Editor’s Note: This text is available to read in English and Portuguese. Clicking “Español” will take you to the Portuguese text.
A waiting room. Made for waiting. Dozens of upholstered chairs are spread throughout the room, in which 27 animals await their turns. Impatiently, but not ferociously, they wait between orange walls, flowerpots with graceful, blooming manacá bushes and other bigger ones with dwarf umbrella trees and philodendrons, oval mirrors, and coffee tables with magazines about fashion and architecture. In the middle of the room, a square fountain made of green stones has been switched on by the secretary chewing strawberry gum behind the counter. The fountain is splashing a milky stream of water from a cherub’s mouth.
A giraffe is filing her nails. She slowly chews a bag of gummies. She’s making a lot of noise, and a strand of yellow drool drips from her mouth. In fact, she is provoking the secretary, whose own noisy chewing is also a provocation—perhaps to get the animals to give up on their appointments and go away. The giraffe has torticollis and difficulty seeing her black nails.
A ladybug is jumping repeatedly from her chair. Actually, she isn’t jumping; she is throwing herself down. With each fall comes a new disappointment. She knows it’s not the best place to commit suicide, but she doesn’t know who can help her. Everyone else is focused on their own tasks, sinking into their precious moments of boredom. And she respects that. The only thing she does not respect is her life, which keeps prevailing and fighting against her. The ladybug throws herself from the chair with her wings closed. She doesn’t feel anything when she falls. She hates herself, but her body is as indestructible as is her pride that unconsciously challenges all her wishes.
An otter is knitting. She wears glasses with thin, golden rims, her upper front teeth are prominent, and she peers suspiciously at the nearest animals. Now and then she sneezes loudly but continues knitting. The wool is the color of her fur, and the piece is already bigger than her. Perhaps she’ll wear it in the winter, or maybe she’ll donate it to homeless otters.
A chameleon is meditating. Every minute, he changes his color. When he was younger, he could camouflage himself wherever he wanted. Now he’s lost part of his power, but he can still hide on the blue armchair. He’s afraid someone will sit on him, so he turns himself yellow and white like a python. He meditates with his eyes closed tight. The bags under his eyes are bags of rough times, full of wrinkles, as if the whole history of animalkind were accumulated there.
A hyena is checking between her legs. Her period began this morning, and she’s afraid she will start bleeding again and the blood will cover the floor. The other animals would be disgusted and judge her female condition. Her panties are still pink. She crosses her legs insecurely and relaxes her body. Perhaps an ice cream would attenuate the menstrual pain. Since morning, she hasn’t stopped licking her teeth, as if she were about to go out on the hunt. She’s all smiles, and her laugh makes the ladybug fall from the chair, frightened—but she still doesn’t die.
A snake is trying to dance to the Latin beat that comes from the secretary’s small speakers. She doesn’t care about anyone. She wants to dance the “Macarena,” but she needs a mirror for that, and none of the mirrors are available—some are covered up by pots full of tawdry plants. She remembers the arm movements, bending down with hands on head, and she tries not to cry over her lack of limbs. Still, she moves her body and tail in opposite directions, and feels a bit happier.
A flamingo is admiring himself in a mirror. He’s one of the few animals standing; he prefers the mirror to the rest the chairs offer. He thinks he’s handsome and he could be on the Internet talking about books he hasn’t read or wines he hasn’t tasted. He puffs out his chest—not like a pigeon, because he hates them—and flaunts his thin legs. He feels that the pink on his neck is undoubtedly getting whiter, almost gray. He’s afraid of aging, so he smiles to stretch his face. The beak gets in the way. Perhaps a little Botox? He blows a kiss to his reflection in the mirror. It answers back, and they keep doing this indefinitely.
A pig is applying lipstick. She’s very small, so she almost smears her face in red. She has put a string of pearls around her thick neck just for the doctor. She shakes one of her hooves nervously, envying the chameleon’s obnoxious tranquility. If possible, she would jump off her chair to admire herself in the mirror as well, but she’s too lazy. She feels exhausted just from closing her lipstick, whose lid is caked with dry mud.
A dragonfly is flying back and forth between her chair and the fountain. The movement makes some of the animals feel dizzy, but she has a morbid need to fly. When tired, she sits on the cherub’s head and watches the time pass on the clock hanging on the wall above the secretary.
A dog is scratching his balls. He does this elegantly, looking from side to side to make sure nobody is watching. When the dragonfly seems to notice the slight movement of his paw inside his pants, he blushes. He’s a Dalmatian, whose dark spots turn from black to brown. He smiles roguishly and smells his paw. He thinks about taking off his clothes, but only at home, where there’s beer and TV.
A cockroach is reading Kafka. She’s focused and sweating. Her antennae spin around, disturbed, but she can’t do anything about it, since she’s concerned about the end of the story, maybe about her own destiny. Nevertheless, there’s no concern worse than waking up one day with two arms, two legs, and a migraine, believing the Earth is flat.
A cat is picking her teeth. She flicks small wet fish pieces onto the other animals, who glare at her. She doesn’t do it to everyone, only those who seem fun to annoy, the ones more susceptible to provocation. Then she throws the toothpick into the fountain’s small hole, but it doesn’t stop up the milky stream of water as she’d imagined. Disappointed, she starts licking herself: first her paws, then her intimate parts, clearly trying to look seductive. She’s desperate to have sex.
A penguin is reading a magazine about architecture. He’s fascinated by the different kinds of igloos that were presented at an architecture conference in which he didn’t participate. He deeply regrets not going. Flipping the pages, he learns about not only the new materials used in igloo construction but also their new functions and prices. He’s surprised. Inflation has made ice more expensive. He closes the magazine and takes off his glasses; he’s clearly concerned about the new risks in the economy.
A skunk is holding in a fart, his eyes popping out, almost dropping out of his head. He’s afraid of being killed right there—trampled by the giraffe, crushed by the snake, or torn apart by the Dalmatian. Anything could happen, except a moment of relaxation. He can’t even go to the bathroom, fearing that something might escape from him and enter him into the waiting room’s annals.
A fly is reading the Bible. She is wearing tiny flat metal glasses on her round face. She has thirteen diopters of myopia in both eyes and one-and-a-half of astigmatism in the right one. She reads faithfully, fervidly. Her wings rustle while she flips through the Gospel of Luke. She’s so emotional and so excited that she even thinks of starting a TV channel just for flies, but only for the ones who think like her. Let the other ones burn alive on electric swatters. Amen.
A pony is smoking a clove cigarette. He’s on his third one. Smoking isn’t allowed in the waiting room or on the clinic’s premises, which extend to the corner of the street. But he doesn’t care. Both times the secretary scolded him for smoking, condescendingly calling him “Sir,” he told her to go fuck herself and added: “Don’t you Sir me, I’m a racing pony. Better than you.” He smokes slowly and thinks of standing up to kick the flamingo, but he doesn’t want to be thrown out of the clinic.
A crow is drinking a glass of Syrah. Fermented alcoholic beverages are allowed in the waiting room. The wine smells like gunpowder, but it’s good. She brought it from a party, where she also stole some silver earrings and a dozen diamonds that are now hidden under her body. She keeps looking at the otter’s glasses, glittering like a seething gold mine. She likes this wine, but she’d prefer something lighter, softer. A Riesling, perhaps.
A cross-eyed platypus is wondering what he is doing there.
A rabbit wearing a blue hat is cutting out all the dresses he can find in the fashion magazines. The secretary watches him, but she doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t know where he found the scissors; maybe he brought them in the silver fanny pack squeezing his furry belly. She’s not sure. He cuts hurriedly, biting his tongue and stamping his feet each time he finishes a dress. He cuts out the models’ heads and puts them on new dresses, switching the bodies and sometimes the limbs.
A turtle is doing nothing. She contemplates neither her own waiting nor others’. She doesn’t pretend to be dead or think that she is alive. She blinks involuntarily and avoids thinking about her trip back home when she’s done, when there won’t be any taxis available.
An owl is trying to put a spell on the clock to speed it up. She’s a witch, and she knows what to say, how to say it, the names she needs to invoke, and how much she needs to roll her eyes. Her eyes are choleric. She thinks several times of burning up the fountain or ending the ladybug’s suffering. Perhaps eating her would be a better idea.
A cicada is spinning herself around, emitting sparks. Nobody knows if she’s doing this to call attention to herself, or if something is bothering her. Her spinning is constant, boring, like an uncontrollable top. She feels dizzy and suddenly stops, letting out a howl that draws some disapproving glances. Then she apologizes and starts spinning again.
A hippopotamus is staring at the plants and analyzing the color of the walls. He has an enviable posture. Maybe he’s the most elegant animal, the most emblematic presence in the waiting room. He wears an ocean-blue Italian cardigan, covering part of his dark and oily skin, whose luster involuntarily provokes the crow. He’s the only one who’s satisfied with the time and the wait. He’s only bothered by the fact he doesn’t fit in the fountain.
A frog wearing a beret is thinking of leaving. The smell of wine and clove cigarettes disturbs him. He hasn’t drunk or smoked for 4,129 minutes, a victory for him, a relief for his family. He used to do harder drugs, he was engaged in smuggling, but he doesn’t miss any of that, only the cheap wine and the cigarettes. His eyes are red, and with a smile on his face, he imagines unfurling his tongue to steal the pony’s cigarette.
A bee is talking to herself. Her buzz is irritating, high-pitched, and protracted. She pronounces disjointed words, sometimes only half of them, and it seems she’ll explode at any moment. She wears tight gym clothes, black and yellow polyester, and occasionally flies to the fountain to drink the milky water.
A ram is writing his autobiography in a ruled notebook. His expression seems suspicious at times, as if he’s salvaged some unexpected, forbidden ideas from the waiting room. He likes privacy but doesn’t respect it. He’s already written about the dog, the fly, and the rabbit. He loves gossip. The more he writes, the more heated he becomes. He remembers with sadness that he needs to be shorn.
An albino monkey, who has been chewing coca leaves and doing crosswords, leaves his chair and steps on the ladybug.
Outside the waiting room. The street is engulfed by the purple of twilight. Night is falling and the clinic is still open. The front of the building, clean and clear like a spa entrance, looks out onto a street full of cars. Inside them, humans are waiting, leaning on the windows, sweating through their open mouths. Others are on leashes outside, tied up to metal bars that were put in place exclusively for that purpose. Men and women, naked, wait for their owners. They’re hungry and thirsty. They lick their armpits and the space between their legs. They drool over their feet, poop wherever they can, pee on the already-dead plants. They wait with their hearts racing, dreaming of colorful little balls, sardine cans, juicy pieces of meat, and jars full of food.