This was the first Marathon he would be running abroad. The place he chose was Chicago, from where he would take a plane to Toronto. This was not the first time he was visiting both places, so there was no need to drop by touristic views. Nevertheless, he intended to go to the CN Tower in Toronto and visit a number museums in both cities; still the idea was enjoying life in those interesting places during his stay.
The plan was staying in the city for 4 days, arriving on the Friday before the competition, after a direct flight from his city, São Paulo. He would party at night, rest around the hotel for the whole of Saturday, compete the following day, enjoy the city for three more days and then visit a friend in Toronto. Good small vacations.
He just loved music and he was longing to go again to those houses of blue’s music in town, to listen to good players and bands, dance a bit, drink a beer or so and, perhaps, meet nice people. There were plenty of options and places to go and he always made new friends while travelling, especially abroad. He was excited about it.
There was a special remembrance about one of the houses he had gone to last time, so he decided to start with this one, which happened to be just four blocks from the apartment he had rented through a famous website. Ivo - that is his name – wanted to revive the days he were in the city, a couple of years before, and now experiment the feeling of competing far away from home, in a different climate and environment.
He showed up at the club and it was still empty. The hostess at the front door told him that a very good harmonica player and his band would be performing that night. Yet, the house had had just opened, nobody had already shown up. He turned back, towards the street, searching for a restaurant. The excitement of being back to Chicago made him totally forget to have dinner and his stomach had just started to complain. He was planning to eat only pasta the night before the Marathon, as recommended by all the manuals and websites, but none of them said anything about eating a good Chicago pizza two days before. He chose the best in town, sat at the bar and ordered the stuffed pizza of the house, full of tomato hot sauce and melted cheese. Probably more calories on two slices rather than all the meals he had had in the past week. Who cares? He was planning to run 27 miles, so this would soon be burned up. He drank a glass of red wine and, as a perfect Brazilian, an expresso at the end of the meal.
Heading back to the club, it was already full. He could not believe how packed the place had became, in just one hour. It seemed like everyone was outside, just waiting for him to go for his slow dinner. The hostess remembered his face and ushered him before everyone in line – “You were here before, Mister, and made your reservation. You are just in time.” – She blinks at him and Ivo feels at home.
All the tables were full; however, he had a good eye and found a seat on the other side of the room. Nobody was sitting there, yet nearby there were three beautiful ladies. He kindly asked to sit there and they just nodded their heads as a “Yes”. They did not seem to care about him, so he ordered a mineral water to rehydrate after the wine and waited for the show, while observing the other tables around him. They all seemed to be out of towners. The girls beside him were all talking in English with an accent, which he could barely listen.
The show started and the guy was amazing. The audience could not stay quiet and they waved, screamed and sang together, whenever the song had lyrics. By the middle of the show, half of the group was standing up, madly dancing, sweating and drinking. That night had a different spirit, which flowed from a smooth swing to a heavy dance. One had to be there to feel this unspeakable groove.
Ivo was dancing but he could not take his eyes off a curly red haired girl with shiny blue eyes. She was not what we could call a slim girl, but when she danced, it seemed like she was not even touching the floor. She was just like a butterfly. She noticed him staring at her and felt a bit uncomfortable, but deep inside her heart, she was enjoying this private audience. The place was crowded.
When the band paused for a twenty minutes break, he tried to approach her, but she disappeared. At a glance, he could see her running to the ladies’ room. He got back to the bar and ordered a beer from the tap, while watching the barman preparing a Bloody Mary. “I should have ordered one of those”, he thought.
He walked throw the big hall, while the bar got full of people. He acted smart going there before everybody. Now all the people who were standing were asking for complicated drinks. He would never get a chance to order anything, especially with his accent. Ivo was still chasing her, now just with his eyes, wondering if he would have the chance to introduce himself. It took a while until he found the girl talking to some people on the other side of the big room. They are laughing and drinking, while choosing songs on a fancy jukebox. She had this kind of laughter that seemed to be high, swinging her head back, but one could not hear anything, as if she was faking it. People around her laughed together and it looked like they were having lots of fun. Ivo was dying to join them, so he walked towards the group and stayed in line to choose a song. He tried to start a conversation with her:
- Hi. I am Ivo.
When she was about to answer him, the drums distracted both with its strong sound. As the show restarted, the jukebox was off and the groups returned to their seats. Ivo wanted to follow them, but there was no place available at their tables, so sadly he got back to his.
“Well, she already knows my name.” he thought. “If she could hear what I said.”
The second part of the show was lighter; the songs were smoother and quieter. Ivo was almost falling asleep. “I need something to chew; otherwise I would start snoring here.” He ordered an appetizer and when it arrived, the size was so big that he offered some to these unknown people sitting there with him. It cause them an interest on starting a conversation with him. They found it very kind of him offering his appetizer to strangers. The truth was that they would have prefer free drinks, but this was a good starter, anyway.
Some songs later, he needed to go to the men`s room and when he was heading back to his table, he saw the red haired girl entering the door at his side. He decided to wait until she came back, which took ages. Finally, she emerged from this bright light room and her face suggested a surprise on meeting him. He smiled at her and she said: “Ivo”. Then, she completed “Such a different name. Where are you from?” Ivo was so delighted with her memory that he forgot to ask for her name. He only said “Brazil”.
From the big hall, some friends looked at her, while urging her to come. She just had time to say a quick “Good-bye”, while rushing towards the main door.
She was gone. Poor Ivo.
He headed back to his apartment and made an effort on focusing on the competition on Sunday. Saturday would be a day off, just relaxing, eating healthy and hydrating his body. He needed to get rid of all the alcohol he had had on Friday, which now he was regretting a bit. Despite all this, every time he closed his eyes he saw a curly red haired in front of him.
He took some time to go the Mall close to the starting point and got his competition kit. Many people were working there which made it very quick and enjoyable. Everything related to the Marathon was fun and helped him not to think about the girl with no name.
Sunday arrived and Ivo was ready for running. He had slept very well the night before and was full of energy; willing to run throw the nice streets of Chicago. “What a beautiful day”, he thought, “A perfect one to run”. He was just about to make a dream come true. His apartment was a few blocks from the starting point and in five minutes, he was there ready to begin. His heart was beating hard; he might have felt the adrenaline boiling throw his veins. The sky had a light blue color and the sun was warm: perfect weather. The bell sounded and he started running. He was trying to control his nerves and not cause a derailment of thoughts in his mind. He had to keep sane and focused on his own speed, trying not to be challenged by other runner’s pace. Each person makes its own time; he did not have to follow anybody. Fifteen minutes later, he was already on a perfect flow, just enjoying the set of songs he particularly made for this moment. He was expecting to run for less than four hours and he had been training for the past year for that. Ivo wanted to make his best time so far, this was his goal for the moment.
One hour later, he was feeling good, full of energy and the playlist was working pretty well. It felt good looking at the people on the streets that waved at him, even when they had never seen each other before. He kept the rhythm and the songs on his phone were becoming energized, higher in speed, so he did not slow his pace. He controlled his time and in two hours, now, he was already on the second half, as planned.
He was getting closer to the last expected 90 minutes and he decided to raise the speed. Not much, just a bit, to improve the performance. The feeling was amazing, he was happy and smiling, despite all the sweat on his face, shirt and hair. It did not matter, at all.
Suddenly he heard a woman voice screaming his name – “Ivo, Ivo, Ivo!” He thought this was nothing but his imagination. While the scream continued, he looked a bit further and saw her, the curly red haired girl. She was clapping hands for him, saying his name and he got totally bewildered. The energy on his body was suddenly refilled with this demonstration, and at the same time he did not want to go faster, he wanted to stay there, talk to her, ask her name and phone number. What a mess! He managed to scream to her – “Please, your name!” While running parallel to him, outside the lanes, she answered something weird, like a charade, and the only thing he could remember when he arrived to the rented apartment was: “Here I am for you/ Don’t forget me when you are blue/ From all the things I could say now / Your name I can remember, somehow.” She had repeated it several times, to be sure he would not forget. This was all he could hear in his head while taking a long shower after the Marathon. He wrote it down and did not know what to do with this text; he could not understand what this meant. He decided to go out to have something to eat when his stomach started complaining about its empty mode. He made it in 3 hours and 48 minutes; it deserved a toast.
Next two days he was out for sightseeing, which he just did mechanically. A museum, a view, a pizza, a beer… Nothing was as nice as he thought it would be.
As heading back to the airport, he decided to go back to his notes on what to do in Toronto. The last thing he wrote down on his phone was the phrase the girl shouted to him. This was when he realized that he was not having fun because he became obsessed on trying to find this girl or, at least, understand what she said. Why she did not give him her name?
When arriving in Toronto, Ivo told his friend, Doug, the story about the nightclub and the coincidence at the Marathon. Doug was impressed, but as not a big fan of love stories, he wanted to make Ivo forget about the girl. He took his friend to a fancy bier house, yet it did not work. The weather was already cold in the city and this made Ivo blue.
Ivo and Doug used to work at the same company, some years before. While both were living in Guatemala, and as the two were the only foreigners at the firm and with many things in common, they had started a very good friendship.
When they were trekking back home, Doug suddenly stopped and rowed: “It was a poem!” Ivo looked at him with no clue on what he was saying. Doug continued: “The phrase the red haired girl said during the Marathon: it’s a poem!” Ivo stared at him, amazed by his confidence: “How can you be so sure? Do you know it?”. “No”, Doug answers. “But I will soon find out. Let’s go back, I’m freezing here.”
As soon as they arrived home, Doug opened his laptop and asked Ivo to repeat the phrase. As his friend repeated it, over and over, slowly; Doug typed it very carefully. Ivo could not believe this was true – “Just a poem?” – He thought. It seemed like the computer took ages to find something, but the truth was that it did not take more than a few seconds.
“Got it!” Doug shouted.
“What is it?” Ivo was incredibly curious.
“There is a poem, but I cannot find the author. The poem was written on images, as a quote, none of them are signed.” – Doug seemed frustrated.
“We are back to the beginning of this game, unfortunately…” – Ivo was hopeless and got up from the sofa, intending to go to bed.
Doug was almost shutting down his computer, when he decided to search on specific websites, where the main subject was poetry. He yelled to his friend “Ivo, come over here. I think that I found her”. Ivo was already brushing his teeth, pajamas on, and he could not hear Doug due to the closed door and the water running, filling the sink.
“Ivo, come on!” – Doug shouted again.
Now that the water was shut off, he could listen to Doug. He speeded his pace throw the living room and Doug turned the laptop to his side. “Take a look.” “Yes, that’s her!” Ivo was finally smiling. “Joanne Stevens. I like her name.” “She is beautiful. Worth the search.” Doug replied, while Ivo showed him an evil face. “Ok, just joking”, Doug continued.
Knowing her name allowed them to make other researches. Joanne was from Boston, lived in Chicago for five years now. She studied Philosophy and Literature, taught at the University of Chicago, and launched her first poetry book three years before. She was not famous, but her books sold pretty well, probably because of her students. They loved their teacher, this was a way to honor her – Ivo, and Doug had just watched a video of a speech from the Dean of the University, which said exactly that.
“So now what should I do?” – Ivo asked.
“Why don’t you send her a message, throw the publisher. Perhaps you may find her e-mail on the publisher website.” – Doug was still trying to help his friend.
This was what happened next: Ivo made a long research at the publisher website, their social Medias and other correlates websites. He could not find Joanne’s personal email so he decided to send a message to the publisher house itself, a small one located in Chicago. On the message, he told them he was a friend who had not connected with her in a long a time and asked for her personal email, or any other way he could send her his number or if she could email him back. Twenty-four hours later, they gave him a cold answer, just telling that they would see how they might help him.
Frustrated, again, Ivo decided that he would not think about this girl anymore. The world was full of nice red haired women and he was quite a handsome man and a very nice one. He did not have to wait for anything.
The week flew nicely, hanging around alone during the day and having some beers with his friend at night.
Although all the nice places he was visiting and things he was doing with Doug, he found himself thinking about Joanne all the time. He almost got her a gift, a cute notebook with a beautiful matching pen, where she could write down her poems. He also checked his emails every time he was alone, and no message from her or from the publisher had arrived.
Now it was time for Doug to ride his friend to the airport. End of the trip, taking a participation medal home, and many thoughts on Joanne. He would probably never meet her again.
He found his seat on the plane, organized himself with all the gadgets he brought into the aircraft, fasted his seat belt and tried to relax. He was already thinking about all the work that he had to do on Monday. It would be better if he could sleep the whole flight home.
The flight attendant kindly asked everybody to put the mobiles on Airplane mode and while Ivo was taking his out of his pocket to turn it off, he felt it vibrating. He took a quick look and it was from an unknown email. The flight attendant was already giving him a bad face, but he managed to read the first phrase: “Hi Ivo, I knew you would find me…” He could not read it until the end; they were - not so kindly - asking him to turn off his mobile.
To Ivo, there was no problem at all. As long as she answered him, they were now connected. After all, this made him feel delighted.
Débora Finkielsztejn graduated in Economics at the UFRJ and studied Project Management at the UC Berkeley California. She has worked in several industries such as marketing, telecommunications and software house. She also had a bookstore a few years ago. In 2016 she released her first book, "The Polish Tailor" ("O Alfaiate Polonês"), still not translated into English.