Here is our trip to Brazil:
We rent out a whole pousada in Buzios, near the beach. At night we walk up and down the one cobblestoned street, to see and be seen. We wear tube tops and big necklaces and we don’t care.
Lelo will take us to the best nightclubs in São Paulo. Everything in São Paulo is outsized and hard to find. But Lelo owns a nightclub there, now. He still knows where to go. The women in São Paulo are so beautiful, they re-adjust your eyeballs.
Oh, and before we go clubbing, we eat dinner at an Italian restaurant where there are multi-generational families still waiting in line for a table at midnight. It is so cavernous, the walls are painted to look like Italian buildings. Two stories above the tables, lines of laundry blow in the indoor breeze.
In Niteroi, Livia takes us to the beach and men will walk by our beach chairs with skewers of grilled shrimp and cold Skol.
We do carnaval. We get drums and practice with Pedro Luis and Monobloco in Lapa. I was there for the very first rehearsal. We stand in the very center of the bateria, where the drums are loudest.
And then we go out to join Beija Flor, and Marcelo (a different Marcelo than Lelo—pay attention) will introduce us to the dirigentes, who run the samba school and therefore the neighborhood. They look dour, in their smart blue and gold suits, squinting at the Americans. We can respect that. We are, after all, wearing head-dresses and sequins and feathers that make it impossible to fit through doorways.
I remember where the floats are parked the night before the final big parades, and we get close enough to touch them. The pink wax heads on the Manguiera floats are translucent. They glow. We talk about the carnivalesque and heterotopias and oh-my-f*&king-god look at those fifty-foot ancient Egpytian slave ships.
I take you on the bonde up into Santa Teresa, to my favorite café, Simplesmente, and we’ll visit the artist studios.
We stop at the circus school in Cantagalo, where the children that I abandoned when I left, the ones who wanted me to teach them English, have grown up and do not hate me. We visit the Shakespeare school bolted to the edge of a cliff in Vidigal. And we find the crumbling auditorium in Rocinha where I used to train capoeira, near the end of the bus line. We see the little bar where they served me wine so sweet it tasted like Jolly Ranchers.
And Antiquarios, the samba club, and that other bar in Lapa with the long wooden shutters! Where S. played drums outside and made a fool of himself. Where Vagner introduced himself on the street.
And the corner in Copacabana where we got mugged, but all they got was the lens cap.
And because I can show it to you, it is not lost. I will be just as dark as I was that year, with just the same bright white tan lines across my collarbones. I won’t spend a single minute inside my apartment, wondering why the hell I exploded my life. Every evening, we go out, and at dusk, we buy água de coco in Copacabana and the guy still recognizes me. He smiles at me, and say e, tudo bem, paulista? He remembers that I always, always ask him to slice the coconut open with his machete, after I have finished drinking, so that I can eat the soft white flesh with a spoon.