Reality is not real This is a framed drawing I completed during my stay in Pipa beach . At the time I was collecting a lot of information over how our 5 senses are the only window we have available to perceive the external world. But it is a close circuit. Our sight, hearing, tact, and olfactory systems make a close circuit with our brain. We assume that what these senses report to the brain are external informations, but that is merely an assumption. In the same way a sophisticated head-set can plug us into a different virtual dimension our brain plug us into this one. We now also know that our senses are far from objective and far from perfect. They evolved in order to make us win the survival game in this environment. In order to survive, mankind didn’t need to comprehend the cryptic codes under which reality was unfolding, in the same way, in a virtual reality game, the gamer does not need to understand the programs that inform our avatars to escape an enemy or to collect supply needed in order to win the game and access the next level.
Too much information could have been contra-productive. If our ancestors were distracted to understand codes and study the passages that make this reality real, they probably would have been eaten by bears and wolves and would have had no time to refine their survival skills. It was much easier to evolve in a way that our senses perceived symbolically represented information than to be able to see what was there objectively. We evolved to see dangers coming at us in the form of a logo, a symbol, in order to make the fast choice of fighting or fling In the painting, a young man is experiencing the wonders of a day at the beach under the sun. But, under this curtain of images, lay beneath the crude code that programme the sensation and the experience.
Thank you reader
Jemanja She is possibly the most important saint of the Brazilian Afro-Christian cult.
The narrow street A short story
It all started when Amedeo had the idea of indulging himself and purchase one of the brownies made with Maconha and magic mushrooms that a vendor was selling, at the beach. Amedeo was not new to psychotropic substances, but, in the last few years he did not use any. He liked to think of himself as a fairly wise, fairly together, middle-aged gentleman and he didn’t think that popping pills or smoking joints were conducive to the image of himself he wanted to give to the world.
However, in this occasion, blame the heat, blame it on the cuteness of the beach vendor, with his baggy shorts, so low on his loins to allowed the sight of a corse line of pubic hair, blame it on the the sense of freedom that the place provoked in him, with no responsibilities and no commitments, or blame it on the retro hippy atmosphere which pervaded that sea side community, he felt incline to let go and give himself permission to behave like the juvenile he no longer was.
He had a friendly chat with the vendor, a typical “menino da rua”. The boy was not a local. He came from Argentina. Amedeo didn’t speak Portuguese nor Spanish, however, they communicated with a mixture of all the Latin languages they both knew, and the help of big gestures and body language, and, ridiculously, both speaking much louder than necessary. The vendor wanted to explain to Amedeo that the quality of the ingredients used in the production of that decadent and extravagant browny was all the best of the best. All strictly organic. The menino explained to him that the butter is to be melt, then, in golden fluid the hashish is crumbled and let to rest for one night. Mind you, it was proper black hashish 00. Apparently the very best. The day after you add this mixture to a base of sugar chocolate flour, eggs, baking powder banana, dates and just a little bit of psilocibina. Dusted with extra sugar and grated coconut e le voila! A delight for the palate and the brain. Amedeo understood part of the recipe, He filled in the gaps with hips own good sense.
The rest of his friends were looking at the unfolding of the dialogue between the two and making the odd joke at Amedeo’s expenses, strictly in English, to leave the menino out of it.
Amedeo also made some silly jokes that the menino surely did not get, but laughed politely at them. Amedeo immediately understood the polite reaction of the menino and he cussed himself for having made that clumsy attempt at being funny, but it was just a very minor detail in a very pleasant commercial interaction. Amedeo bargained on the price, not because he wanted to, but because he already learnt that this is the local costume. If you don’t do it, you look stupid. One is due to endure that performance of negotiating; the menino asked for a price, Amedeo offered less than half the money and bit by boot they met somewhere in the middle.
The menino left, with his cooler box of maconha cakes hanging from his neck, and his lean, muscular body, dusted with corse, black hair on his legs and chest. Amedeo watched him going with a smile on his face. A wave of sexual desire was dumped down by the thought of being old enough to be the boy’s dad.
He shook the thought off and sat back on his deck chair. He was in the company of his partner and husband, Milton and his friends Agatha, Loredana Moreno and Gemma.
Agatha followed the whole exchange with disapproving eyes. She was slightly puritanical about drugs. :-She may as well be like this, Amedeo thought. :-there is not enough cake for all of us. Loredana didn’t want any not to displease Agatha,her wife. She declined the offer with a fake disinterested smile that in reality was saying:- I really would, but I cannot.
The maconha cake was eventually shared between the remaining four friends, there and then, on the beach . The square shaped brownie was divided into four smaller squares by cutting a cross in the middle of it.
The cake tasted a little funky.
If felt a bit as if they were eating patchouli, but there was enough chocolate and sweetness to make it edible. The effect took place much faster than they expected They all were on an empty stomach; the heath made them all feel a bit queasy, None of them had stomach for breakfast. A black coffee at the beach was sufficient.
Soon the consumption of the unusual browny, the four friends began to behave silly. The other two women, sober as a Judge, with some feeble excuse, decided to return to the condominium where the small flat Milton and Amedeo rented every year was located and they all were staying. The two women collected their sun glasses, their ample straw bags full of everything and anything. Wrapped themselves in colourful páreos and left, leaving unusual prints with their wooden high heels clogs, on the sand behind them.
Amedeo kept laughing for no apparent reason, but his laugh was infectious; they all fell in stitches with heartily and loud laughs that attracted the attention of the passers by, which made them laugh more.
The early afternoon started to turn into evening and the sun was about to set. They all agreed to a drink at a bar with the view on the bay where you can see the sunset in a spectacular location surrounded by jungle.
Amedeo, however, wanted to go home and change. He hated to go out feeling all sandy and sweaty. He was very particular that way. The rest of the group, including his partner Milton, didn’t want to miss the sunset and decided to go as they were. Milton, a good looking man in his mid 50with greying dirty-fair hair and just the beginning of a beer belly, even if he only drank beer with pizza, after having tried to convince his husband to go together and after having understood that Amedeo was immovable in his decision, recommended him to, at least, avoid the main centre and walk through the shortcut created by a small rua that opened on the Main Street and that gave the opportunity to cut through the distance that would have been very long otherwise. The name of the rua was Rua do amor. This was a peculiar street. It started as one of the many streets that cross the main road, with fashion shops, ice-cream parlours, and candy floss vendors and connect the village with the higher part, on a hill, which it was the residential area, where the group of people were logging. The Rua do Amor started as a touristic attraction; all sparks and gilts. The cobble stones on the ground were painted in red, green, yellow blue pink and white, Many restaurants embellished the street with exotic decorations, extravagant plants, and with colourful tables set for dinners. Tourists found the whole scenario an unmissable opportunity to snap away selfies and group photographs with their family, friends or lovers.
The street was curving on the left after about 300 meters. Once the curve is passed, you find yourself in a very different environment; the change was sudden. All the gilts disappeared and the street suddenly narrowed down to a gap. The sun was still up, but in there, it didn’t seem to be able to reach the narrow alleyway that the rua funnelled into. It was like a cut , large enough to allow one person, just. If somebody else came from the opposite direction, one of the two had to squeeze against the wall to let the other pass. It was protected from the sun by foliage at some points, or different roofs made with different materials, Most of the passage, was covered with something. On the ground there was cement , alternated with tracts of dirt. On the walls, grey cement alternated with red bricks with no plaster on them. The cement was covered with graffiti, probably meant as an embellishment along the way. At the very beginning of the shortcut, such graffiti were made in the same identical style of the rest of the graffitis that characterise the village, colourful, surf-related,pleasant to look at. The further you went in this rua, the more the graffitis changed in style. They turned kind of childish, clumsy, not very nice to look at. They seemed to loose the colourful shades and fade into a grey/black. They assumed a sinister turn. There were very crude symbols of penis and vagina, similar to those one can find in restrooms of train stations or public lavatories. These roughly scribbled pictures were alternated with childish figures of people doing nasty things. There were primitive shapes of people hanging from a pole, stubbing each other, stubbing themselves.
Then, once you reached the middle of this strange passage, once you were, more or less, equally distant from one end and the other, those strange, sinister pictures, became more sparse and replaced with other symbols. Better executed they were, no longer clumsy or childish. Precise they seemed to be. What the hell were they? Some kind of writing? Did they even mean anything? Amedeo was aware of having taken a mild hallucinogenic, he knew that his perception was altered, he also was able to remind himself that he took that shortcut times and times again. Milton and him choose that village as they favourite holiday place for a few years. The shortcut was just a street like any other. In this occasion, however, the jolly and cheerful mood the drugs provoked in him, turned into a crescendo of anxiety turning into fear, panic. His skin began to perspire copiously. On the floor there were all sort of rubbish, organic and inorganic. Cotton buns, plastic bags, empty bottles, even a syringe he saw, but the organic stuff was a even worse. With the cooking heat of the day the pieces of rotting fruit, the food dropped , the dead small animals you could walk into, along the way were in different stages of putrescence. A piece of watermelon had some growth of a shocking pink mould, an apple-custard was alive with yellow worms. The smells were intense and sickening. Amedeo kept reminding himself that he was under the influence of substances. :-This is just a shortcut, that probably hundred of people every day go through it. Amedeo forced himself to think. But, despite his attempts to maintain a logic and grounded mind, he couldn’t help the panic he felt possessed with. While in the beginning he demonstrated some interest for the unusual graffiti that looked like some writing written in an unknown alphabet not comparable with any of the characters he had seen before, now he didn’t want to see them at all. He pointed his eyes to stare in front of him and started to walk with long and fast steps This short cut seemed to have no end. He probably lost his sense of time, it couldn’t be more that 5 minutes he was walking, but he felt as if he have been walking for hours . How could this street have so many turns and corners? It is supposed to cut between two estates. It should be straight. With the tail of his eyes, he noticed small pieces of mirror stuck to the walls, part of the graffiti. Smells followed one another. He had the clear impression that the walls were organic; alive, breathing in and out. Effectively there was more than one little dead animal along the street. He counted a small mouse, a bat, many lizards and a very big frog; so it was hardly surprising that he smelled the stench of putrescent flesh. But, in his judgement, the smell was not proportional to the small wild life which should have responsible for causing it.
Amedeo began to speed up his steps even more, he was now almost on a run. He didn’t know why, but he was sure that he was not supposed to look at the two walls beside him. He told himself that he had to point his stare straight in front of him.” Look up in front of you , ignore the two walls” he kept repeating in a chantry That way he would be safe. This was the darkest part of the ally. At this point it was, he realised, a small tunnel under the hill, no wider than one meter. No lights were ever been installed in that tunnel. . It was just black. The walls seemed to be porous, made of organic but dead matter. They seemed to want to absorb him. To incorporate him. He kept telling himself that it was the browny. There was no doubt in his mind that it was all an hallucination, never the less that knowledge didn’t make it any less scary.
After having walked for what he felt was hours but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes, he saw a blue rettangole at the end of the blackness. He could see the end. Encouraged he picked his spirit up and continue with is accelerated step. The tension, however, was great, the closest he was getting to the end the strongest was the need to turn his head and look at the walls, at the graffitis. It was a very hard to resist compulsion. He knew there was no noise audible but his head was telling him to listen to imaginary voices pronouncing cliche horror films’ sentences, the likes of:- come with us… Vieni con noi, stay here, look at us,…. Amedeo knew that all of this was only his altered imagination; he had no difficulty to identify these as his thoughts under the effect of hallucinogenic substances. He could even recognise the horror films he was a fan of and watched in great quantity in various horror festivals and horror film marathons, from which these sentences were taken from. He saw Evil dead dubbed in Italian, The :-come with us that the demons proclaimed throughout the film, became :- Vieni con noi. Identical to the intonation he heard in his head, few minutes earlier in the tunnel. But rationalise the experience did very little to calm his state of anxiety turned into blind panic.
Few steps more and he will reach the end. Now the exit is very clear, in front of him a rectangular bluish shape.He passed it. Everything returned to normal. The experience in the alleyway like the memory of a bad dream. His perspiration was still bad, because of the heat, but his heart was no longer pounding out of control. He was no longer shacking from head to toes. Soon after he arrived home, had a shower, changed, looked at himself in the mirror, pleased with what he saw. At the age of 59 he was still fit and handsome. His hair was cut trendy, died darker than his natural shade. His tan flawless, he was a 59 years old man at the his very best. Ready to join up with his friends, he took his way back to town. The obvious thing to do would have been to return the same way he came, but the thought didn’t even passed his mind.
When Amedeo met the rest of his group, he was perfectly at ease, Milton was high and that made him laugh a lot. It was not an usual thing to see his lover and husband to behave in that stoned way; being slightly paranoid not to show his altered state and trying to contain the high, made it all the more obvious and, in Amedeo’s eyes, utterly funny. Moreno and Gemma were both attentive to the group dynamics, but also to the coming and going of people in the bar. Gemma was a single, hot bisexual 47 years old lady, open to whatever the situation offered. She tended to be sexually promiscuous and she was not going to stop now. Moreno, Spanish, appeared to be a stallion, super virile, all muscles and tan, but, when one got to know him, he could behave as camp as they come, using the gay she for his male friends, calling himself Morena and flicking his fingers and thumbs in the face of an eventual challenger. The two of them were multitasking. Being in the group with their friends but also cruising the bar and flirting with any available male or female.
Amedeo was very used to the two friends backing each other up to attract attention on themselves and, if in one hand, they could be incredibly funny and created an atmosphere that surrounded them as if they were some kind of celebrities, polarising the room and attracting like two magnets, on the other hand, just sometimes, he would have liked to be just the 4 of them, without having to inventory the whole place to classify the fuckable people. .
But….. what can one do! … may as well enjoy the action and make the best. The parade of boys was, in effects, very pleasant to watch and the girls that Gemma pulled were also very pretty and amicable.The Daaaaalin and the deaaaahhhh were shouted in great quantity Amedeo still felt the effect of the drugs, occasionally the room seemed to quiver, like jelly. Sometime he has a few seconds of flash back about the street and he had a moments or two of great fear, but he was able to keep it all in check, to keep smiling and laughing and get a grip on himself.
On the back of his mind, however, he had an unresolved worry. Was he going to tell to his husband, his companion, the love of his life, about it? Or was he going to berry it , in a very deep hole in his memories and hope that it never came to the surface ever again? Would he even be able to do it, without feeling that he was not sharing with Milton something that should have been shared? But how could he get himself to tell his husband something like that? Milton was rationality on legs. He certainly would have laugh it off, blamed it on the hallucinogenic they undeniably took. And Amedeo couldn’t face scepticism . He wanted to be believed.
Believed about what, he was not sure. But he knew he wanted to be believed and he really doubted that Milton could have ever taken him seriously. Like his passion for horror films and sci-fi comics, this was to stay a one-man-experience. Not to be shared with Milton. Who was younger, but with a clearly cut idea of what was acceptable to be believed anyway was not.
In the same way Amedeo was never able to get Milton to appreciate how good the comics he still read were, the transgressive value of a film and comic like Barbarella had intrinsically built in the characters, he would have failed to get his lover to understand how unsettling he found the whole experience.
Eventually, the fun ended and they all felt drunk and too high to continue the night in public. Maybe a few more chats at home, in the safety of their domesticity. They also were mindful not to separate themselves from Agatha and Loredana.
Loredana was one of them for long time, historically, one of the group, but Agatha came as an attachment to Lor, who no longer went anywhere without the wife. They met in a wine testing competition in Provence, Lory was not on the winning team, Agatha was. They clicked immediately and they decided not to waste too long with trial periods. They got married after only one year of relationship, By now it seemed to have been the right thing to do, at least, for the two of them. For the others, Agatha could have been seen as a bit of a pain.
Not that anyone of them mentioned to Loredana how they felt about her wife. She was obviously very happy . But she lost an edge of infant terrible that was so endearing. Maybe, at the very most, Amedeo confessed how he felt to Milton, who confessed to feel the same. Gemma and Moreno seemed to be silently aware of the dynamic, but never felt appropriate to mention it to the rest of the group.
They asked the bill, did a messy calculation to find out who was paying what, failed and split the cost for four and left the bar.Once on the street, Amedeo took the initiative to walk on the opposite direction of the Rua do Amor. The other followed him passively. No questions were asked
They got home and ended the evening pleasantly , on the big terrace the flat was provided with.
After that awkward experience, Amedeo made a conscious effort to ban the memory from his mind. He was relatively successful if it wasn’t for the fact that every time they had to go downtown, he had a good reason not to take the cut. His husband and the rest, only began to focus on this behaviour only after a few days. It was Milton who brought it up with him
:- How come that it is days that we walk so much instead of doing the most obvious thing? Why are you avoiding the cut?
:- don’t be silly, said Amedeo. - i am not avoiding it! I thought that few extra miles may be beneficial to us, especially to you! I love you as you are, but the rest of the universe prefer you with a little bit of volume less around your waist. He said, jokingly pinching Milton’s love handles, which, Amedeo was please to confirm, were hard and toned, with just a very small deposit of superfluous fat. Milton took the explanation as sufficient, he acted out a brief mock fight with his lover, and held him tight to his body. :- ….. and the stench…. Amedeo distractedly added. :- the stench in that street is overwhelming….
Days passed by in a perfect holiday life-style. Early mornings at the beach, afternoons spent amongst his many comic books he found in different libraries and book-shop in forgotten regions of Brazil, Some of the publications were left-overs from the 70s. Historic editions impossible to find in Europe, where this kind of minor art had a niche of loyal fans that bought everything available on the market at the time of publication, leaving no treasures to be found lately. Amedeo wasn’t thinking about that dreadful experience any longer, however he had a bother: why didn’t he tell Milton the truth? Simple! The truth was preposterous. A grown up man. With a past like Amedeo, who was known for having been a bit of a wild at heart in his youth, scared of a darl alley? It was laughable. Ridiculous.
Time was passing by; the cut, the Rua do Amor, was silently left out of the options by the whole group. Nobody thought it was a big deal, Probably more likely that not, people didn’t even think about it. The habit was now set, the cut was no longer used and that was that.
Amedeo, however, was left with an undisclosed perplexity. How could, an experience made in an altered state induced by two types of drugs, have made such an impression, capable to scare him so much to avoid something as ordinary as crossing a shortcut?
After all, it was only a street, a long, narrow, smelly street, but nothing more than that. He had no evidences of danger of any kind. Why was he so childish to tremble at the thought of that evening? What was there of so terrible, he wanted to forget? And every time he thought himself successful in forgetting, it came back at him like a ton of bricks