Beam Five: the past is an insidious place

Welcome to the fifth installment in the Rainbow series, a weekly journey through my time spent in the inland of Brazil, in the state of Goiás, near capital city of Brasília. Each week I will be presenting excerpts from the journal I kept for those three years, in which I recorded every sensation, impression and feeling about the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. It chronicles also my inner journey and a big discovery that opened my eyes to the world. Different eyes.

Thanks to Chelsea Hunt

The following excerpt is a sketchy mosaic dealing with Perse’s past. The character of Marta is introduced; she was the woman Getúlio, Perse’s father, betrayed Perse’s mother with. Geovana, Perse’s mother, would never forgive nor forget the mishap and would live an eternal mourning, represented by the loss of the love of her life who, even if still alive, was living with another woman now. Since then, Geovana sulked while hearing Marta’s name and everything associated with her. She engaged with another man, who would become more than a simple stepfather to Perse, but never stopped loving Getúlio.

– My mom never got over it. – Perse said. – And never will. –

But the worst part is that Geovana poured her frustration and hatred over Persefone, who represented the fruit of betrayal.

– My mother never hugged me nor kissed me. Do you believe that? – Perse said to me. – I never knew what it means to be loved by a mother, because my mother only shouted and beat me up. Sometimes she beat me up for no reason at all, she made up some excuse and took the blackberry’s branch to whip me with.-

The first time I heard this, I couldn’t believe it.

– She beat us all up, me and the others. But I was the one who received the humiliation. We were so poor back then that we didn’t have flip flops, so I had to go to school bare feet. And when I asked her if she could get me a pair of them she shouted I had to go to my father’s house and ask for money, because he was well-to-do. In fact, my dad had been well-to-do, until he sold his land to buy my mother a house. Then they broke up and my mom stayed in that house, which is the house we are staying right now. My father’s family hated her, because she was the cause of my dad becoming bankrupt. And they hated me, because I was who I was. –

Two lonely tears streaked Perse’s face. I was sadly accustomed to see her like that, every time she recalled something about her past. The past almost always meant pain to her. That sight of her devastated me. Her face prematurely aged by pain and experience.

At least, we didn’t witness just dark tones. We saw bright colors too, as the ones you’re going to see now.

Get on the Beam, let’s fly a little.


February 1, 2013


This morning, I woke up at the rooster’s singing. I turned to Perse and I said:

– You heard that? The rooster sang. Does that mean we have to get up? –

– My love, it is 4 in the morning. The rooster sings whenever it wants. If it sang at 3 am, what would you do, get up at 3? –

We took the kids to school and soon after had a walk in downtown, stopping to buy flowers to bring at Perse’s father’s grave. He had died when she was in Italy. But when we got to the entrance of the cemetery, neither the guardians knew where he had been buried. We had to deposit the flowers at the shop on Perse’s name until we were sure where the grave was. The surrounding wall of the cemetery is low and painted with graffiti; big flowers and poetry by local writers had been sprayed upon it; even death was jetted with light-toned colors. And all around, trees and trees and the scent of flowers coming from the gravestones. Nothing big or squared, no grey structure, mausoleums, nor majestic Roman Greek entry. Nothing epic here. Here, it is another world and it works differently. We had turned the page.

I saw shacks you wouldn’t tell how they could still stand and host families in them. Most of these shacks shared the perimeter wall with that of villas and mansions that could fit in some well-off district in Milan. These are the houses of people who had lived abroad for a long time, made success and money in better times and now they were showing off.

But now times have changed.

Topiramato, 11:11 pm.

The only person to know the exact site of Getúlio’s grave was dona * Marta, his companion and fiancée for more than thirty years. We met her by chance at the drugstore where Perse’s father also used to go. As opposed to dona Geovana, Marta’s wits were thorough and expanded, just like the wrinkles on the limp surface of her skin. Marta was nearing ninty, even if she said she was seventy-something. She talked slowly in the local vernacular, stressing every single word; I managed to understand what she said and she understood everything I said in my still doubtful Portuguese.

– You chose the right girl. – she said and smiled to me.

We lingered more than half an hour chatting with her on the sidewalk of the main square, in the shadow of the Clocktower, whose hands were still and rusty from time undefined. The city streets are carved with various holes due to erosion and lack of maintenance and each time it rains, they become the orange-tinted pools I so loved.

Everybody complains that the city is falling to pieces and they’re right; it really is. The previous “prefeito” ** escaped with twenty-three million reais ***, leaving the city adrift.

The new mayor, Amauri Ribeiro, some kind of thirty-year old cowboy, equipped with balls and intentions, is slowly building it all up from scratch. But it is a hard task. He obtained five new police cars as his first achievement and yesterday, on the street where Geovana lives, we came across his train, which was not long but quite effective. Leading the way, there was a car of Caramurú, a local company which deals with seeds, four of the aforementioned police cars and a pick-up truck with Amauri himself propped up in the rear cargo area. He was wearing his usual Stetson (“He’s never without it” Perse says) and other men were with him, all cluttered back there. One of his associates was holding a megaphone to shout praises for him. We stepped aside to applaud and Perse waved at him, shouting:

– Oi, Amauri, sou a Persefone, cê lembra? –

That means: Hi, Amauri, I am Persefone, remember me?

Perse had told me they were childhood playmates and he used to stay at Geovana’s for lunch; their families were friends.

Amauri looked down and smiled at us, face slightly unshaven and perfect teeth. Who knows if he remembered Persefone from back in the day.

The last, brand new police car closed the train. Here, policemen will smile at you if you wave them hello. Perse spotted one of them as a love interest from her teen years.

Every day it rains for half an hour; it is summertime. Two long-tailed orange and blue birds flash across the sky, Perse calls them the “araras”, due to the sound they make; it is like some sort of caw. They look like parrots but are bigger and way more elegant, unearthly beings.

A few days later, Perse told me she wouldn’t pick up the flowers at the shop near the cemetery. She decided not to visit her father’s grave.

– I want to remember him the way he was. What lies there are his earthly remainings, he is not there. Not at all. – she said.

I saw her point. I agreed with her. I would do anything to make her happy, to make her smile. I had to thank God she was a strong woman and had a smile for everyone. She still is strong. And still smiles, only a little less than before.

The past is an insidious place indeed.

* dona: a respect title given to adult and married women in Brazil, it means “dame”, “Mrs.”

** prefeito: mayor.

*** reais: plural of “real”, the current Brazilian coinage.

How do you deal with the past, gentle reader? How do you behave when painful memories come back to haunt you, because their consequences still influence your life?

This excerpt is taken from the memoir “The End of the Rainbow”. If you liked the excerpt, please leave your comment as a vote to see the full-length book published.

Thank you and have a great day!


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