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FERNANDO SABINO

O Homem nu

Upon waking up he said to his wife:

– Listen, little girl, today is the day the the payment of the installment plan for the television is due, the bill collector will come by for sure. It so happens that yesterday I did not bring any money home, I have none.

– Explain that to the man-pondered the woman.

– I don't like these things, they give an air of deceit, I like to fulfill my obligations rigorously. Listen: when he comes to the door we will stay quietly inside, don't make any noise, so that he will thik that there in nobody here. Let him knock until he tires- tomorrow I'll pay.

Shortly after, having taken off his pijamas, he went to the bathroom to take a bath, but the woman had already locked herself in there. While he waited, he decided to make some coffee. He put the water on to boil and opened the back door to fetch the bread. Since he was completely naked, he looked carefully to one side and then to the other before he dared to risk taking two steps toward the package of bread that the delivery man had left on the marble door-step. It was still very early no one could possibly appear. His fingers had barely touched the bread package when the door behind him slammed, pushed by the wind.

Terrified, he threw himself at the door bell and after ringing it waited anxiously looking around. He heard the noise of the shower being shut off suddenly but no one came to answer the door. Certainly his wife thought that it was already the television man. He knocked on the door:

– Maria! Open the door, Maria. It's me – he called in a low voice.

The more he knocked the more silent it became inside.

Meanwhile, he heard the elevator door closing downstairs, he saw the floor indicator rise slowly as the elevator moved up… This time it was the television man!

It wasn't. Hiding on the landing between the two flights of stairs, he waitied for the elevator to pass and came back to the door of his apartment always nervously holding the package of bread:

– Maria, please! It's me!

This time he did not have time to insist: he heard steps on the stairs, slow, regular, coming from below… Overcome with panic he looked around, made a piroutte and thus naked, with the package in his hand he appeared to be performing a grotesque and poorly rehearsed ballet. The steps on the stairs came closer and he with nowhere to hide. He ran toward the elevator, pushed the button. The door opened and he got in, a maid was slowly passing, beginning to walk up one more flight of stairs. He breathed, relieved, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the package of bread. But lo and behold the inside door of the elevator closes and he begins to go down.

– Oh no! Not this! – exclaims the naked man, badly shaken.

What now? Someone downstairs would open the door of the elevator and find him completely naked, it may even be some well known neighbour… He perceives that he is being taken farther and farther away from his apartment, he was beginning to live a real Kafkian nightmare and at that moment was established the most authentic and mad regime of terror!

– No, not this, he repeated furiously.

He grabbed the elevator door and forced it to open between two floors, forcing the elevator to stop. He breathed deeply, closed his eyes, in order to have the momentary illusion that he was dreaming. After he tried to press the button for his floor. Dpwnstairs they continued calling the elevator. Before anything else: "Emergency:stop". Very good. And now? Would he go up or down? Cautiosly he switched off the emergency stop, let go of the door, while he insisted in making the elevator go up. The elevator went up.

– Maria! Open this door! – he shouted this time hitting the door without any caution. He turned around, trapped, leaning his backside against the doorstep and trying quite uselessly to cover himself with the package of bread. It was the old lady from the neighbouring apartment.

– Good morning madam, he said confused, – Imagine that I…

The old lady, shocked, threw her arns up, and screamed

– My God! The baker is naked!

And she ran to the telephone to call the police:

– There is a naked man here at the door!

Other neighbours, hearing the shouts, came to see what was going on.

– It's a Sex maniac!

– Look, how horrible!

– No, don't look! Go inside now, my daughter!

– Maria, the wife of the poor unfortunate man, finally opened the door to see what was going on. He rushed in like a rocket, dressed very quickly, without even remebering to take a bath. A few minutes later, after calm was reestablished outside, someonr knocked on the door. It must be the police – he said, still breathless, opening the door.

It wasn't: it was the bill collector from the television shop.

Fernando Sabino. in: "O homem nu". Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1997.