Published by Bill Braga in Memories, Psychology, Psychiatry, Shamanism
On my return to Rio, I rode a ferryboat and then the subway to reach Botafogo. It’s interesting how past and modernity coexist together. Rio is the city of antithesis, socially, culturally, economically and technologically. Both the old ferryboat and the subway were very useful to me and I speedily arrived at my destination. Then right away I was presented with a picturesque scene. A fairly old fellow with a very young heart was executing headstands right in front of everyone. The little old man was very happy and it didn’t bother him or any of the passersby. I saw him again the other day heads up but I but didn’t have the courage to strike up a conversation, a missed opportunity because he appeared to be a well of wisdom.
In reality, wisdom exists where we least expect it to. Real wisdom does not come from books but from life itself and experience. It reminds me of an old saying: “The devil should be respected, not because he is the devil, but for being very old!” That sir with his head upside down unwittingly confirmed me of this. Words were not necessary. In fact, sometimes words only get in the way. Looks, gestures and movements pronounce more to a good observer.
Anyhow, skipping a few details, it was a long and intense day of research at Rio’s Public Archives, as well organized as it was bureaucratic. Already tired, I went home before the end of the day, I had already found much of what I needed. But it isn’t research items, or striking details of my impressions of Rio de Janeiro that mattered. What really matters is my psychological state, how each experience from that trip acted upon my troubled mind.
Back to the hostel, where I would meet her; Sandra, the owner. She is a young woman of no more than 30 years old, gorgeous, intelligent, has a northwestern accent from Pernambuco and born in Recife. Each of these ingredients served to captivate me. As Seneca once said: it was not her eyes, her legs nor her intelligence that caught my attention, but the entirety of the piece of work. Our first talk was short, just presentations. I was in a hurry to take another shower, relax a bit and absorb everything from my first day in town. But even in these brief instants she already fixed into my mind. She made my thoughts bothered. After all, I had a girlfriend, she had a boyfriend. Although, none of this strayed me from fantasizing. The time wasn’t right. I didn’t fully know her yet. Shortly after, I would have to chance to get to know her a little more.
The next day I would finally have the opportunity to get to know Sandra better. She had previously captivated me, but on this day she would win me over. All right so I have a soft heart, but she was, or still is, something very special. Even though I couldn’t stop thinking about my girlfriend, Sandra gained a place there, confusing me at the same time as she impressed me with her northeastern ways, calm and decisive. To complicate my emotions even more, I read a few parts out of Calabar by Chico Buarque. The work is “The Complement of Betrayal”, about the Brazilian who allied with the Dutch against the Portuguese during the invasion of the XVI century. Complement betrayal, complement craziness like Erasmo of Roterdam did, all of this messed with me. I wanted sensorial experiences, chemical, biological and psychological apart. No illicit drugs. I had no idea of the rocky trails I would still have to cross. Everything is worth the effort when your soul is not small, as the multiple Fernando Pessoa taught.
After my researching, back to the bar it was. Yes, alcohol, the solitary man’s ever loyal companion. It is a socializer. At the bar, I talked with many locals from the Santa Tereza neighborhood about various different subjects. When I got back, Sandra invited me to a conversation with her and her friend in the lounge, where the hostel was full of plants. I couldn’t refuse. A few moments later another companion would arrive, a strange character, a kind of hippy frozen in time. This conversation would make decisive my psychedelic flipped out trip, caused by all the love mix-ups. Exclusively? Maybe not. There are various factors. It’s impossible to detect the causes. Let’s get back to the facts, even though there are arguments against them.
I was already having certain difficulty sleeping. The imprint left on me by the conversation with Sandra, a person who had lived with Chico Science, the founder of Manguebeat, was duly serious. A world of possibilities opened up in my head. Perhaps the very climate of Rio was conducive to that, this beautiful city, the heat, so many people, tourists, the bohemia of Santa Teresa. All this summed up my enthusiasm for the research and the prospects that the year held. Maybe it was all too much at the same time. But I’ve always been extreme. It’s all or nothing. I even wrote a poem about this a few months later. Intense. Replete with feelings.
All sometimes is the emptiness
Emptiness fills nothing
That doesn’t wish to know all
The all is the infinite
Infinite while it lasts
But the mystery of existence
Is not in everything
Or in nothing
It is in the emptiness of existence
This poem was written after, at a moment of anguish and loneliness, but rather reflects a rather bipolar state of my soul. The intensity of the feelings invades me, the lack of rationality in my impassionate choices in a technocratic and rationalist world. The intensity of a simple conversation with Sandra invaded me. The next day I met her little six year-old daughter. A princess, she is beautiful like her mother, raised in that paradise of a hostel, of Rio, of Santa Tereza. Sandra remained stuck in my heart for longer than I could imagine. But I had to continue my research, despite the few hours of sleep.
In Rio, as always, it wasn’t possible to research everything that I aspired to. So many piles of material, what with two parallel studies: Cordel, the dead and disappeared politicians. The excess. But the days went by, a week went by. I got to go to the Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel and I had a pleasant conversation with its president, the wise poet Gonçalo Ferreira. We needed an initiative to establish Cordel in Minas. We needed the momentum of youth that I had. I committed. I would fight for the project, a cordelteca and for a Referential Center in Belo Horizonte. He would support me, as would other poets. Always when I came back from a lone trip to Rio, things would get held up, projects were postponed. But it would not only be Rio this time, I would go to Juiz de Fora. But time went by and money ran out. Good thing I had a safe haven from my dad close by, in Juiz de Fora. Not as safe as I cared to believe, I would discover.
I even talked a little to Darci in Rio, he told me that Allen Ginsberg’s son, the poet beatnik was staying there. What a trip that place is, one knew Chico Science and the other was Allen Ginsberg’s son. It really was a privileged place. The people there were so cool and alluring. I wanted to stay longer, make the most of them as possible. The most for Sandra was very high. But could she give me what I wanted? We would never know. A lack of courage doesn’t bring us answers. But future possibilities are left open. The fact is that with my wallet becoming ever so light, and not sleeping well again, I departed once again for the bus station.
I paid about twenty-five Reais in taxi fares; I didn’t want to go by car pool with valuables that were not mine, plus all the weight from the books I bought. When I got to the bus station I saw that I only had enough money for the cheapest ticket. The bus would leave two hours later and had no air conditioning. Occupational hazard, it was the best that could be done. Pride would not let me call anyone and ask for some borrowed cash. I sat there in the meantime, wandering a little, watching people, reading a bit, writing. A “flaneur,”- strolling around the bus station. My thoughts began to wander. I wondered if I should have tried to go deeper with Sandra, or if I had done the right thing since I was already committed to someone whom I liked a lot. But I might not ever see Sandra again, and my present relationship could end at any time. Still, if a betrayal occurred in thought form, wouldn’t it be a betrayal all the same? Is the act only factual when it becomes real, or is it when the ideas concretely exist? These thoughts were sprouting in my head rapidly. One time a colleague told me that something is only true after it has been spoken out loud. Just the utterance creates a fact? A very objectivist perspective, but well suited to all kinds of roguery. But I was not a rogue, or a pragmatist, I am a romantic, a dreamer, a utopian. Someone with a beautiful figure brushes me by interrupting my thoughts and then moves out of sight. Again back to prying at my mind. I looked at the clock and saw that it was time for another departure. I left Rio with a whole heart, alas a confused mind, feeling longings even before leaving that city in which I kept promiscuous and troubled relationships.