The Shoe

The Shoe
Gonçalo M. Tavares

A woman is confessing, and the words she is saying are prayers. It’s already the time when the priest has forgiven her, and she’s offering up several “Our Fathers”. Too many, to be understandable—and there she is, non-stop, in continuous rotation, like a broken record, but one that does more than just repeat; sometimes there are variations of tone, of rhythm, slowdowns, accelerations, little hesitations in the repetition of the same word. Nevertheless, there are dozens and dozens of “Our Fathers” being said by a very beautiful woman, very attractive, who we now see has a beautiful neckline, yes, and also down there, by her kneeling legs we see she only has one shoe, only one, and she’s missing the other. Where is that shoe? Let’s look for it now as if the camera were well-behaved, as if it were elegant and delicate, some kind of boy scout that wants to do a good deed—there goes the camera looking for the shoe that is missing from the beautiful woman, the kneeling woman who does not stop praying in front of the confessional, but the truth is that even that beautiful song of confession that rings marvellously in this church of Lisbon, even that spiel can’t lead the camera to the most important point—the point where we’d be satisfied after finding the second shoe, the shoe that’s missing from that beautiful woman—and even without anything else, we’d end up with the feeling that everything was right and complete, because the second shoe would calm a certain discomfort and concern, but there’s no damn second shoe, there’s only one, and the second is not showing up, that second one that if it appeared would be an object and with it, it’s true, would not appear the reasons for its separation from the first shoe, not even the narrative would be clarified, but it would be, even so, an object, a physical thing, the element of an addition that would complete a small part of the story, but the fact is the camera has done the good deed of a boy scout passing through the pews, and nothing—there’s no extra shoe, all the other shoes are in their proper place, on the feet of the other believers distributed around the church, praying: there are shoes, one on each side, and none missing. And, in fact, the church cannot solve the problem of anxiety, that is not the anxiety of the woman, but the anxiety of the camera that seeks to accelerate its movement in the search for the shoe, as if it were the camera missing a shoe and not the woman. But here it—the camera, not the woman—leaves breathlessly. Is it running late? Why is it leaving like that? The camera leaves the church, leaves the woman behind and runs, in a big hurry, as if it finally remembered something vital, as if it realised that it left something in the oven and has to run to prevent a fire, it is in such a hurry that it runs, that it runs at a tremendous speed; there it is then, the camera going around a building to run to the back of the building where there is a little grove and yes, there it moves the branches and pushes through the weeds, through the more or less tangled bushes and there it is, what is sought: the woman’s shoe, the second shoe, finally and, yes, the process is concluded, the second shoe has been found and so the camera slows down, everything is peaceful now, and so now with extreme calm, with great slowness, the camera stops, quietly, in front of the dead boy next to the second shoe.

Born in Luanda in 1970, Gonçalo M. Tavares has won a sparkling array of awards for his novels, including the José Saramago prize for young writers for his novel “Jerusalém” and France’s prestigious Best Foreign Book prize. Portuguese Nobel Laureate José Saramago said: “In thirty years’ time, if not before, Tavares will win the Nobel Prize.” Tavares’ work has been published in more than 50 countries.

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