The fundamental loneliness goes whenever two can dream a dream together. That’s how it should be. I must admit that I was a most serious young man. I had graduated university as a structural engineer and needed, I thought, to make my mark on the world. Now I could have joined a large engineering firm and become lost in the crowd, but I figured that if I could do some work overseas I could become a standout from that crowd. True, I was young and egotistical and full of confidence that I could engineer the world to perfection, but a young man has to have ambition or else settle for a tract house in the suburbs and collect the usual accouterments of wife, children (two mind you, one girl and one boy), the family station wagon (oh dear, I reveal my age), and the hot little sports car that says “I have arrived.” All very well for the middle class minded, but too plebeian for my blood. True, I was a man in a hurry.
So I did contract work and gained the experience I thought would stand me in good standing with the rest of the structural engineers of the world. Oh the assignments were varied. The design of small bridges here and there in third world countries, some teamwork on a couple of dams, and the ever present facilities engineering for docks and other logistical facilities. One learns by doing is the essential attitude of the engineer. Of course my social life wasn’t much. Many of the countries in which I worked I could not speak the language and for the most part I was too busy to bother with social expectations. A wife would be an encumbrance and girlfriends take up too much time and resources. So I stay single and and forgot about companionship. At best it was an interference and at worst it was a total distraction.
I love fate, it is the one human activity that cannot be engineered. I don’t understand it but I don’t distrust it either. So close your eyes, for that’s a lovely way to be. South America was one of those last bastions of contract engineers in the seventies. Brasilia was the new capital of Brasil and was being carve out of the jungle, literally. Of course the Bossa Nova and other jazz forms were commanding world wide attention. Rio was the place to be if one moved in musical circles. Unfortunately my circle was engineering, not quite as romantic to the informed public. But Brasilia was attracting population when none had been before. we were erecting a capital city from nothing, from jungle and hardship. It was a most exhilarating time in my life. the girl from Ipanema was in her early thirties by now and the new Brazilian Jazz had taken new directions. It was exciting times if one were in the social scene.
Aware of things your heart alone was meant to see. Even Brazil extracted the need for socialization among us contractors. It is the rhythm of the work and the social life that makes the difference. By the seventies the danger of revolutionary groups had disappeared and we could get on with the work that would make Brazil one of the economic successes of the world. I was acquiring a reputation for excellence of work and swift completion or he work. Still, there was something missing, something of a most civilizing nature. Man does not live by bread alone and there is usually a companion in the makings that marks the difference.
I was between contracts and had a little money saved for an extended holiday so I took a small villa in Bahia for a couple of months. The almost two years of working in Brasilia served to teach me the rudiments of the Portuguese language and I figured three months in Bahia would give it that polish that only comes from immersion. The villa was a modest affair, two bedrooms, a large bath, a modest kitchen, and an open living room. The beach was an easy mile’s walk while the shopping and business area was two miles to the north. Music was a constant companion in the streets. Life was friendly and easy going for the most part and could beguile a man to settle and put down roots. Astrud was sitting on the beach when I chanced to meet her the second week of my stay. She ignored my initial greetings but by the end of the week she chose to return the salutations with that quiet smile that could flash into a flirting grin in the blink of my eyes. Ah, to be twenty something and youthful again. I’m afraid I looked all of my thirty two years while she seemed to be barely twenty. Blond, of medium height, and on the thin side, Astrud surely had no lack of suitors. Like most men I felt awkward around beautiful women and was beautiful. I’m afraid I do not have to power of the poet in me to render a great portrait of words, not that one would hang in on a wall. No, I’m an engineer and could take slide rule and pencil and render her on a blueprint like a beautifully designed bridge or high rise apartment tower. Life changes and I started to hear the moon and stars singing as the night sky grew dark. Local legend says that if one stays long enough in Bahia one can feel the rhythms of love intertwine one’s heart and bind it to the city.
by the end of the month Astrud had taken a passing interest in my presence and guided me in conversation with a loving patience. I felt my confidence gaining in speaking Portuguese and I was more comfortable speaking with her. We would talk about some of the clubs I found where local performers put on good shows. Funny thing was that I was beginning to feel my feet move to those local rhythms and she laughed when I confessed such a thought to her. Slowly the distance between us closed and I could almost feel beside me. Finally she asked me to meet her at her favorite club that night and I was thrilled. My only regret was that I would be leaving in another month and I would miss seeing her every day. But we could dance and hold each other close under the moon and stars.You can’t deny, don’t try to fight the rising sea. Don’t fight the moon, the stars above, and don’t fight me. There was a dream growing in my heart.
The end of the month was nigh, the time to pack was only a day or two away. Yet when I looked into her eyes I saw eternity. Yes, I know, how corny. Walking back from the club in the early morning with our arms swinging in an easy motion as her hand squeezed mine, she stopped and looked into my face. “Just catch the wave. Don’t be afraid of loving me. The fundamental loneliness goes whenever two can dream a dream together.” I knew she was right, things would work out. I knew they would.