Photographs in Words 30 – Europe 4/4

Saudade*

Years later, arriving in London, T revisited Victoria railway station. There were no longer any elderly volunteer ladies to help lost passengers. Neither was there the hotel they had recommended. He walked in the direction of the obelisk near the River Thames which now reminded him of the obelisk in Sultanahmet square in Istanbul. From there, he crossed the road towards Charing Cross station and sat in the park where he had talked to a homeless Londoner who was spending the nights at the entrance to the station.

The homeless no longer took shelter at the station with their cardboard mattresses and newspaper blankets. They were scattered across the city.

T then headed to Priory Road. Here, the loneliness was frightening. He passed the house where he had stayed in a bedsit. The other rooms had sheltered Fritz, the Austrian who had escaped from the Nazis, a South African student and a young English couple with their baby. Further along the road, had been Doris Cafe. At breakfast, Doris had always taken great pride in serving every order of delicious fresh eggs on toast. Where the café had been, there was now a florist’s. When T recalled this to a man standing outside the shop, he replied, “No, there never was any Doris cafe or Doris here!”

T continued walking along Priory Road. No sooner had he finally reached the house than the curtains opened. He caught a sudden, brief glimpse of her silhouette, before it vanished. “It cannot be her!, he said, “not after so many years!”

He thought of ringing the bell or throwing something to the window. But no. He just waited for a while in front the house and then walked to the main road. He kept walking on in a direction he neither knew nor remembered.

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* A word in Portuguese going back to the 13th century. It has no direct translations in other languages: its meanings include longing for the nostalgic past, feelings of sadness for lost times, places that no longer exist, faded faces, forgotten names. Its music is Fado.

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