I wrote a non-fiction essay which, to my delight, has been included for publication in the latest online issue of Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-American Letters and Studies.
“I waited alone in the small room that promised the comfort one might expect from someone’s living room. There were a few bookshelves crammed with paperbacks frayed at the edges, perhaps left behind to be read over and over by strangers who maybe just found it helpful to flip through the pages while their minds worried over the reasons that had brought them there to wait. I sat on a sagging yet strangely comfortable sofa, looked out the window onto a barren winter garden, and for a moment tricked myself into believing I was still at home on that dull Sunday morning.”
I hope you enjoy reading the text in full: Tia Catarina
Many thanks and gratitude to the editorial committee of Gávea-Brown for giving my short memoir story a home in their 44th issue.
I am grateful to Susan K. Riggs for her generous review of “Tia Catarina.”
In his latest work, Emanuel Melo paints a vibrant picture of—Tia Catarina– for whom life literally sings off the page, aquiver with colour, music, and a personality unafraid to burst the bars of polite society and express an irrepressible kindness for her family, friends, her beautiful Portugal and humanity in general.
Melo’s “Aunt Cathy”, the aunt of the narrator’s partner, oozes engagement with life, embracing its love and warmth and all the wonders of nature. A force of nature herself, she seamlessly blends into the blazing setting of a Portuguese sun, merging, for example, with the music of nature, emitting “a musical shriek of laughter” into the “whispering wind”, “a laughter so piercing and high-pitched that it float[s] far off in the air into the neighbouring hills”, a sound reminiscent of “a strange foreign bird.”
Tia Catarina is one of Melo’s finest portrayals, for she embodies humanity at its best, and her bombastic approach to life pummels its way through a stream of optimism clear through to the far shore of her death.
On this latter note, Melo deftly records the passing of Aunt Cathy in a kind of “bookended” fashion, her impending demise appearing solely at the beginning and end of the story. Thus here, death is a mere preface and epilogue—lost in the deep and pervasive “weeds” of Aunt Cathy’s extraordinary spirit as she bubbles through life, the technicality of her dying recorded by an introverted and proper narrator, a foil to Aunt Cathy. (Indeed, the narrator seems caught between a rock of awe for Aunt Cathy and the hard place of his more inhibited nature.)
Overall, there are echoes of John Donne’s “Death, be not Proud” in the life story of Tia Catarina: the ultimate destroyer is itself destroyed within this repository of never-to-be-forgotten memories that, in the final analysis, triumph through the image of petals of a violet in a pot in the hospice…….a flower that survives, bathed (we imagine) in the expansive energy of Aunt Cathy, who lives on before and after “death” to crash and splash against the ever-moving shoreline of a life well-lived.
Susan K. Riggs/2022
Susan K. Riggs
A writer by profession, Susan has published in both print and electronic media and in 2009 was appointed adjunct scholar to the James Madison Public Policy Institute in Florida. Along with newspaper and journal articles, her background includes writing drama for CBC radio and speeches for senior representatives in the academic, government and business communities. Her “America” series of articles has been published throughout the United States.