The noisy tourists have finally disappeared. They must be having a late dinner in one of the newer, fancier restaurants of the neighborhood. Or having cocktails in a bar overlooking the city. The streets are deserted, apart from the occasional couple walking slowly and holding hands, or an old lady walking a dog.
At night, city streets live a different life. Like a nocturnal animal, they wake up to different sounds, smells and movements. Freed from the layer of agitation and noise brought by humans, they are breathing again.
The locals are living their quiet home life. There are voices and smells of home cooking, but everything is slowly dissolving in the breeze.
From time to time, the breeze picks up. It carries smells of ocean and seaweed, of deadwood floating away to nowhere. Boat lights are flickering on the Tagus river, each of them carrying its own story.
This ancient hilly quarter of Lisbon, where people have left on the ocean never to come back, where lives and loves were lost to famine, plague, fire and war, is not my home. But I feel so much at home here. So much in touch with the thousands of stories slowly unravelling around me.
A cat comes to caress himself against my hand. He looks at me and then he goes away into the dark. Am I accepted into this hidden, almost invisible street life? I am not felt as an intruder? I stay silent and let things be. It’s almost as if I’ve become part of the landscape.
I hear the sound of a cruiseship horn far away. I’ve never been on a cruiseship but it hits me violently. It brings back memories of travelling to unknown places, leaving behind what I love, being left behind by a loved one.
Are these my memories or have I become part of this place and now I am dreaming its dreams? I cannot tell anymore.
Narrow streets are leading down towards the river like torrents on a mountain after a heavy rain. The wind has stopped and everything is still and silent, as if frozen in a picture frame.