and that doesn’t exist in me.