Friday, May 25, 2007

Maria´s Story:

“ ‘Sometimes I feel more lonely when you are here with me than when you are away cutting sugar cane,’ that’s what I say to my husband when he comes home drunk. And I am not lying. That is really how I feel.” Maria, Tiago and I were sharing biscuits that Maria bought from the man with the wheelbarrow who knocked over the cardboard box sign that says Hair Jel for Sale. Maria said they sell hair gel in the city and not here, in this neighborhood, New Hope. She bought gel in the city to sell here. She hopes to get customers.
She continued like this, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Its not the kind of drinking that brings violence to our family. You see, he always comes home and cares for us lovingly. But I sense that this love is empty love. The love of a drunken person who can do anything without meaning to do it. It is a kind of unconvincing love that doesn’t do much for me. I am just lucky that I was able to have Tiago after aborting two children. He is someone to take care of and he makes my loneliness and my depression more bearable.“
Tiago throws his biscuit on the floor and screams at the top of his lungs. Clearly, he is annoyed that his mother is not giving him her full attention. Maria gets up from her chair and pulls a thin short branch from a tree near the doorstep. She returns and lifts the twig above her head, threatening her son. Tiago smiles and lifts his hand above his head too but then retreats to the back of his chair when his mother thrusts her fist in his direction. “Tiago, I will hit you. This isn’t a game. Just wait until Emma leaves!” She lets her arm fall on the table and taps the twig on the brim of a cup. “Emma, remember that day when you saw me dragging Tiago across the soccer field while he was having a temper tantrum, boy did I give him a tapping on the back of his legs when we got home.” Tiago, seeming quite unaffected by his mother’s threats, makes the sound of a dog barking. Arrf arrf. I recognize this as my signal to get down on my hands and knees. I always bark with Tiago when I visit this household. “Anyway, “ Maria says, “sometimes I think our relationship won’t work. When he is away, he says he doesn’t drink, he says he is too concerned with not spending any money. At least, when he calls, he speaks sincerely and seems sober…
But, for the little time when he is at home, he scares me. One day he was in a fight and came home with the cartilage and bones of his hands showing through big gashes in his skin. A cut along his stomach and a gash on his leg…I tell him that drinking might kill him and that he needs to stop. He says that I only say this because I want to have a reason to find another man. And I do think about leaving him. But, Emma, if I do, cachaça (alcoholic drink made from fermented sugar) will surely kill him.”