On previous days I moved up and down the Avenida, but this time I decide to stay in one place: on the esplanade outside the Bela Ipanema café, watching the world go by; later, when the café closes, I move to a bench on the central pavement, opposite the café. The café is halfway up/down the Avenida, and movement appears to be mainly of two types: people, many carrying cameras and maps, some with jumpers draped casually over their shoulders, wending their way ‘home’ (there are a number of hotels at the top of the Avenida) after a day’s sightseeing, and later, after dinner/drinks; and people moving towards a night out (the Baixa – Centre – is at the bottom, and down and to the right is the Bairro Alto, full of clubs and bars).
At the café:
– On a nearby table, a young Spanish couple are having soup, both leaning over the bowl so as not to spill any from their spoons. Then they share a spaghetti dish. Later, they inspect the bill suspiciously.
– A young woman in her 20s (a Talia Shire lookalike) sits down on the esplanade on her own, orders a coffee and lights up a cigarette. (Why does this seem odd?)
– A large man drinks soup with a paper napkin tucked into the top of his shirt. His wife (?) takes a tablet and washes it down with beer.
– A waiter comes out of the café for a cigarette. He stands next to a table, chatting and laughing with some customers.
– The end of the evening in the café: outside, the esplanade waiter is stacking parasols, tables and chairs, while waiters from inside unload from a white van the fruit and vegetables needed for the next day (melons, cabbages, carrots …).
In the street:
– A youthful-looking grandfather walks past with two grandsons, around 10 and 14. He has a striped shirt, shorts, sandals and a firm stride. Most men that pass are in shorts.
– A young man on the pavement hands out cards inviting passers-by to a restaurant.
– A young white man in his 20s with dreadlocks, a tie-dye T-shirt and baggy combat shorts – confident in his youth.
– A large group goes by, up the Avenida, probably back to their hotel. One lady, in her 80s, is hunched over and helped along by a younger woman.
– A father with his wife and two kids is wearing a black T-shirt; on the back is a print of a large white orchid and a green lizard.
– A couple toil up the slope of the Avenida looking very tired: a long day of sightseeing, perhaps?
– A couple walking back to the hotel, she looking elegant, he in his shorts: a style mismatch.
– A grey-haired man with a deep Armani tan.
– Two cheerful young Korean (?) women, their rucksacks on their fronts as a precautionary measure to avoid being pick-pocketed. One of them has her hands on her hips as she walks.
– A father with a baby in a harness on his chest, looking forward, wiggling his arms and legs in time with his father’s strides.
– A man with large, worn boots and his trousers above his ankles, carrying a black bin liner full of something.
– A couple practise some kind of country dance up the central pavement.
– A car is opened remotely, the lights flashing on, but you can’t tell whose car it is until a middle-aged man gets in.
– A woman in a pink sari being pushed along in a wheelchair.
– The noise of fork on teeth as a young couple eat spaghetti. And the slurping noise as the woman sucks it up.
– A waiter chinking plates. He coughs loudly and openly.
– The clinking of crockery being stored inside the café: closing time approaching.
– The clunk of a bottle knocked over on a table.
– The squeal of a bus’s brakes at a nearby stop.
– A taxi ticking over at a red light.
– The squeak of a windscreen wiper on a dry windscreen.
– The ‘beepeep’ of a car opened remotely.
– A motorbike roaring away from lights.
I begin to make note of how couples hold onto each other (or don’t …) as they walk along. How much is this contact (or lack of it) a reflection of the relationship, and/or a reflection of each personality. And why do we hold hands, or put our arms around each other, anyway?:
– A couple go by, both with their arms folded.
– A woman walking slightly behind a man, her right arm hanging loosely on his right shoulder.
– A man walking slightly behind a woman, his right arm hanging loosely on her right shoulder.
– Palms together, the man’s hand in front.
– Palms together, the woman’s hand in front.
– Fingers loosely linked.
– Fingers tightly entwined.
– Thumbs linked.
– A woman’s right hand curled around the man’s left forearm.
– Another woman with her right hand curled around the man’s left forearm; he has his right hand in his pocket.
– A man has his left hand in his pocket, and the woman has her right hand resting on his wrist.
– A woman with her hands in her pockets, with her head down. The man is walking apart and looking distant.
– A man has his arm around the woman’s waist, she has her arm around his shoulder.
– A man with his arm on the woman’s opposite shoulder, then momentarily her neck, then away.
– A man with his right arm over the woman’s right shoulder; she is holding his right hand with her right hand.
– A gay couple, one with a tender touch of the other man’s back as they enter the café.
– A threesome (a couple and a friend, a woman) from the north of England on the next table on the esplanade. Some snatches of dialogue:
The man: “The concept was all right when it was a trading organisation – the Common Market”.
One of the women: “She said ‘you can’t come – you’re not old enough. You have to be 80!’ ”
One of the women: “Oh, Barbara … I tell you … last night!”
The man: “I bet you’ve never slept through a hotel fire in the next room but one!”
– A German couple are trying to order from a slightly arrogant waiter:
Waiter: “We have lemon lemonade but we don’t have orange lemonade; lemonade is with lemons!”
Woman: “Ok. We’re foreigners, you know. I want something with orange.”
Waiter: “I have Fanta, orange juice …”
Woman: “Ok. Give me a Fanta, then.”
– My table at the café is next to that of three people from the north of England – probably Lancashire from their accents. The women are drinking white wine, the man beer. They may have had a few already because there is much giggling. Later they become more subdued, the conversation more intermittent, but there is the occasional cackle of laughter from the women while the man looks slightly bored. A toddler goes past in his mother’s arms, looking back over her shoulder. He waves at the women, and they wave back. Later, they climb unsteadily into a cab.
– A man with a subdued-looking dog. Suddenly, the dog barks at nothing – maybe getting impatient, then starts whining. The man is talking to another man on the next table and ignoring the dog. The next time I look, the dog is on his owner’s lap. Then he’s on the ground again, looking up imploringly at his owner, as if to say: “When can we go!?” Later the man gets up to leave and the dog barks an excited: “We’re going home!”
– A German couple on a nearby table, facing each other. He stretches his hands out to the middle of the table, inviting contact. She pats them, then sits back with her arms folded. She giggles occasionally. The waiter, speaking to them in English, is a little aggressive; when he leaves, they clink glasses and giggle together. Later, they sit looking glum; maybe they’ve run out of steam? But later still, they move up the Avenida towards their hotel, she with her hand slipped inside his arm.
(End of Day 4)