We were walking on the narrow and winding streets of the charming village that sits at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery. The early-evening sun highlighted the colors of the houses and the cobblestones. Loureiro, the shoemaker who mended leather as trade and sew ideas as art was hungry. We were on our way to Sophie’s coffee shop, where the best sandwiches on the planet are made, so that he could have his favorite, slices of ham, a little honey and cinnamon, generous shavings of parmesan cheese and an over-easy egg on a brioche roll. It goes in the oven for grating. To drink, coffee until sunset; after, only wine. The house is strict in its rules. The waitress was Regina, a long-time acquaintance who was happy to see us. She said her shift was over and asked if she could join us. Permission granted, apron off, and we had, seated next to us, someone who needed to talk like a child who wants to show all the toys to a visitor. Immediately, she disclosed a serious matrimonial crisis. For quite some time now she had been living with another woman, much younger, whom she was in love with. However, she had always introduced her as a niece who had come to spend some time in the village. On the night before, they had a serious argument, because the girlfriend accused her of prejudice for not admitting before everyone the love they felt one for the other, either due to the age difference or the fact that they both are women.
Loureiro looked her in the eyes and asked with his usual candor: “What is the truth?” The friend lowered her eyes and argued that things were not so simple. They had to take into account that they lived in a small country village, where habits are strongly ingrained and the new is difficult to accept. Differently from big cities, they all know and talk to one another. She did not want to live under disapproving stares, judgmental comments or discriminated against by people. She regretted that people were so prejudiced.
The craftsman sipped the coffee and said: “Whenever we give up living our life because of what others would think, this means we are the prejudiced ones, not the others. Prejudice is but the fear of facing the truth before yourself and the world. Fear will always be a source of suffering. Courage is an essential component of healing, which is completed with truth. To know exactly who we are, with no subterfuge, is the first step towards freedom and peace.”
Regina claimed that truth was not simple and, at times, was unnecessary. Loureiro furrowed his brow and said: “I agree with you. Sensitivity, subtlety and love are necessary when we address the truth of the other, as not always the other will be ready for confrontation. It may not be the best moment, or perhaps we are not the finest messengers. May patience and compassion never lack. However, when we talk about the truth of our own life, I disagree. It is simple, indeed. However, love and courage are necessary to handle it, and that is not always easy.”
Courage? She shook her head and said she did not consider herself a strong person. The shoemaker furrowed his brow and said: “How interesting the fact that we relinquish the power we have.” Regina said she had not understood the comment. He explained: “To be strong is a choice we make every day. Courage, like all other virtues, is next to us, it is in front of us, it is available to anyone. It lies within each one, dormant, just waiting for a call to awake and be our companion. We can always decide whether to face or run from hardships.” He became pensive for a while, and corrected himself: “In fact, you cannot run from hardships, as they represent the lessons we must learn. Actually, we postpone the battle until the day it reaches us.” Regina said she preferred to postpone the fight until the last minute. Loureiro shrugged his shoulders and said: “The problem, in this case, is that you prolong suffering.”
Regina regretted the power of prejudice, of how it involves people without their realizing how it interferes, unduly, in everyone’s life. The shoemaker agreed, and went further: “Prejudice is much more than the veil of ignorance that prevents us from seeing the beauty of life with all its fascinating differences. It is an act of deceit. Denying others the right of making their own choices is withdrawing their freedom; preventing yourself from making the best choices is a fraud against you.”
“Do not make the senseless mistake of trying to control the choice of others; on the other hand, do not grant anyone power over your choices. You must understand that the choices we make translate who we are. Speeches may show a draft of what we are, but only the choices we make draw the sketches of the artwork.”
A teardrop rolled down the woman’s face. She said she liked the city and its residents. She had many friends, and did not want to leave but was afraid truth would cause embarrassment, distancing or rejection.
Loureiro shrugged his shoulders and said, gravely: “We cannot intervene in other people’s opinion nor can we force people to change. Only fools try to convince others. However, we can define who we are and how we live. Dignity is the only limit. In all aspects of life, this is the tremendous power we have. Therefore, deciding with whom you date or marry is an inalienable right of yours. Do not allow anyone to interfere. Anyone who does not like it should rethink their concepts and values.” He paused briefly and went further: “Let them face their own shadows to realize why choices made by others are so bothersome to them.” He sipped the coffee and continued: “This is also valid the other way around, I mean, why choices made by others are capable of bothering us? If we have a problem with the new, the different, the free, it is because there is something wrong with us. It is time to dive into silence and quietness to investigate the dark dungeon of our soul, and then illuminate it.”
Loureiro took a bite of the sandwich, licked his lips and said: “Perhaps some people will distance themselves when they know the truth. Even though this may be sad, it is not bad. This indicates that a new circle of friends will emerge around you, more true and sincere as they are tuned with the new, different energy frequency you will vibrate. People who love you, understand you and respect your choices will remain. The others will be stagnating, cursing humankind while your journey will go on, under multiple transformations, towards new stations. Free, light, whole.”
The waitress revealed that she had felt quite hurt after the argument she had with her girlfriend, for all that was said. She added that truth hurts. The cobbler smiled and, in response, disagreed: “Truth does not hurt. To face yourself without a mask will always cause discomfort. The mask does not protect, it deceives. The truth does not hurt, it heals and liberates.” He paused, and added: “Painful is the lie one tells to oneself.”
“What causes you pain, the love you feel for your girlfriend or the fear that nourishes the lies you told everyone?”
“Every time you put truth aside for fear of what others may think of you, you will cease to be the helmsperson of your own ship that sails the sea of life. Do not blame the world after it unavoidably sinks. Remember that the choice was yours. Happiness does not take a lie as travel companion.”
Regina took a handkerchief from her pocketbook to dry the tears that made her face moist. We had been silent for a little while, trying to digest the ideas from the shoemaker, when the café owner entered the store. Sophie, a nice lady, came to greet us and said that that seemed to be the “Crying Day”. Seeing our puzzled faces, she explained that she had just seen Regina’s girlfriend seated on a bench, crying, with a poetry book in her hand. She had thought that her crying was due to literature, but now she had realized it had grounds in reality.
Girlfriend? Regina thought odd that Sophie had used that term to refer to her “niece”. The café owner gave a sincere smile and disclosed that many people in town knew about the romance, but no one would comment anything about it out of respect for the waitress. Then, she advised her to go meet her girlfriend, because love should not wait. Yes, the wall that prevented her from moving was as tall as a line drawn with chalk on the floor. Disconcerted, Regina smiled, excused herself and went to live her destiny. Through the window we saw her rushing down the sidewalk, like she was floating. Love had this power.
Loureiro finished his sandwich and suggested: “Let’s order another one? All this commotion made me hungry.” I smiled and nodded my head, in agreement. The shoemaker digressed: “Oftentimes, life seems like a movie written by a mad, but genius screenwriter. He insists on happy endings for all films. We, because we don’t understand, hamper the best scene sequences when we deny the transformational power of truth. Truth will always be a torch light that illuminates the steps of the protagonist during the dark night of the plot.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.