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The River of January ***A short novel inspired by the reality of the slums in Brazil * I never knew my biological family. One image comes to mind of my mother laying lifeless on the ground in her own blood in our shack. Apparently it was her time to pay for some bad blood between one of her husbands and the local dealers. I was three years old on this occasion, which is the only memory I have of her. Its just a picture in my head almost like seeing a crime scene in a movie. Theres not much feeling to express. I was so young I just didn’t understand. All I knew is my mommy was gone. I learned to live with that. I’ve always been a simple girl. With the life given to me, being simple is the only way to survive. ! Rio de Janeiro Brazil, its a marvelous place. For the rich and for the poor, theres not many people in between those statuses, we all understand something very well, our people know how to chill and let the river flow. Letting the river flow means to recieve what life gives you and not fight the current. Just let the current compliment your life and know that everyday is a new one. As for my neck of the woods, Vila Piranga Niteroi, I’ve lived here in this slum all of my life. Vila Piranga is like any other slum in Brazil. Different shacks, different streets, but the same atmosphere. Shack on top of shack. Houses made of busted brick, wood or anything else that can give you shelter. This architecture style, like a puzzle of many small houses, continue all the way to the top of the mountain. The idea is to fit as many together as you can. Even the drug lords who control all the money they’re house is usually no different on the outside. On the inside is where the goodies are; flat screen televisions, hot water, leather couches and so much food. You tend to not notice the hundreds of kilos of cocaine and AK-47s when you’ve been exposed to them your entire life. Nonetheless, they are in there and are the means by which all these goodies of things come from. In the slum, if you want money or power you need three things. Guns, friends and drugs. Its a tough cycle of life around here. Being black, uneducated and poor don’t work very well outside of these slums. As much as you don’t want to play these games, and by games I mean drug dealing and trafficking, if you don’t fit the shoe of what society requires you to be on the outside then these games here in the slums are your only opportunity to have a surplus of food, toys and power. Usually as tourist and even locals pass by and look up at this this place every day they have one word in their minds, poor. Obviously we are very poor here. But what I want you to understand is poverty doesn’t always equate to misery. There are many forms of poverty, extreme ones, minor ones, and moreon, but like wealth even it still cannot deny or inhibit your right to pursue happiness. Happiness transends social statuses. What I think is that happiness is found. Its chosen and even the smallest of us human beings can aquire it. Life goes on here as everywhere else. Its just a different life. My life has been tough, though others have it tougher I can assure you. Theres usally food on the table for breakfast and supper. I have cold water. I share a dirty bed, couch, with my little sister and younger brother and we sleep fine. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you about my family. Since three years old, after the death of my biological mother, my family next door took care of me. I wouldn’t call them neighbors because anyone that chooses to take you as their own is more than a neighbor. Angela is my mother. She’s a middle aged beautiful black lady with long brown hair. I’ve never seen


her a pound over weight. I would be a liar if I didn’t say I envy her beauty sometimes. Her husband fabio certaintly must agree with me too. He has been with Angela for 25 years. With that sort of commitment it takes beauty inside and out; something both of them have. They have one young daughter Isabella that is 3 years old and two boys Jon and Patrick. Jon is the yougest at 12 and Patrick is 17. This is my family that I love and have been blessed with. My name is Juliana, and I am 20 years old. ! CHILDHOOD ! From now on, remember me as Juju. Its a nick name I picked up from the street. I continue. ! Since a young girl I have always had the characteristic of a protector. My mother’s incident taught me an hard lesson that I don’t want bad things to happen to the people I love. So I tend to be indepent, ready and very audacious. Don’t let me fool you too long because I’m not a legend without fault. I have my moments when I want to be someone else. Let me tell you who I really wanted to be. ! Angela and Fabio always taught me manners and the difference between right and wrong. This is very unlikely to in the slums. A family of both a mother and a father who are present and help you deal with life. I loved being a kid. Even though I was poor I had a family and that always made me feel very wealthy. They started taking Patrick and I to church at an early age. Grace of God was a phrase in their vocabulary that never left my ears very long without being said again. To their belief the Grace of God was present always, in the bad and in the good times. I wouldn’t call them religious. Neither one knew how to read very well and so they never used the bible as a belt to straigten us up to do this right or to do it a certain way. The bible was shown to us a story of God throughout humankind and the words themselves were by God. Angela and Fabio never really went any deeper than that. “It was what it is, they say.” They let the church teach us all about God. My church was a place where everyone could come together and forget about our differences. We learned how we were all children of God and how through our very asimilar lives we had a common purpose. It was a very positive time in my life. When I was old enough to remember things well I was around 6 years old. This is when Rachel and I became friends. Such a pretty name. She was also a pretty girl. We were best friends. I met her at church. She had bronze skin, light eyes with long curly hair. We weren’t in to boys at this stage of life so we just did girl things. I was not pretty like her but just being around her made me feel beautiful. We never hung out much outside of church. Either we would play before and after church in the hall or once a month at a monthly barbecue at her house. Rachel’s family had a lot of money. I remember the first time I visited her house I was shocked. As normal as it may have seemed to them the majority of Brazil was not exposed to this reality. Her dad would always start the barbecue party with a prayer like this. “Thank you Jesus for this time here, these people and thank Jesus for your Grace......At that moment I never heard the rest of the prayer because I was stuck contemplating the Grace part. The Grace of God was present in the rich people house feasting on food and at the same time was in the middle of a slum with nothing much at all. This paradox always baffled my thoughts. I loved those times with my church. I learned a lot. I also learned a lot of lessons about culture and different people. At the end of the day we were all different. We all had different lives to make with different choices. My best friend Rachel never came to my house. That would not be a good idea. First of all she’s white. Second shes


rich. And third it would scare her half to death and she would probably never be allowed to be my friend again. So we kept our differences and learned to just play when we could be happy. ! Being exposed to such a variety of people gets you mixed between your reality and theirs sometimes. One day, I remember vividly. My parents didn’t go to church that morning but sent my brother patrick and I out. We walked every sunday almost 3 miles. In the summer it was always a hot 3 miles. The Church in the summer would carry literal forms of meaning to us as “heaven on earth” because outside it was always hot as hell. As soon as we entered the doors the cold ac unit air would hit our face. After a while our wet backs would dry as we sat through the service. This day was another great day. The service was great. However, after church let out we knew it was back to the heat again. I called my unwilling brother to come along with me. It was always a struggle to get him focused and willing to leave. So him and I finally came to agreement and I said my byes to my friend Rachal and others. As we headed towards the door when some couple offered to drive us home. “Oh my gosh we would love that, I said.” As I couldn’t resist. And would you know that frase came to my mind that I always heard people say, “Grace of God.” The couple that was taking us were an older couple. You know the man that bobbles his head up and down as he fights the habit of finding rest when he sits. Poor old guy. The one that always sits not to far up front in church but not too far back. Thats the husband and his wife is that woman who is total opposite. Shes the lady that is loud and viberant. She pinches his leg everytime she sees the preacher look their way, hoping her husband will open his lazy eyes. Nonetheless this couple was awesome. We left the church and to our surprise they drove us through a Mcdonalds drive thru, which was our first time eating that fat burger with salty fries. Patrick was even more impressed by his toy from the kids menu. It was a good experience. As we headed home we talked about usual things. Everything was surface because we really had no commonalities. Closer to our house at the bottom of the hill I said, “you can stop here.” They insisted to take us a little further. The next thing I remember I was hearing the old lady say, “oh my God” whats going on. As the police signal them to stop the old couple begins to show fear. Well it really wasn’t a good idea to come near the slum in a nice car at this moment. Some drug trafficking activity was discovered earlier that morning and the police were invading our slum. This is not unusual. The police invade quite often and usually without any regard human civilitiy in the slum. Its like this. When it comes down to the bottom line we the people in these slums are like dogs. They do what they can to hide us and they don’t do much to help us. To a lot of police we are a great sourse of money for them. But that is another topic for another chapter. ! So we arrive at the stop and the police immediately demand we all get out of the car. Then the questioning begins. Each police holding a noticably large gun demands to search all of us. I just remember the faces of that couple. They were scared. Humiliated. Vulnerable. As the police searched their whole car I began to appologize sincerely. They said it was totally fine and not our fault. I know what they thought though. It was something they had never been exposed too. A little bit too close to our reality. I remember the police finishing the search and looking at the old man saying, “its best if you don’t do this again.” “This is a dangerous place and these people are crazy, he said.” Yep thats us. Dangerous and crazy. So they were not allowed to go any further,


and they certaintly didn’t plan on doing so. So I took patrick and headed up the hill to our shack. As I looked back I gave them a wave and they awkardly waived back. This day was great until that moment. Now Patrick and I realized just because we went to the same church with these people didn’t change the reality of who we are and who they are. From there on we didn’t catch many rides home again as you can imagine. We didn’t want to. The reality was clear at even our young age. There is a thick line between our life and theirs. We are poor and we live in a slum. ! ITS NOT ALL BAD ! Living in the slum means you are one, probably black, and two, probably not going to ever leave this reality of poverty. I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed of leaving this place but those dreams never rooted very well. “Whats the point,” I would ask myself. You see, believe it or not, between the ages 12-15 were my golden days you could say. They were the happiest times of my life. At the age of 12 I really began to accept things. Not that I quit anything by any means. I didn’t quit life. I just quit trying to live some one elses; and that made all of the difference. When I realized that life is given and taken away, and our choices fit somewhere in between, then I started to make the best of every day. I chose to pursue happiness in my little village of stacked up houses and everything poverty brings to an atmosphere. What did I do? Well, I did what most 12 year old poor girls do; I played! I made friends. I didn’t forget my friends at church, however, I didn’t get caught up in wanting to be them either. My days started early. I would wake up at 5:00 am. If there was food for everyone I would cook breakfast. Yes, we have a stove. We’re not indian tribes forgotten by the world. We just typically have the least of everything that you may have yourself. A rusty, cheap, 30 year old stove would cook eggs and rice just fine. After breakfast, Patrick and I would head out to school. I would always take care of Patrick. Since he was the closest in age to me we were around each other a lot. We had our fights and disagreements but we always stuck together. Mainly, I was his protector and he was my friend. So on our way to school early in the morning I would skip my school stop first, just to make sure he got to his. Then from his stop walked back to mine. It was only half mile or so. ! School starts around 7:30. I love school. In Brazil our school system usually follows the social system. The poor kids stay in public instititutions and the rich parents pay money for privite ones. So school is just another place my friends and all the other poor kids can meet up. We learn things, though the professors are not the greatest. That would mean you need to pay more money, which none of our parents had. I was determined to pay attention and get the best education I could. Outside of class I played and had my times, but inside of class, It was serious business. This was my way out to a better life you know. If I could manage to learn enough to pass the vestibular test, a test that determines if you get accepted into a public college, then I would get a free education. This proved to be a struggle for me being that my parents weren’t educated and my institution was low class. When most private kids are learning algebra and arithmatic equations us poor kids are still learning to speak portuguese. Portuguese is a very difficult language to learn. I have knack for mathmatics. In my class I was the best at it. At an earlier age my family learned I had some skills. In home I would add and multiply the inventory of food we had and would average how much rice and beans we could eat each day before we would run out. My calculations were usually on point.


! I had an internal motive in my math class as well. It was a guy. All things in life usually meet this common misterious climax called attraction. I haven’t met anyone without one account of an internal motive that we give name to as love. Douglas was his name. My God. Douglas was tall and thin. I never saw anyone handle a soccer ball with so much intention and manipulation. He was the best in our school. Of course I am a bit bias. This guy in every one of my classes. I could tell you everything about him in detail but his life outside of what I know, and I think I could predict how that is too. You know what I mean. It was my first. The first feeling for the first person is like an exploration of a new land. Its like you found something hidden and you swear to not let it loose. Love is precious. Honestly its one of those things in life that we find so unusual but yet we are so familiar with it ourselves. We know exactly what not to do, which is never let it get away from you. Its how we’re wired. Love is almost as if we’ve been birthed into its atmosphere and exposed to it before our life, somewhere in between we lost it, and now we spend our whole life trying to get back to it. Douglas was something I could not lose. As I know now I lost him but my time with him was incredible. For some reason he liked me. I don’t know why. Maybe he liked my kisses. Maybe he liked how much attention I gave him. Surely it wasn’t my looks. All of that didn’t matter but the fact that he liked me. Thats all that I needed. I met him the first day of school when I was 13. Like I said I’m a bold kind of girl. So when I saw him I was the first to sit near him. ! “Hey my name is Natalie,” I said. “Douglas,” he responded. From then on thats all we needed to break the ice. Once we realized we were in every class together we already felt like we had commonalities. Our friendship went further real quick. It was one day after school we he asked me to come to his soccer game. I certaintly accepted the offer. He played spectacular as usual and every possesion I was his biggest fan. After the game was our moment. I waited for him as he walked off the field. It was night at this point and most people had left. I looked at him with a smile and congratulated him. He smiled back with a look like, “well I know I’m good and scored every goal for you.” At that moment we began to talk a while and after he walked me to the bus stop. We lived in different slums. This was the time a had not encountered yet before. As I hugged him goodbye he began to hold me tighter. What was only a few seconds felt like hours. Then he slightly released me, looked in my eyes and without hesitating gave me a kiss. Now before I tell you the rest you must understand. I am a opportunist. I take advantage of every opportunity. In the slums you learn to make the best of every hour. Call me what you want, but I made the best of a few hours with him that night. We stayed at our bus stop in that little class sitting area for a while. I kissed him, he kissed me, everything was mutual. As he held me and entertained every emotion of mine with his lips I was lost. Cars went by, horns were blown, people walked by, but somehow we were all alone. I thought of every moment and conversations we had since I met him. Like everything in this life, it ended all too quick and eventually I caught a bus and went home. ! The next day was just as interesting and the days to follow. We went to the beach. We hiked the mountains. We had picnics with just water and hotdogs. For us this was sufficient. A cheap hotdog and simple water never seemed to bring happiness until with him. The mountains became our favorite place to be alone. We would climb a steep rocky peak until we reach a cliff. Beyond the cliff was simply a view of what our whole city consisted of, even the dirty slums. It was beautiful. It was our first trip to the coast


mountain that I was introduced to marijuana. Douglas had many friends. Including those who were into drug trafficking. He bought some marijuana accasionally and smoked it. It was never an addiction for him. It was like any other treat, just a little stronger. I never really liked idea of that stuff but when he asked me to try I did. The truth is i liked it and it was good. Of course you’re thinking, how could anything about marijuana be good. Well it for me it was more that substance that was good. It was more about who I was with and where we were. The substance was just icing on the cake. Douglas was a gentleman. He never once pressured me or disrespected me. Everything we did was a mutual effort. I didn’t loose my virginity to him, though at times I must say it was very difficult to not give everything way. For one second, I thought that would make me happy. We did things. At the time I was super nervous and always mad at myself later that we maybe went too far. I got over it and just took things slower the next time. We didn’t even have time to enterain the thought of marriage though. Our love was very short lived when suddenly Douglas’s dad got a promotion at a local oil company. This was incredible for him considering that he was living in a slum with 3 kids. In brazil theres work for workers, you just don’t get payed well for your time at all. When I heard of this promotion it was as if my heart fell literally to the ground. He said, “love, I have some bad news.” It was a moment that made me feel like I was sinking in quicksand and I couldn’t do anything. “Nooo love, I said!” We sat there in silence for a while. Looking in his eyes I did not want to believe this. His look back at me reminded me of the truth and the reality that he was going to be gone soon. So heavy in my body my heart drug me along for days. We spent the last 20 days of the month of July together. I honestly don’t remember anything but him in those days. It was a weird feeling you know. I stopped everything. I skipped school and stop helping around the house. My parents seemed to understand though I thought they would be concerned. By day 15 I felt as if dying together or running away would be better than him leaving. I’ve never kissed one human being in my life longer than we kissed those last days. Then the on the 20th of July he left. As douglas and his family carried 3 bags each they began to board the bus. We stood there in a stare. “You think this is it, I said?” “NO, he replied quickly!” At that moment I wanted to believe everything about that lie. Who was I kidding though? With our situation and lack of money and transportation, it would be very seldom he’d ever come around again; and he never did actually. Just like that, happiness passed me by and drove away. Good grief, what an oxymoron good grief is. Half good and at the same time half grief. I eventually cried until there wasn’t a tear left and there was nothing to bring him back. I could write a whole book just on Douglas and it would be all my pleasure, but there is a different story I want to tell you. I must continue. ! I have to confess before we move on. I did lose my virginity to Douglas. Theres a lot of pressure here in the slum and my friends aren’t the nicest girls to hang around. What do you expect? If you place a bunch of people in a tight rough neck community without money and jobs then don’t expect to grow little princeses. In the slum I have connections I guess you could call it. I hang with a group of three girls most of the time. Maricia shes the leader of the group. Shes one year older and has a body to sin for. Shes taken though. Her boyfriend, or pimp daddy, is the head manager in our slum, for now atleast. This the way it works here. One group (gang) comes in our slum fights off the other group or dies trying and the superior takes over control. Since I’ve been born


there have been three different regimes. First is was Commando Vermelho (Red Command), then when I turned around 6 years old it was Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends). And at this period, at age 14, Tercero Commando (Third Command) has now taken over. To give you a little history, these groups started in the 60s as revolutionaries against a dictatorship. They revolted against the goverment and literally formed their own communities. From the start of things, the group was formed by very intelligent men. Later down the road history changed everything. There a thought that very intelligent still lead these groups, but they stay out of the scene and let their dogs do the dirty work. You know if you feed a dog what he wants the dog will usually do what it takes to get it. So now its a civil war, groups versus cops, dirty cops versus groups and sometimes the federal government intervenes. I don’t see this cycle of blood stopping ever. The drug trafficking makes too much money. So the police go in, maintain just enough control and take some money while their at it. Its a game of heros and villians exept a lot of them have two faces. So back to Maricia. Her boyfriends gets her what she wants when he gets what he wants. He’s a dog. Nonetheless, he’s the boss so we do what he demands. Maricia carries drugs for him often. Shes used the most at the deals. Its hard resist a sexy woman like her so pimp daddy knows he’ll get a discout by what ever means she can create. I like maricia. Shes bad, but aren’t we all. She helps me sometimes with money for my family. She has heart, it just grows jagged in this dog pin. Hey the way I see it is that even roses grow thorns. My other friend is Rosaria. Shes a junky. I believe she breathes more cocaine than oxygen. To her defense, she was born with an addiction. Her mother was cracked out the whole 9 months while carrying rosaria. She had an unfair propensity to smoke the the odds were against her. Shes funny as hell though. Im sure the drugs have something to do with that. I began to smoke more marijuana with her after Douglas left. It was my way to remember him. Then theres Joy. Shes a pure breed around here. Shes 4 years younger than the rest of us. We take pride in her. So her purity makes us feel good and we always tried to keep her clean. Unfortunately one day she might be too exposed and get sunk in, but not on our watch. We didn’t bring her along on our crazy nights out. Her mother was strict any how and would have never allowed it. Occasionally she would manage to sneak out and we’d give her a blunt as a treat, but thats as far as it went. Those are my friends. I spend a lot of time with them. Bad times and good times. Its not all bad. ! I continued to look after patrick. He was protected under my arms. I’m sure he had some bad times but it wasn’t because of my intentions. At this time, I was 14 1/2 and my family let me do what I wanted mostly. With two other kids besides patrick and I, it was my job to take care of us two. For the most part I did that effectively. I quit going to school at this age to work for us. After douglas, and a few other men, I picked up a skill. I’m a crazy girl and even more so in bed. I have to be though. Sometimes I get payed for this. I managed to get a job cleaning a shop. It was part-time and very low pay but like for any poor girl this was called opportunity. I made enough between the two things to take care of patrick and myself. Taking care of myself got a little more complicated sometimes. ! There is one time specifically I would like to forget. I was about 15 years old at this time. My friend Maricia, she had delt a bad deal and stolen some money from one of the dealers one night. Shes not very bright sometimes. I knew


something strange had happened when I hadn’t seen her for a while. She was gone for about 4 days. What I didn’t know is that those guys were looking for her and would do whatever it takes to find her. These gangs are the real deal. You do them dirty and they will take your life. I was in my regular ruitine coming home from work one Saturday afternoon. It was about 7 pm. On my way home I always pass by 2 slums before getting to mine. They are all three under control of Comando Vermelho (Red Command); the most powerful and organized gang in Rio. This is the gang that was looking for my friend. I was passing through when two guys come up to me on a motorcyle. “Get on now, one said!” What, what are you talking about?” When I saw him reach for his gun and cock the trigger I didn’t want him to have to ask twice. He pulled me on the bike and speed off quickly. I had no clue the mess I was about to be in. Had I known, I would have preferred being shot. The whole ride I shook so hard. I was scared but confused at the same time. Had I slept with the wrong guy? Do I know something I shouldn’t? My mind was racing just as fast as my heart. We finally arrived. We stopped at the top of the hill which usually means that its serious business. The last man that was brought to the top was a snitch. He was forced in 5 rubber tires tall, tied up, soaking in gasoline. The next we saw of him were his ashes. With all this in mind I began to walk up and into the house of these men. I walked in and immediately saw a man on the couch. This man was marianas boyfriend. Remember he is a head manager in our slum, but theres always someone higher in command. Heres the deal. Mariana had was sent to complete a deal with this guy named Robert who sells the drugs directly to pimp daddy, mariana’s boyfriend. She seduced him and got him high on coke. Apparently he offered her a deal much lower than he remembered. So she took advantage and split after she gave him the money. Later he realized she had done him dirty. And know here we are, Robert the dealer and his guys. Pimp daddy was just the next in line to get it if I couldn’t come through with answers. “So where is that bitch, Robert said?” Sir I don’t have any clue where she is! I haven’t seen her myself in 4 days! Robert: How do I know your not covering up for her? Me: I’m telling you the truth! I wouldn’t lie in here. I know what will happen to me. Robert: Do you know what I do to theives?! And if you don’t tell me where she is, I assume you are a theif!!! I began to cry and beg him to believe me. “ I do not know where she is!!” Robert: Ok he said, very calm and creepy, you are about to learn the hard way. “No No No!! Pleaasse !” The two guys then threw me on the ground and tied my hands and feet together. The next series of events were the most terrifying and miserable minutes of my life. Because of this moment I’m sure is the reason I’m crazy. SMACK! He smacked my cheeks so hard it was on fire. “If you don’t tell me something this will get a lot worse!” I tried to explain through my tears, but once again, SMACK! Another hand across my now cut face. My nose began to bleed along with the open cut at the crack of my mouth. His stupid diamond ring ripped me to shreds. “Tell me and this will stop, he said!!” With no anwers to give but a plead of mercy, I replied, “She has been gone since then I swear to it! She told me nothing!”


I then recieved a hard smack to the jaw that blanked me out! The next thing I remember I opened my eyes and I was breathing heavy. Everything was foggy. They had placed a plastic bag around my head. I was sufficating with blood, sweat and lack of oxygen. SMACK! I recieved at least ten more blows to the head when finally I couldn’t hold anymore. I began to sway back and forth dizzy. I was gasping for air with every force I had. This is it I thought in my mind! This is my last breath. I don’t remember how long this lasted, but that doesn’t matter. It happened, and for me it seemed like forever. Robert’s buddy ripped the plastic bag off my head and began to untie me. I dropped to the ground without any strength. “So you don’t know, he said” As they called me names and how I was good for nothing I was thrown outside. “Get out of here NOW!” ! I slowly got off the ground and stumbled down the hill slowly. I was totally humiliated. I had literally been beaten with out any reason. They got no answer and I almost lost my life. The pain on my face and lungs felt like heavy rocks were smashing my face in. I walked until I made it to a familiar house. They called my parents and eventually I made it to the hospital. Which was humiliation number two. ! The health system in Brazil is difficult. If you are poor you get public healthcare, and, if you have money you get private. Sounds fair right? See how fair it sounds when you need 12 stitches and have a broken jaw. Instead of going straight in to surgery, you wait in line. You wait in a line of people who have been waiting for weeks. Ofcourse, the ones in emergency life or death situations get put in immediately, which is totally necessary. So there I was waiting in a line of 20 people to heal my wounds and and aid my pain. You may think, “Oh you can just get the scars fixed later with laser or botox right?” In your world that may be an option, unfortunately, in mine, this was not an option. I got assistance the next day, after going back home and returning to the hospital about 28 hours later. Over time my scars began to heal, and honestly, they don’t look as ugly I thought they would. Now everytime I look in the mirror, I certaintly, know how ugly this moment really was. This was one of those bad moments, bad being an understatment. I said its not all bad in the slum but I didn’t say it was all good. This was not an example of a happiness I could still find in the slum. This took happiness out of me and put inside fear. Fear is strong. Its like those bugs that produce by the hundreds and eat through solid sheets of hardwood. This fear still eats at my happiness sometimes to this day, though happiness has its times with me stilll. So needless to say I changed my lifestyle for a little while. I never saw maricia again. Only God knows the pain she went through if they actually caught her. ! Happiness. I talk about happiness so much because quite honestly I enjoy it. It helps me escape, not as I feel im escaping reality, but as I’m somehow enjoying something about my reality in this moment. Memories bring us happiness. Occurences bring us happines. In the wind they come and go. Its like a cake you eat and enjoy, then you throw the box in the trash and continue what you were doing before. Allow me to tell you of another happy memory. I keep switching from happy to bad, bad to happy, hoping that you will get the real image of my life. My story is not of a girl who knows no good, mine is a story of the good the bad and the really ugly of a girl who lives in a slum. ! Beach time. My whole family decided to go to the beach. We had been before, but always seperate. Never as one whole family. It was new years. My father and


mother were both off of work. Its not like hollywood where we packed up the gas guzzling ford SUV and stuffed it with beach toys and enough food for three days. We didn’t pack a cooler full of cold juice for the kids and ice cold beer for the older guys. All we brought along were clothes that we had on over our bathing suits and each other, done, thats it. We went to the bust stop and took at ride to the beach. When we arrived we got off and my siblings and I ran to the beach as fast as we could. We went to a beach in downtown niteroi. It was beautiful. The sky was a deep blue and the steep mountains pointed high to the sky, like fingers pushing the ground up from under. The city was busy. Full of businesses, apartments and people. It was a perfect day to go to the beach. This beach day was a few months after I had been beat up. It was refreshing to have something to enjoy again. My brother patrick did bring his soccer ball. So him and the other siblings kicked it around at the surf. Everything seemed to be pretty. The color of the water, the waves curling as if they were waving at me and even the people were beautiful. Everyone seemed to be having a good time there. We had enough money to get a hotdog for each person so that was our lunch. We killed the hotdog within 2 minutes. You get hungry under the sun all day. After lunch I went for a walk on the beach. I noticed some guys smoking near the surf. My first thought was to go check them out but I was alone and they definetely had trouble written all over them. A smoke of marijuana seemed just the thing to tip this day off great, though not with these guys. I continued to walk and think about my life, where I’ve been and where I was headed. I didn’t think you could fit so much into 15 years of life, somehow, I managed to filter it all in mine, the good and the bad. That day eventually had to close. We ended the day around 5 and headed back home. This was a moment I was proud of. This was a good one. We tend to remember our lifes in short chapters, summaries. Usually without detail we sum up the memories in our head and remember them by feelings. I’m hurt and I would love to get out of these slums but I still have good memories. I am still a human with good attributes. I think. I hope. ! In the rain you gotta get wet. Thats a proverb here in Brazil. I live by it often religiously. If you are gonna do something you mind as well go all out. I don’t know how to stop sometimes, with anything. We have this think called a “pagode”, its a term for a big party. Really, its a big dirty dance party with sweat, guns, slums and cheap bear. The girls show they can handle their moves and the guys let them handle it right in their laps. Loud music. Everyone is having good times. If you look around you will see more kisses than stars in the sky. The gang leaders set this party up in our slums. Its a way to bring the community together. I guess you could call that a success considering many babies are being made on those nights. I’ve been to many pagotes in my slum. Lets say I’ve had my share of long nights of kisses and green smoke. I’m sure that I am being judged right now. Where do people suggest that we go though? Our kind of people are not invited to elegant, champagne parties on the beach front, unless we are working or cleaning up. So we have our fun here, its payed for and everyone goes. Imagine our lives like the titanic social structure. Yes, I saw the titantic. We have bootleg videos here for 3 reais a piece. The heads get in the way occasionally during the movie but you can still enjoy it. In titantic, the rich have their spots and the poor get the shabby spots. Ask Rose and then come tell me who you think has more fun. Money can’t buy absolutely everything, it only manipulates life to different extents. I can dance and love to do it.


When we dance I go all out and if you’re going to dance thats the only way I see worth while. ! I got a tatoo one night, well to be clear, I have a few, but my first tattoo was after a pagote with some new guy I met on the dance floor. Thiego was his name. He was full of art on his body. I called him Lil wayne. It was mainly pressure from him that made me get one. I was just worried it would hurt. We went to this sketchy place within the slum everyone knew. Theigo payed for it so I did it. Patrick Silva, that was the first one. Obviously it was in for my brother patrick, I love that kid. I got it on my shoulder in a very thin font. Theigo was just a night fling with me. We kissed around a few times later but I didn’t really like him. ! Another time at a pagote the police snuck in to break the party. They arested two dealers and snatched a tax from everyone they caught, those theives. I don’t suppose our situation will ever end here in Brazil. Whos worse, the dealers or the police. Maybe the better question is, who is who? ! ! A look into my journal. ! ! I will continue the rest of my story very soon, but, please allow me to show you a smaller story inside of my story. Its my journal. The following texts are random feelings and series of events.


Short Novel