Why do all crazy people have the same paranoias? They’re always being followed by a secret agent. The CIA is nearly always involved. My own case (swallowing a chip) was only possible thanks to the CIA and the KGB.
The chip had a strange effect inside me and gradually I came to understand how it worked. Rimbaud was the one who helped me with this.
He checked my blood pressure with a machine he himself had invented. They were strange ways to check blood pressure.
He had a medicine that was entirely his own. He was some kind of witch doctor. Rimbaud told me it was him who cured the problem with my leg. And yet Rimbaud was a cripple. When I voiced my doubts, he used to say that his powers were for others and couldn’t be used on himself.
The boy stopped, looked at his dad.
Dad, where are you living? Do you live at home?
My dad was a doctor. Days and nights on end he’d be on duty. After I said that to him, he started doing fewer shifts. My dad was always a good man, very calm and quiet.
I caused a lot of trouble at school. I’d been expelled from four schools. I was sixteen. They warned me that I’d have to go to night school, with adults. My dad cried so hard.
That was the story of my life: making my dad cry.
An American guy was committed. The guy had been a combatant in Vietnam.
Motherfucker. Fire in the line zone, he shouted.
Fire, he shouted.
The sergeant soon fell in with the American.
Rimbaud used to do a dance called the Dance of the Blue Pelican. It was one hell of a wiggly dance, using all parts of his body. He learned it in Africa, he says. But were there pelicans in Africa? He was free to say whatever he wanted. Actually we all are, but whether it’s true or not is another matter. The truth can be such a sloppy invention and still convince everyone. You just have to be forceful. Or take advantage of people’s natural gullibility.
I’ve defecated on myself on occasion. I wet the bed on my first day in the asylum so they wouldn’t take me away from where I was. This is a life full of abject acts. A life full of fears.
I never eat shit. Nor am I given to macabre rituals. I’m loco-lite, the diet version. Even though my problem with the chip is pretty hardcore.
When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a fireman. I had the outfit, little engine and everything. I had such a happy smile back then. A smile that’s gotten grimy over time, like those big family portraits. I was always happy like Rimbaud. Nowadays I think about everything I do and I know when I screw up: when I’m made to swallow a chip and I wreck the whole house. God, I messed things up. How old do you have to be, to be happy? You’re only happy in the past. I’m alone in the room. No one’s been to visit me for a while. I didn’t get locked up because I’d harmed anybody. The only person affected by my behavior is me.
Liar! Your mother picks up the tab for the things you broke.
All that damn jewelery.
And even your grandmother’s china cabinet.
Why did I do it? The guilt won’t go away . . . Tear down a door. A rickety door. Why did they call the police? Nowadays it’s the police who come to get you. I had a row with the cops, made them understand it was a chip. One of them didn’t even know what a chip was.
What he wanted to do was slip the handcuffs on.
I had my first attack at fifteen. At thirty-six I’ve still got problems. Wonder what the next problem will be? I’m a walking problem.
It rains and I cry. I cry and it rains. The sounds of Rio funk raping my eardrums.
I imagine being out of this place. I’d throw a huge party at my house. Rimbaud showed up. Where am I in your thoughts?
You’re playing with Baudelaire.
I hate Baudelaire. He acts like an old man. He’s very formal. I want to be with you. Don’t tell me you’re in love.
I was always distant. When I was a teenager. I took the bus by myself from Campos to São João da Barra. I took the wrong bus. Alone. By myself. And so I wound up walking for three hours in the middle of some scrubland. I wasn’t allowed to travel because I’d screw up. One time I went to Rio Grande do Sul and slept outside my friend’s house. I ended up at the police station, accusing my friend of nothing. The police didn’t take me seriously. He’s just another nutcase. His poor parents. Get a load of this story, what a pile of crap! Walk around a bit. Walk over there and back again.
A banana bar. Who wants a banana bar? A banana bar. Who wants a banana bar? Who wants to buy a banana bar?
The sun was a ball of mango ice cream. It was beach weather. And there was everyone burning like sardines in a frying pan. On drips. Dripping with sweat.
I heard a scream from inside. I ran to see. Fearsome was upside down in a corner of his room.
Who killed Fearsome Madman? It was you. He was afraid of you. You’re going to be crucified. Fearsome had had a heart attack. No one saw. But there was a lunatic who kept saying I was guilty. Detectives—A detectives and B detectives—had gone undercover among us to see who killed Fearsome. I was smart and had already figured out that the cops had infiltrated us.
The days went by and the nights were calm. Everyone slept peacefully. Just me and Rimbaud were awake. Had somebody killed Fearsome? There’s a lot of people here. He didn’t get along with anyone. He was off his rocker, as Mom would say.
We’ll arrive in Cabo Frio today. And be in Buzios two hours from now. They killed a boy in Buzios. They’re saying it was your uncle. Your uncle’s a poof, but he doesn’t mess around with kids. He never laid a hand on any of you.
I was at work and heard my mom tell me to go home. I knew that my grandfather was ill. Grandpa died that day.
Mom, what’s death?
Death is a soap opera on Globo, son.
Fearsome went by in a wheelchair. He was so fat, he wouldn’t fit on a stretcher.
How could an oaf like that be the Fearsome Madman?
Only Batman could solve that problem.
The Fearsome Madman, who has pestered the people of this town for fifteen years, died today in the city asylum. Some say he was hanged. Others, that he had a heart attack.
Turn off the TV. It’s on all day long.
Another terrified scream. They stole some evangelical pamphlets and another thousand dollars. I was starting to distrust my own shadow. Could Rimbaud be involved? He didn’t like TV. I’m afraid of Rimbaud. I’m fucking afraid of Rimbaud.
Your uncle’s a faggot (hahahaha…). Watch it, he might take you up the ass.
Don’t say that, it’s just going to make things worse for your uncle. This is a small town.
Must have been someone from outside who screwed the little boy.
My uncle was a joker. He liked to drink coffee. He liked to drink free coffee. He would have lunch in botecos. Those trashy botecos that serve pickled eggs and malt beer. He would eat his food leisurely. Pay for the food. Chat with everyone at the bar. Become friends with the staff. He loved a good joke.
You’ve got something on your face.
He would point at the man’s face.
Go to the toilet and get yourself cleaned up, young man!
The guy would leave and go to the toilet. Seizing his opportunity, my uncle would drink the guy’s coffee and leave. He did that a lot. One day, the fifth time he pulled the scam, the coffee was too hot. He took too long. The guy came back and beat him up. He gave him such a beating that he never tried that dirty trick again.
My uncle had money but he would do it for the adrenaline rush.
A lot of people do things just for the adrenaline rush.
Rimbaud was walking along the wall.
Get down, you fuckwit. Careful.
I went to my room so I wouldn’t feel my adrenaline rising. Rimbaud soon came looking for me.
I’m alone. That’s how this world is. Where’s Baudelaire? He’s playing snooker.
It’s so sad when your friends are two hallucinations. One that’s with me nearly all the time and the other who just shows up every now and then. Get out Rimbaud, you’re just a hallucination.
The doctors at the clinic treated people like customers.
You’re going to have shocks, but you’ll be sedated.
Dad, I’ll do anything to get better.
Shocks under sedation don’t cause those traditional muscle contractions. It’s more like a nervous tic.
Rimbaud appeared and said that everything was going to be all right.
Night came and it was cold that day. Made you feel like building a bonfire in the asylum. A big bonfire. But the B agents were working on the case of Fearsome Madman’s death.
Why was Fearsome Madman afraid of you?
Who knows. I had to act like I was crazy. And I did it really well when I wanted to. Don’t try to be crazier than you really are.
He must have been afraid of my voice.
There’s nothing wrong with your voice. It’s not even deep.
But apparently it sounds like his dad’s voice.
Insufficient explanation. Did you know Fearsome Madman outside?
That interrogation was fucking rough. I wouldn’t harm a fly. Much less kill one.
Talk to Rimbaud. Talk to Baudelaire.
We’re going to build a bonfire. Tons of lunatics around here. Are you a lunatic?
I went to bed.
The lunatic with a cobra in his hands wasn’t there anymore. He’d been released. The room was free. I jerked off while thinking about the hottest nurse. The one that came all in white. Then I heard the bell ring for medicine time. The bell echoed shrilly throughout the asylum. The whole gang started to gather.
It had been days since I’d seen Rimbaud. Baudelaire had disappeared, too. It was better being without them.
I missed my room. My blue dog too. I’d never slept away from home, at a friend’s house.
At my friend’s house I watched Esper on TV. I ate meatballs. I didn’t have problems eating. I always ate everything. I slept on the floor.
When my cousin would come over, my grandfather used to say:
Let your cousin sleep in your bed.
Your cousin wants you to go work in Brasilia.
Only if I get there in a VW Brasilia. I have to graduate first.
Then they died in that plane crash.
I didn’t kiss the first girl I loved. I went and kissed another girl to learn how, so that I could kiss the one I loved better. The one I loved saw and gave me the boot.
They bought a karaoke machine and put it in the TV lounge. It was one of those where you sing your heart out while the lunatics dance. The sergeant thought he was Frank Sinatra. He sang that old crooner Altemar Dutra. He was awful. My ears aren’t potties. The city street sweeper sang that sertanejo song “Boemia.” To each his own.
The B agents were still onto me. They were annoying me with that idea that I’d killed Fearsome.
It was you. You were close. He was afraid of you.
It wasn’t me.
Rimbaud appeared, gyrating and singing “Light My Fire.”
You’re the one who killed him. It was you. You killed Fearsome Madman.
I started living with more of that paranoia in my head. Now I didn’t even know any more if I had been involved in Fearsome’s death. Rimbaud said I had.
Breakfast on the table. Toast. Jam. Hot chocolate. Sliced cheese. The table at home, with a new tablecloth on it.
Bread with a single swipe of butter. The table in the asylum.
Three more police officers committed.
My room (I was still alone) is going to get overcrowded.
Three in the morning. I woke up and took a leak. In the dark I saw one cop rubbing on the other. The next day I didn’t remember a thing.
Nothing bothers people like karaoke. It’s everyone wanting to sing all the time. The halfwit knocked out “Andança” and “Festa do Sol.” Why do these karaoke machines come with preinstalled songs that everyone knows how to sing?
Rimbaud screamed in my ear: you killed him. I didn’t believe my friend. I’d never harm a fly. I treated flies really well. I’d catch them, keep them in plastic bags and release them in other surroundings.
I went to my room. It was empty and full of fireflies. There were so many that I had to turn off the light. They came at me. I went to take a shower. Was there a murderer among us? If so, I could be at risk. I told my dad that I was at risk. He talked about my treatment. He said that the B cops had put a ban on anyone leaving. I speculated that that would cause more psychotic episodes among the psychotics. My dad said that if there were a murderer, he’d have to be arrested.
They should have everything settled in a week, son. Hold tight a bit longer.
I’ll either leave here dead—or something worse.
I wasn’t going to stay there in the shower for an hour. The murderer could sneak up on me, like in Psycho.
I don’t think the insanity inside me comes from my dad or my mom. But the gene is definitely from my dad’s family. My grandmother has a horrible persecution complex. She thinks my dad doesn’t like her. Thinks we should pay her rent.
The whole gang lined up to eat meatballs with rice and beans for lunch. It wasn’t the choice of food that was the problem, it was how it was made. In large quantities, as if for animals. You couldn’t demand nice table manners in that place.
The B cops are after you.
Me and everyone else in here. But I didn’t kill anyone. I know you didn’t.
I was with you, said Baudelaire. You could tell that to Rimbaud.
Lots of elephants walking round in a circle. Each one holding on to the tail of the next.
I no longer knew who to call on to keep from getting smashed against the wall by the B Cops. They had a certain verbal aggressiveness that I didn’t like. Maybe it was their tone of voice.
The family wants to know who killed Fearsome Madman.
His family never came to see him. They just dumped him here.
Do you hate your family?
I hate all of them.
As far as I know they come to see you every day. Do you hold something against them?
What does that have to do with Fearsome Madman’s death?
We think that only a very stable person could kill Fearsome. Fearsome Madman wasn’t just any madman.
Night came and I could finally go to my room and enjoy a beach holiday in Porto de Galinhas. I turned up the volume on my Walkman. I tuned the radio to rock and to hell with being here.
Rimbaud showed up as a juggler, with fiery torches in his hands. He swiveled his hips. He ate the fire. He breathed out the fire. He was a human dragon. But I was getting better and I knew that Rimbaud was a hallucination who came to pester me. I can’t deny that he was pretty entertaining.
I want a JD. I’m not going to drink. After the show I gave you, you’re not going to give me a Jack Daniel’s?
I decided not to answer Rimbaud.
You’re not going to talk to me. You can’t live without my recognition.
It’s true that hallucinations are negative things. But they really could be trained in positive thinking.
Don’t do that. It’s wrong.
But how can I be so easily led by the hallucinations?
The wind cuts the midday knife. Zarathustra must be walking through the forest. How do you fly without moving? Does a midday love exist? When she walks by me, I drool.
Daddy came alone today. He said that my brother wanted to come and see me. My brother is sicker than me. I feel sorry for my dad. Shouldering these two burdens. My brother is bipolar. He suffers from being sad. He suffers a lot. My dad studied psychiatry because of him, and then because of me. My dad was a pediatrician. Now he’s a psychiatrist.
I would like to have studied at Cambridge. So I could help my sons more.
My dad cried. We all cried.
I’ve been seeing Rimbaud since I was twenty-three. Baudelaire showed up later.
I couldn’t even bear to hear someone say goodnight. If someone said goodnight, they had to repeat it three more times.
My life in the world of colors was hell. I only wore navy blue trousers and white shirts. I didn’t wear black or designer clothes.
The clothes walked around on their own. They walked around the bonfire on their own, like specters. Some clothes threw themselves into the fire. They were partying it up that night.
Schizophrenics with delusional disorder have no words. They harbor a great hatred for the disease. No one values what they say. I couldn’t tell anyone that Rimbaud thought I’d killed Fearsome Madman. Not Baudelaire. He knew I hadn’t done anything.
Fronsky was supposed to come get me when I was eighteen and he still hasn’t shown up in his flying saucer. They say that seeing flying saucers is crazy. After Haldol very few people see saints or UFOs.
There was a beast roaring in my belly. I asked for food. A snack came and it had cake. It was a cake. All the lunatics lined up. The attorney general and the drug addict were fighting over the cup of coffee.
I’m going to Paracambi. If you don’t eat, you’ll go to Caju.
The toilet was fucking filthy. That horrible chill. A night cold enough for snow. Snow fell from the sky. It was California. California gave me a kiss and brought the drugs. —
California was the name of the therapist who led a group session once a week. Only the feebleminded didn’t take part. I told the story of Garnizé, who was not only gay, but had a gay son, too. They both had AIDS.
Take your hand off my tits.
Pow! Bang! Crazy Nerd and Silver Alky were going at each other.
Take your hand off my tits. Take your hand off. Take it off.
Pow! Bang! The two were rolling on the floor. Two monster nurses—strong, fat men—came and broke them up. Crazy Nerd was tied to his bed.
They’re all watching TV. No one blinks. Every two minutes you hear the sound of a dimwit’s head against the wall. He had already made a dent in the wall.
The Brazil match. Please let us watch the match.
You can watch until ten o’clock.
Rimbaud runs by, heading for my room. I’m watching the match. Brazil plays well. Goal.
We went to bed late. Daddy came to sleep at home today. Mommy made an orange cake. It was delicious. Every Friday there’s cake.
They held me down and put on the straitjacket.
Now every one’s going to do a drawing. I drew Christ on the cross. Now everyone’s going to show their drawings.
I do a drawing of the sky and the sea. It’s when the sky meets the sea at infinity.
In mine, there’s a hummingbird putting pollen on each star in the night sky.
You and your drawings.
It’s how I feel, crucified. In the old days, anyone who was different or who appeared to be a threat was crucified. Nowadays you wind up in places like asylums, which is the best way to not get better.
The B cops got close to me. They came over like they were buddies.
It’s all right, it wasn’t you, our apologies. We’re nocturnal animals. Images and strange sounds get us going. Here screams are the means of communication. There’s an enigma behind every lunatic.
The man inside the milk carton slapped another man inside a Colorama shampoo bottle. He was a different kind of guy; he liked to go shopping with his mom. I always ended up with a piece of candy in my hand for good behavior.
They did it the same way in the asylum: if everyone behaved themselves, load them up with endorphins, i.e. guava jelly. How can you miss a place that no one comes from, that people only go to? People only ever go to the asylum.
The Lady of All Screams sits down next to me. No one knows why or for whom she screams. They say she lost a lover and became that way, possessed by the scream. It’s a uterine scream. A horrible thing. It destroys our eardrums. She eats her meatloaf slowly, like it was steak mignon. Uses her cutlery with precision. The mistress of her own etiquette. Leaves her guava jelly andscreams. With her left hand she picks her nose and wipes a booger on the table.
Some people there aren’t crazy, they’re just old, senile, and seem to live in another time. Granny, for example, is always well dressed in a tailored suit. She’s a fine lady. She goes around made up, well preserved for her seventy years.
There’s not a lot of chit-chat. Idle chin-wagging. Here it all boils down to screams or to I’m going to Paracambi. If you don’t eat, you’ll go to Caju.
What is loneliness? It’s living without obsessions. But sometimes in life we have to choose between pounding the tip of a knife or letting ourselves get burned in the fire.
Which is worse?
A man dressed in jelly blew a kiss inside a Coca-Cola bottle.
You shouldn’t write about asylum life.
No. Everyone has an asylum nearby. Either your handbag is an asylum, or your home, or even your wallet. Lots of things can be an asylum. I’m not talking about untidiness, I’m talking about real asylums.
Todos os cachorros são azuis © the heirs of Rodrigo de Souza Leão, 2008, 2010. English language translation © Zoe Perry & Stefan Tobler, 2013. Forthcoming from And Other Stories Press. By arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.