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TIAGO by Emanuel Melo • Cleaver Magazine
TIAGO by Emanuel Melo When Tiago woke at first light, his thought was of his nephews, Tom and James, who were arriving that afternoon. He could already hear their voices, full of excitement, the way the little boys always sounded when they visited. “Titi, Titi,” they would shout as they rushed to hug him. He would lift each boy and twirl him once all the way round, eliciting squeals of laughter as each had his turn flying through the air. Already, Tiago felt the joy of it. Usually he spent his mornings painting and drawing, but today there would be no time. He skipped breakfast and fussed over each room in the cottage, organizing his pencils, paints, blocks of paper and canvases. And his alphabetized collection of leather-bound first editions were arranged so neatly that you could measure the straightness of the rows with a ruler. Lightly, he ran a feather duster over each shelf of the built-in mahogany bookcase. In the living room, an art deco rug with intricate designs in deep reds, purples, and greens, accentuated the polished shiny hardwood floor. On top of an art deco side table white hydrangea filled a Lalique vase. He hoped the boys would notice the flowers and think of the flowers that laced the winding roads of the countryside of his boyhood home. But, of course, they would remember no such thing; they did not even know where the island was located. They had been born in Toronto, and, just like everyone else Tiago knew, the word Azores brought a blank gaze into their eyes. Over the years, anticipating most people’s ignorance of the islands’ existence, Tiago had memorized an explanation that for whenever he saw the puzzled look in someone’s face: In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Canada and Europe, nine small islands. And almost everyone reacted to this explanation as if discovering the existence of some exotic tropical paradise. Tiago imagined lighting a fire later that evening, and then sitting with the boys on the floor around the coffee table for a game of Scrabble. Or, perhaps, redoing the puzzle they’d enjoyed putting together last winter. Tom’s face had been pure joy when he triumphantly placed the final piece that completed the silhouette of a solitary man sitting inside a small covered boat, lost in his reading: Monet’s Le Bateau-atelier. “Titi,” Tom had shouted, “I did it!” And Tiago had smiled proudly at his nephew while the younger boy, James, looked on disappointed that he had not been of much help. “Titi, it’s too hard,” James complained, and his uncle had assured him that he’d been a great help, just sorting out the pieces.