- from I'm Still Here
The public holiday on 20 January 1971 was a day that had no end. It took us a long time to understand why that day existed and why it was the way it was. After a morning walk, my father lay down on the sofa in the study, lit a cigar, and began to read the newspapers. My mother kept him company. The telephone rang shortly after ten in the morning. A womans voice asked for our address. It was to deliver a parcel from Chile. My father didn't think anything of it and gave our address to her.
Half an hour later, six armed men in civilian clothes crossed the backyard of our corner house. Tense, as if invading rebel headquarters. They came through the back door and crossed the kitchen, pointing machine guns at the maid, Maria José. They ordered her to put her hands up. Calm, nice and calm …
My parents, both forty-one years old at the time, were there, in bathing suits, ready to enjoy the beach. The maid came in looking pale. She told my father some men were there to see him. He left the room. My mother continued reading the paper. He came back escorted by two military officers holding machine guns and said, "Honey, stay calm"
My father asked them to lower their weapons. He introduced them to my mother, one by one, said they were our guests and that the house was at their disposal. He seemed the calmest one there. They asked who else was in the house. Just children, said my mother. They all went into the living room. My sister Babiu heard the noise and went to see what it was. My mother reassured her and invited her to sit down. They asked about the others. Yes, my son, a little boy, is still asleep.
They closed all the curtains and windows.
Once the "headquarters" had been taken, they asked questions, exchanged information by radio, and then told my father they were going to take him with them to give a statement. All routine. He asked to be allowed to change clothes and went upstairs, accompanied by two agents. My mother and sister stayed in the living room. He put on a suit and tie in the presence of the agents. My sister Nalu arrived home with Cristina, the stepdaughter of Sebastião Nery, a recalled congressman like my father. They had stopped by the house on their way to the beach. They didn't understand what was going on. Nalu went upstairs, saw my father getting dressed, and thought it odd that he was putting on formal [End Page 131] clothes on a sunny public holiday. She asked him to lend her a shirt to use as a tunic, a habit of hers. He gave her one, went downstairs, and even chatted with Cristina, sending his regards to her stepfather.
He put on a watch and shoved some notebooks in his pocket. He left with two of the agents, driving my mother's Opel. Four agents stayed at our place. One of them said that his name was Dr. Stockier and that he was a specialist in parapsychology. My sister Eliana came home from the beach. She thought it strange that the house was all shut up, curtains drawn, windows closed. When she walked in, my mother quickly told her what was going on.
I woke up after all this and headed to the bathroom, still groggy. As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed a stranger in the corridor, watching the goings-on in the street through the second-floor window. I nodded in greeting. He was quiet and stayed upstairs the whole time.
Every six hours, the men were replaced by another four. To me, they were all the same.
Memory isn't a rock with hieroglyphs etched into it, a story told. Memory is like sand dunes, grains of sand that move from one place to another, take on different forms, carried by the wind. A fact today can be reread another way tomorrow. Memory is alive. A detail...