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It was still November, but summer seemed to have arrived with all its force. It was very hot, the mangos were already ripened, and in the neighbor’s yard many of them were lying on the ground, half ripe, half rotten. Anita swept the broom vigorously, the perspiration running down her back. She was still a young woman, but her heaviness made her look older; she had to be around thirty—not tall, large and round breasts, short and thick legs. The street urchins called her ‘pigeonwoman ’ or ‘chesty Ruskie,’ but she didn’t care. A good-hearted type, calm. Her freckled face, her beautiful black curly hair sometimes gave her an infantile expression. She took very good care of her home. They lived in the upstairs part of a two-story house on the street they now called Conception, but which already had been Pedreira and Vasco da Gama, near Tiradentes Square. One entered by a side door that, beyond a small corridor, led to a stairway with a carved wooden banister. At the top of the stairs there was another door of paneled wood, which led to the apartment, opening directly onto a large room. There was one more room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, besides a tiny little room in the back and a small bathroom for the maid, but she neither had nor did she want any cleaning help. ‘Why do I want more?’ she thought. ‘Only me and Yankle, God doesn’t want to give me children,’ . . . Yankle was Jacob, her husband, a Pole she had married in Brazil. They got to know each other in the home of her aunt and uncle, with whom she had come to Brazil from Odessa as a young child, because they didn’t have children and they needed help and also because her parents’ situation in Russia was very difficult. Anita suffered in silence. She suffered for the absence of the family she left far away; she suffered with the hot climate and Esther Largman excerpt from Polish Girls 188 esther largman now, above all, because she hadn’t had children. She had already lost hope, and although she knew her husband loved her, she was afraid of losing him; she struggled to be a dedicated, affectionate wife; she cleaned very well and took very good care of the house and, moreover, cooked as few do. Gefilte fish, the fishcake she learned to make as a little girl with her mother, was the best, Yankle would say. ‘He is tender, he provides me with the greatest of comforts, and in bed he is so good . . . It’s not possible that he will leave me some day, even though he could, according to our laws . . . ’cause I can’t get pregnant.’ While she was thinking as she picked up the trash she had piled in the corner of the room, she heard footsteps coming up the stairs and soon after a knocking on the door. She quickly removed her apron, threw it on the kitchen chair, and went to open the door. She stepped back in surprise. Facing her a slim and blond young woman with fine features looked at her with a somewhat uncomfortable smile. She was well dressed. ‘Sarah? What are you doing in Brazil? When did you arrive?’ Anita instinctively spoke in Yiddish, actually because she still spoke little Portuguese and rather poorly at that. ‘May I come in, Cousin?’ Sarah asked timidly, standing on the threshold. ‘Oh, my God, excuse me. I was so surprised that I seem like a crazy person. Of course, come in.’ She pulled the young woman by her arm, and next they embraced, kissed, and examined each other. Silent tears began to run down Sarah’s smooth and beautiful face. She and her cousin Anita used to live in the same city, near each other. There was an eight-year difference between them. ‘But sit down and tell me everything. Do you want a soft drink?’ Anita was excited and happy; she didn’t even notice her cousin’s sad expression. Sarah sat down and took off her white kid leather gloves, her French straw hat, and looked around the room: on one side stood the round dark wooden table, with four high-back chairs, the cushioned seats of velvet, wine-colored brocade. On the center of the table an embroidered doily of immaculate whiteness, which served as the base for a crystalclear vase without flowers. In the...

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