from Kissing Sonia Braga.
Who knows when it all started, but I, Max Sokoloff had only one wish in life: to kiss Sonia Braga (née Sônia Maria Campos Braga). Who knows when it all started. Perhaps, it all began when I saw a photo of her taken by Anízo de Carvalho, circa 1970. As far as I could remember, that’s when it must have started. That photo by Anízo de Carvalho. After that, the thought obsessed me well into his 50s. I had all her film posters, perfectly framed and mounted and hung on every conceivable wall of my lakefront Chicago condo. But it didn’t stop with posters and photos. No, I had a video library of everything she had ever been in. To say I was obsessed was clearly an understatement. Her Brazilian website http://www.soniabragaonline.com/ was my home page. When I discovered there wasn’t a biography written about her, I thought about writing one myself. I even hunted down who her agent was in Los Angeles and sent a letter asking for her address in order to ask her for permission to do so which garnered a negative reply.
No address, no possibility of that kiss and nothing short of a kiss, of course, could satisfy my growing obsession. Viewing and re-viewing her films; re-reading issues of her in Playboy; filing dozens of scrapbooks with articles about her in English and Spanish and Portuguese; re-sending emails that would quickly be returned. Nothing. Daily, I checked a Wikipedia website devoted to her, watched all her YouTubes. Chatted with various and sundry Braga devotees on Facebook and Twitter, hunted down blog after blog that had anything to do with her. Called the Screen Actors Guild in LA which forwarded me to the Screen Actors Guild in New York who gave me a business number in LA that rang, but didn’t answer. Nothing helped. Nothing could help me in this quest for the Braga Kiss.
After months of constant frustration, I did what I should have done months earlier: I decided to fly to Rio. Now just why I flew to Rio I wasn’t quite sure since I had no idea where she lived or even if she lived in Rio, but she was Brazilian and, to me, Brazil was Rio. Like France is Paris or Germany is Berlin, Brazil is Rio. Where else would she live? I thought. São Paulo? Somewhere in the states of Minas Gerais or Bahia? Landlocked in Manaus? Now I could do that (i.e. fly to Rio) since he was married twice, divorced twice, not interested in going through the pangs and pitfalls of matrimony again and as partner in a major law firm in Chicago I had the time and wherewithal to do that sort of thing. That is, fly to Rio on what, to others, was a whim.
And so, on a sunlit autumn day in October, I flew from Chicago to Rio where I knew only one person, João Boldini de Sousa, an attorney who I and my family hosted when João was an exchange student working on his Bachelors degree at the University of Chicago. In João, I placed all my faith that he would help me find Sonia Braga and secure what he most desperately wanted: a kiss.
“But why, meu amigo, are you so obsessed with kissing Sonia Braga? She is sixty already, no?”
“So am I! So are you! What difference does that make?”
“I guess none, meu amigo.”
“Even if she is sixty, that wouldn’t affect the way she kisses? God, with those lips! With or without matzoh you’ve got to be kidding me!”
It was a clinching argument to which João could not refute.
“Of course, you are right, meu amigo, but she is everywhere and nowhere, if you know what I mean.”
“Listen, I didn’t fly all the way from Chicago for you to tell me the bloody obvious. This is a matter of life and death.”
“Life and death?”
“May I ask whose life and whose death?”
“Are you saying that unless you kiss Sonia Braga you will die?”
“In a matter of speaking.”
“And what matter of speaking is that?”
“Listen, João, we all have obsessions. Some are greater than others. This is my obsession and it has been my obsession for years. I’m not asking to get laid, though who could refuse that, I’m only asking for a kiss. Think of it as a condemned man’s last wish.”
“Aren’t you embellishing this a bit too much, meu amigo?”
“Listen, if I remember correctly, when you were studying in the States you had a poster of Farah Fawcett in your room. Was that a fantasy or did it help improve your study habits?”
João still looked a bit sheepish. He raised his eyebrows as he was wont to do and puffed out his cheeks as if Max were asking for the keys to the city.
“Ah, meu amigo, I will do what I can. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a way.”
And like two old friends they embraced after which Max left for his hotel. The next morning, Max got a call from João.
“Bom dia, Max.”
“Bom dia, to you too.”
“I have some good news.”
“I think I have found her.”
My heart skipped a beat. However, that wasn’t unusual for me because I had a heart murmur and my heart often skipped a beat.
“Do you remember the film, Memórias Póstumas?”
“Remember it. I’ve got the poster on the wall in my office!”
“Well, I once met the director, André Klotzel at a party in São Paulo.”
“And I got his number and called him and he said he would get in touch with her and let me know if would be willing to meet with you.”
My heart skipped a beat, but not because of the murmur, but because this was going to be the climax of his obsession.
“Listen, João, if this is some kind of a joke, I’m not laughing.”
“No joke, meu amigo, no joke. I said I would help and I have. I should know something by tomorrow. Enjoy Rio.”
I tried to enjoy Rio, but wherever I went, whatever I did, all my thoughts were on the possibility of meeting, no, of kissing Sonia Braga. Morning turned into afternoon, turned into evening and turned into morning again when João called.
“No, it’s Robert Redford. Have you found my ex-wife? I’m desperate.”
“Very funny. Okay, listen, this is the deal. You have to talk to her sister, Maria Braga.”
“And why would I want to talk to her sister, Maria Braga?”
“Because Maria Braga is her agent.”
“And where is Maria Braga, her agent?”
“Here in Rio.”
“And what am I supposed to say to Maria Braga, her agent?”
“Why are you here, Max?”
“You know why I’m here.”
“Then don’t ask a stupid question. You need to call Maria and tell her what you want?”
“Yes, seriously. I talked to her and gave her some brief information about you, but now it’s up to you.”
And so João gave me Maria’s phone number which should have been enough for me, but it wasn’t since all it did was increase my anxieties. I kept thinking to myself, “Now what?” I spent the entire day rehearsing what I was going to say to Maria Braga, Sonia’s sister/agent and then kept rehearsing what I rehearsed. At one point during my rehearsals João called.
“So? Did you call?”
“I see. And what are you waiting for? Corcovado to straighten its hunchback?”
“Never mind. What are you waiting for?”
“I’m not waiting, I’m practicing.”
“For what! It’s a phone call!”
“I know it’s a phone call, but it’s a major phone call.”
“Listen, Max, you came all the way from Chicago to do this. I already talked to Maria and she’s waiting to hear from you. Just do it.”
“You sound like a Nike commercial.”
“If it puts you at ease, pretend Michael Jordan said it.”
And he hung up. It was already close to 17.00 so I sucked it up and made the call. It rang and rang and rang. Seemed like it was ringing for minutes. I was just about to hang up when someone answered the phone.
“Yes. I’m…is Maria Braga there?”
“Yes, who is calling?”
“A Max Sokoloff. I believe she’s awaiting my call.”
“Just a moment.”
On hold. Only one degree of separation.
“Yes, hello. This is Maria Braga.”
“Yes, this is Max Sokoloff.”
“Max Sokoloff. I’m a friend of João Boldini de Sousa.”
“Oh, yes, João. He called me. So, what can I do for you?”
At that point, my heart skipped a beat primarily due to the murmur. I tried to articulate the words, but they wouldn’t come out.
“I want to kiss your sister.”
“Yes, I understood that from João, but it’s not that simple.”
“You mean it’s complicated?”
“No, Mister Sokoloff, but there are a lot of men who want to kiss my sister and it’s not like we can set up a booth on Ipanema for just anyone to come along and kiss her.”
“Yes, I understand. So, what does it take to kiss your sister?”
And that’s where the details began. First, I had to email her my resume . After she checked out my resume, including where and in what years I received my degrees, she then asked me to send her notarized copies of my diplomas. After that, she wanted notarized copies of my employment status. I told her I was a partner in the Chicago law firm of Sokoloff, Feinstein, Goldberg & Berger, but that meant absolutely nothing to her. I still needed to send in something that indicated that I had a permanent, full-time job. When she had all that information, she wanted me to call her again. So, after about three days of phone calls and emails to Chicago, I called her again.
“So, did you get all that information.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
“Is that all you need?”
“No, not quite.”
I asked what else was needed and she said:
“An itemized list of all the women you have ever kissed.”
“Are you joking?’
“Does it sound like I’m joking?”
“Then I’m not joking.”
“Going back how far?”
“As far as you can remember, Mr. Sokoloff. As far back as you can remember.”
And so, after hours of trying to remember who and what I kissed from the time I was 14 until that day in Rio, I finally came up with a list, emailed it to her and called again.
“So, is that all you need?”
“Not quite, Mr. Sokoloff.”
“With all due respect, what else could you possibly need?
“Your lips. I need a photocopy of your lips.”
“And just how am I supposed to do that?”
“It’s very simple. Press your lips to a photocopy machine and press copy. After you have a copy, then fax it to me. With dimensions”
“Are you serious?”
“Do I sound serious?”if
“Then I’m serious.”
“What do you mean by dimensions?”
“Dimensions. You know, length, width, height, angle of curvature. Dimensions.”
At that moment, other men may have said to themselves, “That’s it. Fuck it I’m done with it.” But I had come that far and if that’s what she wanted then that’s what I’d send. And so I did. The next day I called.
“Did you receive the fax?”
“Yes, I did.”
“And everything checks out.”
“So, now what?”
“So, now you can meet my sister.”
I was about to say, “Are you serious?” but given my previous phone conversations with Maria (by then we were on a first name basis), I refrained.
“Where and when?”
“Tomorrow, 20.00, Restaurante Olimpo, Estação Hidroviária de Charitas, 2º piso, Av. Quintino Bocaiúva, s/nº – Charitas – Niterói – RJ. I presume I don’t have to tell you what she looks like.”
“Then beijo feliz.”
That’s all she said and she hung up. The call ended at around 18.00 and I had over 24 hours to think about what I was going to do when I got to the Restaurante Olimpo at 20.00, what I was going to say and most important how I was going to kiss. Needless to say, the anxiety was a kind of torment since all I could think about were things like: What if she doesn’t like the way I kiss? or What if I accidentally bump her teeth with mine? or “What if I get turned on? There were too many things to think about and I was thinking about them as if I were going to my high school prom for the first time. Get a hold of yourself. You’re both 60. Carpe diem and all that crap.
I slept fitfully. The next day was a kind of torture just waiting for the clock to hit the 20th hour. I put on my best pinstripe suit, white shirt, the one with French cuffs, silk tie, Argentine shoes and walked the few blocks from my hotel to the Restaurante Olimpo.
At the entrance, I merely said, “Sonia Braga” and they led me to a table, next to a window that overlooked Rio. And sitting there was Sonia Braga who, upon my entrance, stood and smiled, embraced me and kissed me full on the lips.
I remember a dinner followed, but of what we ate and how I returned home I have absolutely no recollection.