She always came home late and livid from these mysterious meetings at Praça Antero de Quental in Leblon where she sat for about an hour with this downtrodden man who’d tell her the saddest possible stories.
And, at the end of each sitting or session (yes, let me call them sessions), he would draw a sketch on some rough yellowish aging drawing pad. She would stare at it and be horrified and he would then proceed to tear it up and completely destroy it. She’d get up and run home.
I caught her once as she came home. My mother, that is. She was sweating and her heart was almost coming out of her mouth. She leaned against the closed door behind her with her body weight and….almost fainting in a fit…
“Mum, what’s happening?”
“They’re taking everything from him. They’ve robbed him for years. He’s a destroyed man.”
And she burst into tears.
I had no idea what of whom she was referring to.
“These bastards. I must denounce them. I must DO something for him. I must. I must”, she said, while drawing the curtains, making our living room darker and darker, as if she wanted us to live in some kind of a bunker. as if she wanted us to live in some kind of a bunker. On such occasions, my mother did resemble (to an extent, Carol Burnett).
“Mum, what’s happening? Who is this person?”
“It’s best if you didn’t know” “No, but wait. Maybe you should know a thing or two about him. He’s a genius. An inventor. He invented the Hovercraft decades before it was ever built. They stole the idea from him, as they always do. He invented the uranium centrifuge, decades before it was ever built and used. They stole it from him, as they always do. He is a ruined man.”
“And he never did anything to protect his intellectual property?”
“He couldn’t. He was always under threat.”
“But from whom? By whom?”
“By everyone! Geniuses are under threat. Even from themselves. He is a man in pieces, son. A ruined man, falling apart every day, almost disappearing. I feel so deeply for him, so strongly for him, so strongly…”
“Oh, and yes, he is your biological father!”
At that moment, my knees disappeared and she kept on talking like a maniac and, running around the apartment hiding things, wrapping documents in layers of plastic and keeping external drives in Ziplocks in case of….in case of….I was stunned.
She handed me am old and yellowish piece of paper, almost at the point of non existance.
“Here. Read this”, she said, trembling.
“But there’s nothing written on this, mother!”
“I know. That’s what frightens me. You must hold it very briefly over a flame. But VERY briefly and from a distance or it’ll catch fire”
I lit up a candle and held the paper and, indeed some letters began to form. But, suddenly, the entire paper was in flames and I couldn’t control it.
“You see? I TOLD YOU !!! Told you not to hold it too close to the fire! And now? Gone. All gone”
The room was dark. I could barely see her. I could only hear her. But it was pretty clear to me what was on that burnt piece of paper.