“Carla and Jaime” is an excerpt from my novel, Shadow Companion. In 1965, in a period of rampant inflation and weak democracy, the Brazilian military seized control of the government. After General Castelo Branco’s death in 1967, the hard-line wing of the military assumed control of the government. In 1968, there was a particularly severe crackdown. Students, professors, clergy, union leaders, politicians–anyone involved in community, progressive, or social justice activities–were liable to arrest and, in some instances, torture. In Recife, the home of my fictional protagonist Jaime Bittencourt, it was particularly bad; Dom Helder Camera, the Catholic bishop there, lost many of his priests and lay leaders to unjust arrests and several to execution.
Although civilian rule was not restored until 1985, by 1979–the setting of this story–censorship had been eased, and an amnesty allowed exiles to return to Brazil. Jaime–an economics professor who had been arrested, tortured, and exiled for his leftist opinions–would have been one of the many who returned. Jaime was never involved in violent activities. Yet there were still hard-line elements inside and outside of the military that sought to provoke (and sometimes invent) violent subversive activity in order to justify further crackdowns. Jaime would be a perfect scapegoat for such plans.
Throughout the period, the Catholic Church was the one entity in Brazil that stood up to the military government, actively opposing repressive policies. Many leftist intellectuals found refuge in Catholic universities. Through a combination of open opposition and shrewd diplomacy, and with the sympathy of many decent people within the government, the Church provided a bulwark of freedom and dignity in very difficult times.
(Rio de Janeiro, 1979)
The television news commentator was a solid man with a somber voice. The incident today was appalling. Terrorists had fired on the nearly completed nuclear plant at Angra dos Reis–the beautiful beach south of Rio. It was the first major terrorist activity in years. Lives might have been lost–as it was, damage had been done to national progress and to the image of Brazil as a stable, responsible nation. The threat to national security was apparent, but the government’s hands were tied due to the recent repeal of the national security laws. Those who had pushed against the government–who had advocated amnesty for exiles–should have realized that they were playing into the terrorists’ hands. Democracy could not be constructed on the sands of uncertainty, but only on the rock of security.
On the second channel, the commentator was a thin dark man with a sarcastic tone. The government was to be congratulated on this afternoon’s incident at Angra dos Reis. In the wake of another incident–that of Three Mile Island near Harrisburg in the United States–many people had, no doubt foolishly, questioned Brazil’s nuclear energy program. The plant under construction at Angra had particularly drawn attention– located close to Rio, on a slowly sinking beach, under the heavily traveled Rio-São Paulo air route, close to the highway. Located, most of all, at that point where prevailing winds would carry any escaping radioactivity directly to the city of Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City, the heart throb of Brazil. Why, some had even questioned whether the plant was sufficiently secure. The government had, of course, pushed for completion of the plant, but had thoughtfully not improved security. And this afternoon, thankfully without loss of life, the terrorists had neatly illustrated the point and then had vanished into thin air. The damage was significant–but what were a few million dollars where so much had already been wasted? The government’s inaction had proved its critics right, and that was, for a change, a service to the nation….)
* * *
Jaime Bittencourt paced back and forth in the small apartment. It was nearing midnight, but he was still wearing the clothes he had worn home from the beach.
“Be calm, Jaime,” Carla said. There was a nervous strain in her voice that betrayed her words. “They can’t know anything….”
“Can’t they?” He stopped and turned toward her, his hands going up and stroking back the thin hair on his balding head. “You don’t know them like I do, Carla. They might even have planned the whole thing…. somehow they knew I would be there….”
“Don’t be silly, Jaime.” She spoke softly, trying to hide how scared she felt when he got like this. “Nobody knew we were going to Angra dos Reis. We didn’t even know ourselves until last night.”
He looked at her then and she knew what was going through his mind–the constant question, the sane, brilliant part of his mind battling against the scared, tortured part. ‘She could have betrayed you,’ the tortured part was screaming, with all the betrayals and tortures of those years to back it up. Then gradually she saw the sane part winning out, and he smiled at her his sad, gentle smile.
* * *
They had gone to Angra on a whim. She had talked about it before, said how much she had loved it there when she was a child. But they had been back in Brazil just a short time–returning shortly after the government granted amnesty to exiles–and he had been busy getting started with his classes at PUC, the Catholic university. It was so different from Paris, he found. The students, raised during fifteen years of military dictatorship, had been taught not to question. At the Catholic universities, where those leftists who had not been killed or forced into exile found refuge, flames of thought had been kept alive–but even there, often fenced off into fiercely protected ideological territories. And the students coming in from the secondary schools–or into the graduate programs from the government universities–were used to ready-made answers. When he gave them articles by two or three scholars, expressing differing viewpoints, the students would turn to him and ask, “But, Professor. Which one of them is right?”
Classes had started in March, and it worried him that he couldn’t seem to find a key to the students’ minds, couldn’t seem to get them to click. They were polite enough, and did their assignments–these, after all, were the successful products of the educational system. It was different that day when he held a special seminar for the students who worked with Padre Felipe up into the slums, but–so far–that had been only one class.
He had been worrying, Carla knew, becoming more preoccupied. After five years, she recognized the signs. His mind would go in smaller and smaller circles, closing in on itself. It needed fresh air.
Literally, as well as figuratively. So they had borrowed her cousin’s car. Let’s go to Angra dos Reis, she had said….
* * *
It was 2:29 in the morning. Jaime and Carla’s telephone rang. Carla hesitated, then picked it up.
“This is Padre Felipe from the university.” The voice was tense. “I need to speak with Jaime Bittencourt.”
“Just a moment,” Carla answered. She handed the receiver to Jaime–”Padre Felipe,” she whispered.
He took the phone and spoke briefly, then listened. She watched his face–tense, worried–but somehow worried in a different way. He was on the phone less than a minute. “Thank you,” he said, and hung up.
“He’s found out that security knows I was at Angra,” he said, and turned away.
* * *
“Go to your parents’ house,” Jaime said. “You’ll be safe there.”
“Come with me. My parents have friends. We can get a lawyer, Jaime. You haven’t done anything….”
He was looking at her with scared, trapped eyes–a wild animal caught in a cage. You couldn’t explain to a wild animal that you were caging it for its own protection, that you would care for it until the danger went away. She remembered her sister Silvi, after she’d been arrested and the family had gotten her released–pacing, pacing in her room, looking up if you startled her with that same trapped animal look.
Carla was afraid.
“Then let me go with you,” she said. “I was in Angra just as much as you were. If they’re after you, they’ll be after me.”
“They won’t bother you,” he said, the infuriating elder professor, waving his hand as if to dismiss a fatuous undergraduate argument.
“Why not,” she flared up angrily. “You think you’re the only threat to the state. I’m in their files, too, you know. My sister was ‘dangerous’–hadn’t you heard?”
He was looking at her, smiling in that warm avuncular way he smiled when he was proud of her–the bright young student showing her spunk. How could she find this man so infuriating and love him so much at the same time?
He was proud of her, but not convinced.
“You’ll be safe with your parents,” he said. “This isn’t 1968.”
“It isn’t, Jaime. You’ll be safe too. Come there with me….”
“You don’t understand,” he said. He was trying, she knew, to sound reasonable, but the panic was in his eyes and his voice, though no louder, was rising in pitch. “They have a reason to arrest me–they can take me from your parents’ house….”
It was that, she knew. It wasn’t whether he would eventually be found guilty of helping plot some silly terrorist act against a half-built nuclear plant. He knew nothing of that; they could prove nothing because there was nothing to prove. But that didn’t matter. . . . to be alone, in custody, under the power of the police again. . . . It was the fear–Silvi’s fear.
“Then let me go with you,” she said again.
He tensed, paused, then relaxed.
“All right,” he said. “Go get your things. But hurry.” He glanced at his watch with male impatience. “It’s past three o’clock. It will be getting light soon.”
She ran into the bedroom, pulled down her small travel case and began jamming things into it–a few changes of clothes, her documents, her toilet kit. She went to her drawer and dug beneath her underwear to bring out the money she always kept there–just in case. This was ‘just in case,’ she reflected. She grabbed her watch and rushed out into the living room. She had taken less than five minutes.
Jaime was gone.
* * *
She slumped down on the sofa and just sat, for a long time, staring beyond the single lit lamp at the darkness outside. She had wanted to go with him, to watch over him, protect him, but he hadn’t wanted her to, had been willing to trick her into thinking he would wait, then had slipped out while she was getting her clothes and money. She felt she should be mad at him, but she couldn’t be. Hurt, for a moment, that he didn’t want her with him–but it wasn’t that he didn’t want her. Only that, like most men when they were doing battle, he could move more quickly, more safely, alone. “He who marries and has children,” Jaime used to say, quoting some Englishman, “gives hostages to fate.” Yes, and to the police, too. He had wanted her to go to her parents’ house, go where she would be safe.
And also, where she could do the most good, she reflected. Her parents still had many influential friends. She could begin contacting people. This was not, Jaime had said, 1968. He was right. Things had opened up. This nightmare could be cleared up, made to go away. She stood up and began getting her things together.
The telephone rang.
She jumped, then laughed at herself and looked at her watch. It was not yet four in the morning. The phone rang again. She hesitated for a moment, then went over and picked it up.
It was a pay phone, calling–she could hear the clicking of the token.
“Carla. . . .”
“Jaime.” Her heart leapt like a young girl’s at the sound of his voice.
“Carla, this has to be quick. The police arrived in front of the house a minute ago. They may be going upstairs any moment. Leave the light on. Get out of the apartment. Don’t go out of the building–they’re watching. Go to another floor and wait until people start leaving to go to work. Look like you’re going to work, too. Try to leave at the same time as somebody else. Don’t take anything with you that you wouldn’t take to work. I’ll call you at your parents’.”
He hung up.
She caught up her things and ran to the front door, opening it. There was nobody in the hall. She closed the door behind her and started toward the elevator, then stopped, fumbled through her purse for her key, went back to the door and locked it. Better that the police found it locked–they might think she and Jaime had merely not come home, or had left already. Or were locked inside. It would slow them down.
She started again for the elevator, then heard it moving. In a flash, it occurred to her that the police might be coming up. She ran down the hallway to the stairway door, opened it, and closed it behind her. She stood for a moment, feeling safer behind the door. She heard the elevator door open and somebody get off. Silently, she slipped to the stairway and started down, then changed her mind, turned around, and started up. They might expect her to go down by the stairs, but maybe they wouldn’t think she would go up. She went up three floors, then stopped on the landing between the eighth and ninth floors. She stood there for a moment, then closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. She could feel her heart beating quickly, pounding in her chest.
She stood, leaning against the wall, for several minutes. She kept expecting to hear the stairwell door bust open, hear the heavy footsteps of police on the stairs, but nothing happened. She sank down into a sitting position, her back against the wall, and looked at her watch. 4:15. People wouldn’t start leaving for work, mostly, until seven, seven-fifteen. Nobody used the stairways much–the servants used the service elevator that opened into the stairwell, but they wouldn’t be able to see her unless they actually walked halfway up from the eighth floor or halfway down from the ninth. If she heard someone coming, she would have time to stand up and pretend she was climbing the stairs–or descending them–the opposite of whatever the person coming was doing. She looked at her watch again. 4:20. She began to suspect that her worst trial was going to be boredom.
It was then that it occurred to her how incredibly courageous Jaime had been. She remembered the panic in his eyes, how much he feared being caught by the police. Yet, after he left, he must have stayed right across the street for half an hour, hidden in the shadows of neighboring buildings, watching the apartment building. Risking staying close, risking getting caught, to protect her. He must have gone to the nearest pay telephone–she knew it: the big yellow hood down on the corner–risking the street light to call her. She felt a wave of love wash over her.
She looked at her watch again. 4:32. “Look like you’re going to work,” Jaime had said. She glanced down at her blouse and slacks and flat shoes. She had thrown them on before she tried to convince Jaime to take her with him. They were more casual than she herself would have worn to work, but they were something that someone else might wear to work, so that was okay. She had her pocket book and raincoat–they were fine. The only problem was the back–it was a white overnight back with ‘Air France’ in red and blue lettering. She tried to argue with herself that someone might take something like that with them to work in the morning, but she lost the argument. She opened the bag. She took out her toilet kit and stuffed it in her raincoat pocket, putting the raincoat over her arm to test the way it fell. It seemed all right. She looked back into the bag–she had hastily put in four changes of clothes. She was able to stick the underwear in her pocket book and one of the blouses–her favorite–in the other pocket of the raincoat. She’d just have to leave the rest behind.
At five o’clock she began to hear the first maids arriving, getting out of the service elevator up and down the stairwell, unlocking back doors and going in, shutting the doors behind them. She heard the elevator stop at the eighth floor and a boy come out and throw down newspapers. One of the back doors opened, and a maid said hello to the boy and they talked for a minute. Carla stood up, prepared in case the boy walked up the stairs, but apparently he was lazy and had secured the elevator door–was riding it up, stopping at each floor and just throwing down papers. The maids kept coming until about six o’clock, and then things quieted down some, except for occasionally when someone brought garbage out to the garbage chute–she could hear the metal doors clang open, the swish of the garbage, the doors clanging shut. At 6:25 two maids came out on the ninth floor, apparently from different apartments, to smoke cigarettes–Carla could smell the smoke–and talk about their Sunday off. By then Carla was bored enough to be glad to listen to how a guy named Cesar had taken one of the girls dancing and on the way home had slipped his hand under her skirt and got it slapped away, told with a lot of giggling. She was almost sorry when a distant woman’s voice called out, and one of the maids answered “Senhora?” and both of them slipped back into their kitchens, closing the doors behind them.
At five of seven she got up, more than ready to go, but she held herself back for a few more minutes. She could feel her body and mind tensing, the adrenaline pumping into her system, and she found herself saying an “Ave Maria,” something she hadn’t done very much in the last few years. A little after seven, she walked down to the eighth floor. She thought of stuffing the Air France bag with her clothes in it down the garbage chute, but then it occurred to her that something like that in the garbage might attract attention. So she left it beside one of the kitchen doors where there was a lot of stuff–a plastic tricycle, a baby carriage, an empty carton–left it on top of the carton as if someone had just forgotten it there. She hoped maybe one of the maids would find it, would be glad to have the clothes.
She pulled open the stairwell door and entered the front hallway, walking as casually as she could to the elevator. Her plan was to stand there until either someone came out of one of the eighth floor apartments or the elevator passed her going up. The elevator did pass her and, as soon as it passed, she pressed the button. At this time of the morning, chances were the elevator had been called up for someone to go out to work. When the elevator stopped on its way down, there was a well-dressed, middle-aged woman in it whom Carla had seen in the building once or twice before. Carla entered the elevator, greeting the woman warmly. By the time they reached the ground floor and walked out into the lobby, they were talking about the trials of having to go to work on a Monday morning. They kept up the conversation through the open door–there was a man in a cheap beige suit leaning against a car, watching the door–and out onto the sidewalk. When the woman turned left, Carla turned left with her. Then down to the corner, Carla breezing along–I should have been an actress, she thought–until they rounded the corner and the woman said “Tchau” and headed across the street and Carla walked another block, realizing with relief that nobody was following her, waved down a taxi and got in, gave the driver her parents’ address, leaned back and nearly fainted in the back seat.
* * *
Jaime stood in front of the Copacabana Palace in the bright, early afternoon sun, dressed in a light blue short sleeved shirt and beige slacks, his beige canvas bag slung over his shoulder. His shirt and slacks he’d brought from Paris, his shoes were Italian, and he’d picked up the bag once on a trip to Holland. He hoped he looked like a European tourist.
Nervously, he glanced up and down the street. Everything looked normal: tourists ambled by, late lunchers half filled the outdoor restaurants. All day a part of his mind–the part he called his psyche–had been urging him to run. His mind–the sane part of it–had urged him to be calm, to think.
He glanced at his watch. 1:54. He had called Carla at her parent’s house half an hour ago from a telephone in the lobby of the Hotel Meridién. Before that, he had been sitting in the lobby for nearly an hour, reading the newspapers, trying to find out what had happened at Angra dos Reis. Trying also to look like a tourist waiting for someone. But he had felt the eyes of the hotel staff watching him–they had no reason to be watching him, the sane part of his mind said, but his psyche said ‘run!’ And, deep down, the crazy part of his mind was saying: you can’t trust anyone. So, after he made his call, he walked out of the lobby onto the Avenida Atlântica, crossed the wide Avenida Princesa Isabel from Leme into Copacabana proper, and wandered around the small back streets, looking at store windows, browsing, entering a few small shops, killing time.
Again he glanced at his watch. 1:56. It was time now. He would walk over to the Avenida Copacabana and catch a bus. For the moment, the sane part of his mind and his psyche were saying the same thing: keep moving.
* * *
When he had left the apartment in the pre-dawn darkness, he hadn’t known where he was going. He just knew he had to get out–out of the trap closing around him.
Clutching his small canvas overnight bag, he had ducked out of the front door of the apartment building and across the street, into the shadows of a passageway between two buildings on the other side. Once in the shadows, he began to feel the panic subside. He leaned against the wall and breathed in and out, deeply, slowly. Within a few minutes he felt safer, and he turned to look back at his own building. There were no signs of police.
It was then that he realized he couldn’t just leave Carla. He watched the apartment entrance to see her leave. The lights were still on in their apartment. The minutes ticked by. Didn’t she know how urgent it was? If the police came and found her there, if they learned that he had fled….
Nervously, he looked toward the phone at the end of the street. It was standing under a street light, all lit up, but there was one of those big yellow covers over the phone, and he would be in its shadow once he reached it. He would have to call her.
As he started toward the phone he saw it–a dark car moving slowly down the street. Just in time, he ducked into the passageway between the buildings. The car passed by slowly, its headlights illuminating momentarily the sidewalk in front of the passageway, then moving on. It pulled to the curb and stopped in front of his building, the smooth black finish reflecting the light of a street lamp. Nobody got out.
He knew he couldn’t hesitate. It was dark where he was, and he walked out onto the sidewalk as naturally as possible–like someone coming out of one of those buildings–carrying his small bag like a workman with an extra set of clothes. He turned away from the car, in the direction of the corner, and started walking toward the telephone. He wanted to run, half expecting to hear a challenge shouted out from the black car behind him, half sick with worry that he wouldn’t reach Carla in time. But he controlled himself, walking at a natural pace.
He reached the telephone and, under the shade of the yellow cover, stuck in a token and dialed their number. As it rang, he looked back down the street toward the black car. A man was getting out of the passenger side but, instead of going into the apartment building, he crossed over to the other side of the street and looked up, as though he were looking at the window. Carla came onto the line–Jaime spoke to her rapidly, telling her what to do, telling her to hurry–and hung up the phone, all the time watching the man who had come out of the car. The man crossed back over the street but didn’t go into the building–he stood up against the wall and looked at his watch, then glanced up the street.
Thank God, he was waiting for something. If Carla would hurry. . . .
The driver’s door of the car opened and another man got out. He walked around the back of the car and the two men talked for a moment, then entered the building.
Fear and anger swept through Jaime simultaneously. He wanted to run and hide, yet at the same time he wanted to run back into the building and attack the men, keep them away from Carla. He stood by the telephone, his mind telling his psyche not to be foolish. But he couldn’t leave. He walked back down the street to his shadowed passageway and slipped into it, waiting.
He stood there for fifteen minutes, but it seemed like hours. For the first time in years, he wished he had a gun. With a gun, he could have gone in and got Carla out, shooting the police if he had to. If only. . . .
The two men were coming out of the building. Alone. One of them went over to the car, opened the passenger door, and sat down. Radioing, Jaime thought.
For now, Carla was safe. Thank God, he said to himself, then realized what he was saying, and said it again–Thank God–meaning it.
He looked up at the sky. The first light was showing in the east. If he waited any longer it would begin to get light on the street. He couldn’t stay here.
There was no back way out. Picking up his bag, he stepped out onto the sidewalk and–conscious of the policeman standing by his apartment building–started walking once again toward the corner.
He had found one of those little bars in Botafogo that stay open all night, still serving a few half-drunk customers in the pre-dawn. It was a small place on a corner, the tall old-fashioned shop doors open and the light flowing out onto the sidewalk, where there were three small round tables, each surrounded by chairs. Jaime sat down at one of the tables, one that was out of the light, slightly in the shadows that still darkened the tree-lined street. It was conspicuous, he knew, sitting there, but less conspicuous than a lone man walking the streets. There were three customers inside the bar, talking loudly and occasionally bursting into raucous song. The Portuguese owner came out and Jaime asked for coffee. The coffee wasn’t ready yet, the owner said, so Jaime asked for a Coke and the owner went in and brought him out a bottle of Coke and a glass, opening the bottle at the table. The glass had evaporated water spots on it and the bottle, when Jaime picked it up, was only slightly cooled, but he poured the Coke into his glass anyway, and started to drink it. He sat there, sipping the warm Coke, and thought.
He had to calm himself consciously. His emotions were in panic, he knew, and panic would paralyze his mind. If he let himself think about the police–that they were looking for him this minute, that their car might cruise by, that they would arrest him, take him to a cell….
He pulled his thoughts up. He was sweating. Sit still, his mind said, but he wanted to get up and run. Run! his psyche was shouting. Sit still, the sane part of his mind repeated, sit still and think. And the crazy part of his mind in the background: there is no place to run to, there is no one you can trust…. She could have betrayed you….
“Stop it!” he said out loud, then looked up, realizing he had spoken. One of the drunks had been coming out of the bar and stood there, poised on the sidewalk, looking down at him.
“Stop what?” the drunk asked belligerently.
“I’m sorry,” Jaime said, smiling thinly. “I was talking to myself.”
“Who are you to tell me I should stop?” the drunk said, taking a step toward Jaime’s table and grabbing the back of a chair to steady himself. He looked down at Jaime pugilistically; then, as Jaime looked up at him, smiling wanly, the drunk’s face lost its hostile look and crumpled into grief. He pulled out the chair and sat down opposite Jaime.
“You’re right,” he said with an alcoholic sigh, his voice slurring the words but flowing with melodrama and self-absorbed mental flagellation. “Look at me,” he said, leaning back in his chair and focusing his eyes inward, shaking his head in dismay at his own waywardness. “Spending all night in this little hole. I should stop.” He shook his head again. Sighed. Slouched in his chair. Then, suddenly perking up and leaned forward.
“You,” he said, pointing at Jaime. “Do I know you?” he asked, bemused, twisting his head as though to better focus on Jaime.
“I don’t think so,” Jaime said. Run! Jaime’s psyche shouted.
“You don’t know me,” the drunk said. “Yet you tell me to stop. You,” he pointed again, “are a better friend than those,” he indicated with his thumb back toward the bar and held the pose dramatically for a moment. “You,” he repeated, “tell me to stop.” He shook his head philosophically, sat for a moment in silence, then brightened up. “Want a beer?” he asked.
Run! Jaime’s psyche shouted. He could be a police agent, the crazy part of his mind whispered. Stay calm, the sane part of his mind said.
“Sure,” Jaime said. The word cost him a great effort.
“Manoel!” the drunk shouted back to the bar owner. “A Brahma, and two glasses.” He leaned across the table and extended his hand. “Aloísio Pereira de Jesus,” he said, giving his name formally as Jaime shook his hand. “What’s your name?”
“Domingo,” Jaime said.
“Domingo.” The drunk leaned back and nodded his head. “Domingo–‘Sunday.’ It was Sunday when we started drinking–right after the game.” He looked up at the sky–it was turning light gray. “It must be Monday, now, though.”
The bar owner came out, carrying a large brown bottle of beer with a red and gold ‘Brahma’ label and two small glasses. The two other drunks followed him out to see what was going on and seemed delighted to find Aloísio there. They came over to the table and Aloísio stood up and embraced each of them in turn, as though they hadn’t seen each other in weeks.
“My friend, Domingo,” Aloísio said.
The two drunks came around the table and shook Jaime’s hand. One of them put a brotherly arm around Jaime’s shoulder and hugged him, then slouched down into an empty chair.
“Manoel! Another beer and two more cups,” Aloísio said grandly. “This is my real friend,” he said, indicating Jaime. “He tells me to stop drinking.” He took a gulp of beer and launched into a story about his little daughter, and how he stayed out all night, drinking. The guy closest to Jaime turned to Jaime and said wasn’t it a great game yesterday–Flamengo against Vasco da Gama. Jaime admitted he’d missed it, trying to sound sad, and the guy launched into a play by play description, illustrating with broad sweeps of his arm. Jaime picked up his glass, glad for the cold, rich-tasting beer–French beer was pissy stuff, he reflected. The game reached half-time and, across the table, Aloísio was admitting he hadn’t seen his daughter for–how long?–maybe a couple of years or so, but that didn’t matter because he loved her. Two more bottles arrived on the table. The crazy part of Jaime’s mind was reluctantly admitting that these were probably just regular old drunks, and even his psyche was calming down. The game was going into the second half–far more exciting than the first half–Vasco da Gama was ahead by one point but the loyal Flamengo fans–and who could be more loyal than Flamengo fans –knew, they knew–that Vasco wouldn’t win. Then the first goal cutting in at the corner, sending the Vasco goalie sprawling–”Manoel! Two more bottles!”–and then a tense moment when the Vasco forward got close to the goal–”my little daughter, she was seven or eight then, and now–fifteen, sixteen? But how she used to look up into my eyes. . . .”–and shot, but the goalie leaped up and caught it–Jaime’s psyche was lulled now, enjoying the beer: this is what I missed in Paris, sitting in a bar with the men of my own country, drinking good beer–and the ball moving down field, passed from player to player–people were beginning to walk by now, on their way to early jobs–and passed to Junior, who came slanting across from the corner, and…
RUN! Jaime’s psyche yelled. “Goal!” his companion shouted, half standing, putting an arm around Jaime’s shoulder. And the sane part of Jaime’s mind started laughing.
The black car had cruised by, not even pausing, uninterested in four drunks.
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