A handful of precious moments from Brasil.
I wake at 5am. There is something about starting my day while most of the other humans in the country are still asleep and the world outside is on the final ledge of darkness that always thrills me. At 5:30am Lucas arrives to pick me up. It’s still dark but already the air is warm and we drive out of the quiet city with the windows rolled down, the wind brushing through the waves in my hair.
Outside the city everything is blanketed in a gentle but dense mist and soon the soft blues are tinged gold by the slowly rising sun. Lucas knows the names of every bird we see, and tells me them as we spend hours photographing. The mist is relentless and as I stand looking out at the lake, unable to discern where the water ends and the sky begins, he tells me about the anacondas and alligators he’s seen there and it fills me with joy, all this abundance, all this wild life thriving all around.
It’s late in the afternoon when Carlota comes and picks me up after his band practice. He’s cut a fringe into his hair and is wearing the tiniest bright red floral shorts imaginable. I grin, thinking about the beauty of this boy who dresses himself with the same gleeful abandon that he lives his life with.
We plan to watch a trashy 80s film but as soon as its on we inadvertently start to talk over the film and pause it frequently to show each other videos on youtube or tell a story. We both have 22 years of life to fill each other in on, and decades more of cultural references and differences to share and compare.
We had planned to go to a free event in the park with live music and food and drink after the film, but his friends cancel and we’re both so tired anyway so instead we cook. It somehow takes us about two hours to make dinner, and even though I’m hungry and tired, there is nothing but joy in the slow process and the conversation we share.
I had planned to get an uber home but when I check the app the prices are sky high. Carlota offers me a lift, and when I envelop him in a grateful hug time seems to fade and stop in the dark garage we stand in, and my only perception becomes of his arms wrapped around me and my arms wrapped around him in this long embrace full of tenderness and love. His dog, feeling left out, barks indignantly until we finally notice and part, laughing.
I’m sitting on the couch with my feet up talking with Milton. Conversation turns to the Emerald Tablet and as he recites the words of the inscription the music playing on the radio is overcome with white noise. It’s only when the conversation veers to another topic that the static stops and the music returns.
Rafa had sent me a message last year and now I’m back in Brasil we try to set up several shoots but something always falls through. She says its a test from the universe to see if we really want to meet, and when we do it will be spectacular. We finally meet for the first time when her and her boyfriend (also called Rafa – from here on in I’ll refer to them as Rafa and Rafael) pull up in their car to pick me up. We drive 4 hours up to the coast to spend the weekend with Milton and Geni and we all get along like a house on fire.
Even though we had originally planned to meet to make photos together and even though we’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I end up not taking any photos. Sometimes I feel waves of guilt for it – how can I be a photographer when I’ve wasted so many good opportunities to make photos? But I am content in being alive and experiencing these moments without the need to capture them. The memories are engraved into my heart instead, and that is more than enough.
I’m in the sea with Rafael who is helping me get to grips with surfing and feeling good as I managed to catch a wave, albeit lying down. We’re almost out of the water when a wave comes that knocks the two of us down and I’ve barely stopped laughing and picked myself up when another wave comes and knocks me down again. I make it out of the water grazed and bloody and laughing.
Milton and I watch a documentary in bed while we wait for Geni to come back from work. I make a comment as the film ends and when I receive no response I look over to find he’s fallen deeply asleep with his mouth open like a child. It brings a smile to my lips and I get up quietly to put my laptop away but the movement wakes him and we stay up drinking wine and listening to tragic Swedish songs until Geni comes home at 3am. We all lay in bed together looking at photos of Cyprus, dreaming of being there together.
I decide at the very last minute to go back to Porto Alegre with the Rafa’s. I say goodbye to Geni and then turn to Milton. We hug each other for a long time and when we part I place my hand on his heart and thank him for everything, and he places his hand on my heart and thanks me. He kisses my forehead and then I’m leaving, with my flip flops in my hands and tripping over my own sandy feet.
We leave Milton and Geni’s much later than we had planned, and then stop for hotdogs in a place that by some twist of fate turns out to belong to Rafael’s cousin, and now it’s 11pm and we’re still in the area and have all of the long drive still ahead of us. Rafael is unsurprisingly tired, having spent the last two days surfing all day long in the sun, and we stop at a petrol station for him to sleep a while before carrying on.
It’s pitch black outside and empty and even when the night guard arrives it does little to reassure my fears. I keep looking out of the window while the Rafa’s sleep but soon the windows fog up with condensation and its near impossible to make out anything outside the car anymore. I close my eyes and try to rest.
It’s not long before I hear the sound of a car approaching and snap straight into full awareness, adrenaline surging through me. Even though there’s all the empty space of the petrol station and parking area free to use, whoever is in that car has decided to come to a slow stop directly next to us. I can’t see the driver, the tent is blocking my view through the foggy windows, and I panic and hurriedly wake the Rafa’s. Rafael tells us to calm down, there’s no need to be afraid, but months of hearing horrific stories of violence from my family finally catch up to me as I yelp “It’s Brasil – we should be afraid!”
He’s still half asleep and rubbing his eyes as he pulls out and we speed away. I look back to see if the car is following us but thankfully it stays put and relieved laughter pours out of me, my nerves in shreds.
We drive a while until we find another petrol station. This one is well lit and full of people and immediately a million times safer and more reassuring than the last. The front windows don’t wind down, so we turn the air conditioning on, set an alarm and settle down to rest some more. My back is terribly sunburnt and rubs against the backseat of the car no matter what position I am in, so sleep, when it eventually comes for me, is fitful and uncomfortable.
The alarm goes off after 45 minutes and Rafael goes to get some coffee. When he comes back, he turns the key but the engine won’t start. He tries a few more times, but nothing. Leaving the air conditioning on so long must have drained the battery, and we look at each other helplessly – it’s 3am and we’ve only travelled an hour in total and now we’re stuck at this petrol station.
Rafael goes off in seach of a cable to jump start the car. One of the men who works at the station says they do have a cable but it’s locked in someone’s truck. He offers to make a cable from scratch instead, and so we gratefully accept, and wait.
Eventually the cable is ready, and he brings it over. Rafael turns the key in the ignition, and the car starts up as if there was nothing ever wrong with it as we all gape incredulously. All we had to do was wait a little while. The man with the cable is mercifully good natured and laughs it off, and soon we’re on our way again.
We stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway many more times when Rafael gets dangerously sleepy, and eventually make it to Porto Alegre around 8am, completely wrecked, but finally home.