The man sitting at the next table has walked here out of a Saramago novel. He wears a jacket and a hat, a bow tie hanging untied against his mustard colored shirt. White beard and oval reading glasses. It is eighty-five degrees, and he wears a jacket and a hat. He is with two younger people, I imagine the young man with the large horn-rimmed glasses is his son. But the woman has a mouth like the young man, maybe they are brother and sister.
The man in the hat reads the newspaper while the young man types on his Mac and the young woman her iPad. They were talking earlier, their mouths shaped for smiling and drinking wine. I want to know them. I want to step into their lives, but I would be stumbling in, big-footed and American.
This cafe has walls that are feet thick, stone blocks strapped together at one end with enormous metal staples. Stone arches between the rooms. I sit on a couch. The table by the window is made from an old sewing machine, the machine gone, but the girl in the sundress sits there and rests her feet on the treadle.
Waiters here are slow to appear, but solicitous as nurses with my handicap. I speak my baby Portuguese to them and they answer in English, indulgently. But so far, strangers do not engage. They seem happy to stay sealed off in their own lives.
But it's only the third day.
I keep finding deeper happinesses at being here, narrow streets with the slick cobblestones, my sandals skating out from under me. As many churches as Utah, but these are Catholic and hundreds of years in place, the bells tolling the hour.
My apartment is in Alfama, the neighborhood untouched by the earthquake and tsunami, the oldest buildings in Lisbon. The streets a labyrinth, but you can only get so lost. Climb uphill toward the castle, or downhill toward the sea.
I sleep on a futon in the dining room, dreaming of my mother, my roommates softly passing on their way to the bathroom in their nightgowns, and I breathe in and count my luck before rolling back to sleep.