My Uncle – Silvia Rubião (2021)

Human Figure

 Sílvia Rubião1 

“I went to the party at the castle and brought you some sweets. But on the way back, I slipped on uncle Murilo’s bald head and everything fell to the ground.” That is how my mother, a talented storyteller, would close the fairy tales after the prince rescues the princess on his white horse and asks her to marry him. For some time this uncle with a light head and full whiskers populated my childhood as a more imaginary figure than a real one. 

At that time, in the mid-1950s, he used to live in Madrid, Spain, and would only materialize before my eyes two or three times, wearing a hat and a coat, when he would land at Pampulha Airport. There would begin the party, which would continue with the suitcase open in front of the gathered family, in the living room of our house. As the magician of his hat, the mysterious bald man would take out heaves, fans, castanets, bullfighters props and beautiful Spanish dolls. 

Already reestablished in Belo Horizonte, we started to have a real and more frequent relation. On Saturdays, he would always come to have lunch with us. That’s when my mother would put a special effort on pão de queijo and ribs with canjiquinha, his favorite delicacies. He was very attached to my father, the doctor Paulo Emílio, his only brother, one year younger. Introspective and of few words, they seemed in personality, though opposites in lifestyle. 

My uncle, as it is known, has never married. It wasn’t for lack of candidates and family pressures. His relationships with women, some of them brief, others long and intermittent, fueled folklore around his enigmatic figure, involving even a famous actress. When my grandmother and aunts began to get abuzz with some more explicit dating, they would disappear. He used to say that it was better to be single, to “make mistakes alone”, revealing, also there, the great reader of Machado de Assis that he was. In fact, he greatly cultivated his independence and the freedom of bohemian nights. In no way inspired him the model “father of numerous offspring” of his brother, whose incursions in the early hours were restricted to case studies, classes to prepare and bills to be paid. Differences aside, they were each other’s mainstay. They would always meet, whether to listen to soccer games on the radio, go to the farm in Itaúna or to despair together in the face of the practical things of life for which they were definitely not made. Declaring Income Tax annually was one of them. 

For many years, I thought my uncle worked at Gruta Metrópole, the legendary bar on Bahia Street. Sometimes when I was taken downtown for some reason, my mother would drop me off at my father’s office at Praça Sete to go back with him. That’s when, on the way home, he would propose to make a stopover at Gruta “to see uncle Murilo”. In the most, I can only remember the smoky talk, the delicious pastéis and the cheek squeezes. 

I grew up and we got closer, as much as two shy people are capable of. He understood my interest in stories and encouraged me. I learned how to read by myself in a toy alphabet given by him, when a severe nephritis left me layered for a long time. He used to compliment my essays and give me books (he would never lend them to anyone!). My first Monteiro Lobato, it was him to give me: Trip to Heaven. And almost all of the others. 

 1 Murilo’s niece, and heir of the ownership of his copyrights.