To the music of "Sympathy for the Devil"

In Garopaba the sky is an intense blue. There is no thunder as Christ is placed on the cross.

Emanuel Medeiros Vieira, "Garopaba, My Love"

They were the first to arrive. During the night, the wind shaking the tent canvas, they could hear the others shouting, the metal pegs violating the earth. Dawn revealed the ground strewn with beer cans plastic cups crumpled papers cigarette butts blood-stained syringes food tins empty vials bottles of bronzing oil seedpods leather bags comic strips orthopedic sandals. In the morning, they sat on the highest boulder, crossed their legs, breathed deeply seven times, and asked nothing of the sea crashing on the sand.

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Slap on the right ear.)

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Slap on the left ear.)

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Punch in the stomach.)

The men had stopped at the top of the hill. The short one pulled something metallic from his pocket; the sun wrested from it a blunt gleam. As they started to descend, he understood that it was a revolver. He knew then that they were looking for him. And he didn't move. Later he wouldn't understand if it was masochism or slowness to react, or even an obscure belief in the inevitability of things, astral alignments, fate. Not for the time being. There he was in the midst of the dismantled tents, and the men were coming down the hill towards him. Behind him was the sea, some boulders. And bays and forests full of wildcats and clearings with roots pulling dark substances from the earth to transform them via tree trunks into red flowers, gaping like bloody wounds on the ends of the branches. There might be no later now, he thought, standing there as the [End Page 1] men continued to descend towards him, and the silence of the others around him screamed he was lost.

The wind shakes the tent hard enough to tear it from the ground, blow it over the bay, and lift us through the skies past the ruins of Atlantis, the lost continent of Mu, the island of Madeira, the coasts of Africa, passing Morocco, Tunisia, Persia, Turkey … (Mar, the world is so vast, can you even imagine Afghanistan? Waking up and looking at the ceiling, thinking: the beams of this ceiling were made from a tree planted here; I never thought that one day I'd sleep under pieces of an Afghan tree. Mar, the wind would take us as far as Nepal, to leave us in the most central square of Kathmandu.)

"If I go straight ahead, faggot, you can relax. If I turn right, you motherfucker, you can start saying your prayers. Where do you think I will go, you worthless stoner?"

"Wherever you want, sir, I don't know. I don't care anymore"

Surrounded by the rattles of tambourines trailing colored ribbons, the whistles of flutes, violas and drums. The wine flows, the cigarettes pass from hand to hand. We look into each other's eyes, tinted by the green of the sea, and feel like gypsies; we breathe deeply and give thanks for this year, which is passing and which finds us still alive and free and beautiful and still (though we don't know how) outside the bars of any prison or asylum. For how long? There is no longer the sound of tambourines, no colored ribbons flutter in the breeze, no blows of the flute lose themselves in the direction of the invisible African coast. Wine no longer flows in our dry mouths, our fingers with nails bitten to the quick as we keep a hold of the fear while the men search the tents. We mingle, confused, without looking each other in the eye. We avoid facing each other—why do we feel shame or pity or a visceral understanding of what we are and what everything is?—yet, when our eyes do stumble against those of another, they are the eyes of a scared child. A beaten dog, tail between its legs. In the silence, we absorb the lashes on our backs. And the sound of the painted glass hearts shattering is louder than the waves crashing on the rocks.

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Blow to the left cheek.)

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Blow to the right cheek.)

"Talk"

"I don't know"

(Kick in the back.)

Mar came running down the old pavement in front of the church, arms outstretched. The hills, the fishermens huts, the house where Dom Pedro slept, paving stones in front of the church. He refused to step on the cobbled path, his bare feet fitting better with the rounded warmth of the old stones, soaking up lost vibrations, cartwheels, laced hems of the slave masters' daughters, [End Page 2] thick soles of slaves' feet. Mar came running over the carts, the daughters, the thick-skinned black feet. We will collide in the next second, our faces buried in each other's shoulders will say nothing, and we won't need to: in this next embrace this next second to where I run as well, arms open, on these stones of a dead, and cleaner, time. Here, now. When the eyes of one man found the metallic-blue eyes of the other, the man's hand closed on his shoulder—and everything was lost again.

Shamelessness, the gold tooth and the hilt of the revolver glinting in the light of the sun, I pity you. Shamelessness is hunger, it is illness, it is misery, it is the filth of this place. Shamelessness is lack of freedom and the stupidity of you all. It is I who pity you, you who must submit to this filthy job; I am a decent human being and you are a worm. Defiant isn't he, the little queer. Look how well he defends himself. That's it, cover yourself carefully. If you're not careful, princess, I'll make an omelette with your balls. If you give me what I'm asking for, then you'll be free, this minute. Give me what? Give me who? The names, I want the names. Confess. The thick ring marks his forehead, like a signet. Long hair tangled in the mens fingers. The chair nearly breaks from the blows. How about some little shocks to sharpen your memory?

Mar, I still didn't tell you about yesterday. Perhaps there won't be any time. I don't know if I will come out alive. Yesterday we washed each other's hair in the fountain. We lit a candle and sat it on the wall. Ask for what now, Mar? If we will always be afraid. It causes pain, slaps on the face, wire on the exposed nerve of a tooth. My body will be scarred purple with the beatings, not purple from your teeth on my flesh.

"Repeat after me: I am a filthy faggot"

"No."

(Slap on the right ear.)

"Repeat after me: I am a dirty stoner."

"No."

(Slap on the left ear.)

"Repeat after me: I am a useless motherfucker"

"No."

(Punch in the stomach.)

Luiz is in his room, delirious with malaria. With precise movements, Minerva severs the heads and tails of fish. The cats prowl. Jair is out fishing. Or he's sleeping around, she says. Drowsy inside the boats, the hard buoy grazing the stern (not touch you, not ask to embrace you, not ask for help, not say that I am injured, that I nearly died, not saying anything, close my eyes, listen to the sound of the sea, pretending to sleep, that everything is okay, the hematomas on my solar plexus, my heart torn apart, all fine). The green hills of Siriu on the other side of the bay. Once again being so close to people that you are your own self while being the self of others, the salt of the sea nibbling the rocks, spikes embedded in soft ankle flesh. I bend down to the handful of green seaweed in the palm of your hand. And breathe. Walls limewashed a dirty white. The [End Page 3] cement floor with traces of vomit, urine, and shit. The man walks to the pole where the Brazilian flag hangs. I don't want to understand. This should only be a metaphor, not this real-life yellow-and-green flag which the man throws to the side while his fingers carefully uncase the wire. Then he walks smoothly over to me, his eyes on mine, a sweet smile on the corner of his rotten-toothed mouth. From the wall a general watches me, impassive.

Sleeping bags, tennis shoes, and jeans spread out over the grass. The books: Huxley, Graciliano, Castaneda, Artaud, Rubem Fonseca, Galeano, Lucienne Samor. The hill with its banana trees and giant ferns. At night the wildcats come out of the woods looking for scraps of fish on the beach. Your hand pressed lightly on my shoulder when the loudspeakers introduced Marly, the woman with hair of steel, and her demonstration of capillary strength. The Wheel of Fortune turns very quickly: when we are up top, the demons come out and sharpen their claws to await us below. The audience applauds and waits for more acrobatics. (Gilda hurtles through the air to the other bar hung by wires.) Teeth bared in horror after every happiness. We collect mushrooms on the hills and know that the world is not worth our lucidity. After the great nuclear war, a breeze blowing the radioactive ashes over the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah and the voice of Mick Jagger floating across the deserts.

He cries out for God, for the devil. The lights from the sea are fishing boats, not flying saucers. Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen. He invokes his dead. Those that cancer took, those lacerated in the twisted metal of cars, those cut by blades, those put to sleep forever by an overdose of barbiturates, those who tied tight knots around their necks in the locked bathrooms of Munich alleys and squares. And he comes to understand why thieves steal and why assassins kill and why some take up arms and more than that comes to understand the bombs as well and the chaos and war and madness and death.

He crosses the small, wooden bridge to the beach. The church. The house where Dom Pedro had slept. The hill. There is no one on the hilltop anymore. The wind scatters the litter around the tents. He tries to breathe. His ribs hurt. Father, there was so much I needed to tell you. And I will not tell any of it. Better that you die believing in justice and the sullied laws of man. Into the sea: days later they would find his empty eye sockets, fish-eaten and full of seaweed and coral. (We have uncontrollable feelings, Mar, narcotic love, poisonous love killing nerve cells offforever, next-to-madness love, maldito amor de mis entranas: viva la muerte. Long live death.) Dry eyes. He would not find Mar. He would not cry. He comes to understand a little more all the time. He comes very close now. A kind of froth at the corners of the mouth. Eyes burning. Nearly touching the cracked shells. I am glad to have found you, he murmurs. Buries his fingers in the sand. Nails filled with hatred. [End Page 4]

Caio Fernando Abreu

Caio Fernando Abreu (1948–1996) was an award-winning journalist, writer, and dramatist born in Rio Grande do Sul. His nearly two dozen novels, short stories, plays, and memoirs—including Onde andara Dulce Veiga? (Whatever Happened to Dulce Veiga?)—have been translated into numerous languages. Openly gay, he was persecuted by Brazils military dictatorship, and as a result, he left the country. After a year of self-exile in Europe, he returned to Brazil; he died of AIDS in Porto Alegre at the age of forty-seven.

Previous Article

Editor's Note

Next Article

Whale Fishing

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
1-4
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.