It was the only night that a party of mine managed to make enough noise for the apartment upstairs to threaten to call the police. I had been more or less begging for the karaoke to stop, first out of personal disdain – when Avril Lavigne supplanted MPB – and then out of pure exhaustion. It was no use; even dressed for bed and lying down on the living room floor in protest, I was dragged up to learn salsa steps.
Around four o’clock, a friend knocked on the window with a bottle of cachaça and his guitar. Everyone left was so tired that the cachaça would have been redundant, but the guitar was welcome. He propped it on one knee and began.
Within a month I was going back to the United States; Carlos and José to Mexico; Luís to Switzerland; Gabi to Uruguay; and Marília to São Paulo, which is less forbidding in terms of commute times but about equivalent in terms of culture shock. Everyone else would probably stay in Rio, to try their luck with the riot police or the job market. But for a while we were all there, albeit with an air of an epilogue. I want to say it was raining outside, but I think it had just stopped raining.
Ciro struck a soulful pose.
A tristeza é senhora
Desde que o samba é samba é assim
A lágrima clara sobre a pele escura
A noite, a chuva que cai lá fora Continue reading
Somewhat surprisingly, Rio is posing one of the problems that plagued my time in Washington: the place is not strange to me. My challenge is to conjure up the Rio of fifty, forty, thirty years ago, but what is incomparably more vivid is the Rio of the past three years — or even the future Rio that is coming into focus, vertiginously and violently. My personal Way-Back Machine has a pathetically small range, but it insists on firing up every time I pass a corner with a juice bar I haven’t frequented since a sweaty break in the action during my first Carnaval, or where I asked directions once, back when I confused the Barra da Tijuca with Tijuca. The city is alive with memories that threaten to steal my attention at every turn.
The return to scanning the Historia Universal is also the closing of a personal circle. As I flip the pages, I have double vision: I remember the first time I pored over these dynasties a year and a half ago, and, as I check the inscriptions on the tags (a list of popes compiled in CUERNAVACA, MORELOS, MEXICO), I can faintly glimpse Santiago at the Remington, the unwrinkled forehead of the young portraits bent over the typewriter amidst the greenery of Rancho Tetela or looking out on Washington in winter. I have the feeling that I understand something now, but all I have to show for it are a few sentences tapped out in all caps on a note in my phone.
On the way to the Instituto Moreira Salles, I lean my head against the rumbling bus window and see through half-lidded eyes that the Bus TV says it’s fig season. I compose this, these fragments, as the bus lurches forward, and wonder sleepily if Santiago is reading them, and what he thinks.
“HAH!” I shouted suddenly, staring fixedly at the screen of my laptop. I opened up a new comment tab on the transcription of Santiago’s autobiography and typed, “I GOT YOU. I GOT YOU.” My heart was pounding, and I stalked out to the balcony to stand in the cool air and look out over Palermo, half in triumph, half berating myself for not having found the smoking gun sooner.
It’s easy to lose track of people amid the sea of names from Santiago’s correspondence and autobiographical writings. There are acquaintances and friends from half a dozen cities across the Americas, most long dead and most with frustratingly common names: Juan Suárez, Fernando Rubio, Francisco García. (I might as well be looking for Santiago’s dear friend John Smith.) But I’ve been trying to create small dossiers dedicated to each name that appears, however minor, and today that paid off in a fist-thumping way. I didn’t locate a friend or speak with anyone, but I felt as though I’d ripped away a mask — and immediately felt guilty for having done so.
The smoking gun came as I was cross-referencing a 1992 list of Santiago’s friends with passages from the Scherzo, his memoirs from 1955. The Scherzo is frustratingly elliptical, especially when it comes to Santiago’s personal life; he’ll dwell at length on the colonial churches of Mexico and the time he spent working in a house that had a statue by Luca della Robbia, but dedicates brief and deliberately mysterious paragraphs to tales of compromising affairs and infatuations. And many of those infatuations are with women: María, Antonia, L.P., S.G. This threw me for a loop in a document which is otherwise fairly clear about its author belonging to the “brotherhood of silence,” the group of those cursed to forbidden love by an otherwise benevolent Nature. Of course he could have had relationships with women, but there was something about these passages that troubled me. Who was he writing to, in the end? What did he need to hide? Continue reading
Yesterday I raised my eyes from the page of a book and looked with some surprise at the café com leite, the paper tablecloth, the bustling counter of the padaria, the signs in Portuguese, wondering sincerely how I wound up here. Like going into a room, full of purpose, and then being brought up short and not knowing why you came in the first place. What were the odds of all this? Next week will mark a year since I first came to Brazil. Take another sip of coffee.
Highlights from thesising:
16th-century Iron Man: Pompeio Giustiniani. Général et historien, né en Corse en 1569, mort en 1616 (surnommé BRAS DE FER, parce qu’on lui avait adapté un bras mecánique pour remplacer le bras perdu au siége d’Anvers).
The Fun Pope Bonifacio VIII, [que] morreu como vivera, blasfemando.
Isabelle Fieschi, la tercer esposa del asasino “Señor” de Milan, Luchino Visconti (1292-1349). Fue la madre de Luchino NOVELLO Visconti. Su marido la iba a matar cuando los espías del palacio le avisaron a Isabel. Ella, mucho más joven y experta, lo envenenó inmediatamente.
“Hollaback Girl” is playing on the TV at the tapas bar, and someone has been blessed with the divine idea of subtitling it in Portuguese. ESSA COISA É UMA LOUCURA… L O U C U R A! In this case, much has definitely been gained in translation.
Incredibly, the first day back in Rio lived up to months of feverish Buenos Aires speculation and longing. Miraculous good weather, a bike ride from Leblon to Santos Dumont without crashing into anyone, beach lolling and wave-jumping, walks along the Lagoa, and a ludicrously gorgeous sunset seen from Urca [pictured]. I should say that I am suffering from slight blog exhaustion [blogaustion], so at least for a few weeks I’ll be posting less frequently. I have to retool my blogging style in general, it strikes me; my time in Rio is no longer a process of discovering the city, a one-off adventure, but rather something else entirely, and so demands a different approach. Let me think about it while I finish off these bolinhos de bacalhau.
How’s it going?
I have to say, this wasn’t what I imagined when I reluctantly shrugged on the blogger mantle back in late May. Your procrastination, idle clicks and Facebook likes made this little project take on very unexpected dimensions. Over the course of my 195 days in Brazil I wrote over 100,000 words on this blog (mostly not including the parts where I copied and pasted poems and passages that I like, because that’s cheating), had the intellectual stamina to think up about 300 posts (even if 20% of those were something along the lines of “listen to this neat song”), racked up nearly 20,000 page views and have consequently developed a crippling attachment to checking said page views that will probably haunt me for the rest of my adult life. Congratulations.
So, what’s next for ruiva no rio? A literal and slightly melodramatic answer would be to say that now that the ruiva is no longer in Rio, the blog has no reason to continue to exist. A lazier answer would be to point out that I have just written the equivalent of 5 SPO senior theses over the course of a semester and would like to take a quick break now to gorge on Christmas cookies. Let’s go with a slightly less embarrassing combination of the two, shall we? I am anticipating quite a bit of culture shock when I get back, so I’m sure there will be things to comment on, but I very much doubt that I’ll be keeping up the post-a-day rhythm. (A surefire way to not miss any new posts: subscribe to the blog! That way you get an email from the WordPress elves every time I feel the need to grace you all with my wisdom.) But I’ll be writing from time to time. Be sure to check back in for posts about Carnaval. Or don’t, depending on if you are a parent, faculty member, or future employer. Anyway, it was a fun ride. Beijos!
P.S. Like any good franchise, the sequel is already in the works.