"South America on $320" story # 2

Sao Paulo, Brazil           April 22, 2002

My plane landed in Brazil late Monday night. The family of my good friend, Gabby Nunes, was putting me up for my stay, so I crashed at their apartment.
     When I woke, the inferno from my left chest was still engulfing me, but it felt good to know the extinguisher was nearby. It was November 6th, three months since my last visit to the hundreds of french fry skyscrapers that had been vomited up in creating the megalopolous, Sao Paulo. Three months since some of the happiest days of my life.
     I called Georgia. She would meet me that night.
     It was a relief to again stand outside her family's white marble apartment building. More than any spot in the world, here summoned in me the hopes and excitement of a boyish dreamer who believed the world was achievable.
     On this day, though, I awaited Georgia's descent like a fading beggar watches for the baker's leftover bread handout.
     My three-month wait ended then, as the heavens parted in Sao Paulo. Taking small, soft steps as usual, my angel appeared. She still looked beautiful. The tall, small girl had on a nice, gravel-gray tanktop and tight jeans. Pine-brown hair floated past cream skin and to her shoulders. She gave a big hug.
     We talked. She never should've been allowed to see me as I was then; I wondered if she could tell I was a lost lamb without her.
     I wanted to speak seriously to her, to tell her I would've run from the U.S. to Brazil if I'd had to. But, it was impossible to disobey my instinct - my death-sworn mission, while around Georgia - to just make her happy, to see that perfect, white smile with the wise crook in it, or to hear her Persephonic laughter, as soul-freeing as a year's worth of dancing.
     She gushed on in gushy Portuguese, and I bounced from one cloud-like word to the next. She suggested we go for bauru sandwiches and led me from the apartment lobby.
     We walked down a quiet Sao Paulo block. She took my hand in hers. I lacked all confidence.
     We walked beneath a tree going to the side of the sidewalk. Suddenly, Georgia jumped in front of me, reached up to put her arms around my neck. My heart was pumping furiously. And kissed me.
     Woo---hoo! .....
     All I can say is the kiss tasted like heaven, but better and sweeter and tender. It was quite possibly the best moment ever. When I think about it now, it lasted years.
     Unfortunately, it lasted only seconds. And the second this grand, elated moment was over the worst thing possible occurred - a black cat was standing beside us, having seemingly materialized out of thin air.
     Now, if I wouldn't have been still frozen by Georgia's lips, or if there'd been a brain in my head, I would've stepped into action and done the right thing. I would've scooped up that cat, punched him solidly between the eyes, and punted him high and long over the nearest house, then grabbed Georgia and ran.
     Instead, I watched idly, horrified, as the black cat not only crossed our paths but performed complete, tight circles around both of our sets of legs. No change in fortunes could've been more drastic. We'd just received the kiss of the devil. I couldn't believe it.
     Georgia was somehow oblivious to the symbolism. "Oh, um gato," she said and picked up the cat to pet it.
     What an idiot? I thought. How could you have missed that!?
     No. Of course I didn't think that back then. Haven't you seen all the flowery language I've been using? - I was as blind to any Georgia imperfections as a fat man is to a salad.
     No, I probably thought something along the lines of: "Aww, how cutesie-wootsie, my Georgi-weorgi-weorgi-beorgi-weorgi is being nice to the kittie-witty" - blindly forgetting the important fact that cats are miserable, narcissic, self-pleasing, prissy, greedy, pseudo-friendly, people-using, purpose-less, bad luck-bringing, hairball-hacking love ruiners! with nothing going for them but a soft purr and shiny coat. Nobody should be nice to cats.
     Boy, I was blissful that night.
     Unfortunately, you would know if you were a superstitious person - or even if you're not, that cat omen was just too uncanny to ignore - that that was Georgia's and my last night together. The next night that I saw her, she wrenched back my heart. Things were broken off for good.
     Man, this sucked. I walked through the busy city, feverishly plotting how I'd convince Georgia I was best for her. When I got to Gabby's, every member of the family gave me advice. Gabby's father said she was "asustado" (frightened); I needed "paciencia." Gabby's womanizing younger brother told me to tell Georgia off and go pick up girls with him at a club by pretending to be cute foreigners who didn't speak Portuguese. And Gabby's mom told me to give her an "ultimato" (ultimatum), which sounded like she was saying to give her an "Eu te mato," which means "I kill you," and sounded a little harsh.
     Whatever fate the future held, it was only Georgia who could ease my angst-filled state of mind. She didn't seem to care about me too much, though; before she'd see me again, SHE left ME to travel, taking her dad up on a weekend trip to Rio. Irony at its cruelest.
     There were lots of options for things to do that weekend in Sao Paulo. I carefully considered all the choices, then finally decided I'd pass the two days in abject misery.
     The degree of my patheticity was a sight to be seen. One night, Gabby and her friends tried to cheer me up. They invited me to karaoke.
     "Eu odeio karaoke. Nao canto bem," I said. (I hate karaoke. I can't sing.)
     Gabby's friend told me not to worry, that nobody who went sang that well.
     I responded, "A so coisa eu odeio mais que cantando karaoke e pra escutir personas cantando que nao podem cantar." (The only thing I hate worse than singing myself is hearing other people sing who don't know how to sing.)
     Yep, I was a real fun guy to be around.
     Georgia returned, and I hung out with her a bit the next week. Nothing got resolved. She was set to go on another trip this following weekend, so I decided I'd collapse on my backup plan and head down to Argentina. On the morning Georgia and I were supposed to say good-bye, she was too tired to hang out and said she'd call later. She never did.
     I rode sixteen hours by bus to Foz do Iguacu, a smallish plains city on the Argentinian border. I headed to see for myself the Iguacu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
     It was magnificent. The Falls are a spot where the murky green Paraguay River tumbles into 200-plus simultaneous waterfalls. The river just dropped about a hundred feet, taking two steps to do so. Thick brown rock divided each step into dozens of foamy falls. In the surrounding land and air, life could be seen thriving in the dense rainforest and tasted in the misty, rich air. It was like the end of the world, almost.
     The whole awesome scene was wasted on me. It could inspire no hope on this day. Boy, I felt bad. When I stood on a catwalk below Garganta do Diablo, getting drenched by the rain of one of Iguacu's mightiest falls, I felt as though I was actually in "A Garganta do Diablo" (the throat of the devil). I wasn't over her, and I was a fool for coming this way.
     I phoned Georgia as soon as I could. "E so ..." I told her. (It's just ...) "Eu te amo com o meu coracao enteiro." (I love you with all my heart.) Pretty meek, huh?
     "It's okay ... you're human," Gabby consoled me upon my return to Sao Paulo. I'd wanted to be a warrior and tough out the Argentinian trip, but my heart wasn't into it.
     I spoke again to Georgia, digging for a viable reason why we shouldn't be together, other than that I was from Michigan and she lived in Brazil. I asked her, if ten years of going our separate ways passed and neither of us had met anyone we cared for more than each other, could I call her?
     She responded, "Voce precisa ser rico (You'd better be rich), pra me comprar coisas" (to buy me things), which was easily the worst thing she'd ever said. Finally, she'd given me a reason. We were different people, indeed. I was over her.
     I hung out with Gabby a bit more, going dancing and eating the delectable frozen soup made from purple acai fruit. On the day before my flight home to the States, I called Georgia.
     She told me of a dance she'd be attending the next night, and how she was going to the hair-dresser the whole day in preparation. I told her it would be my last day around, and wouldn't she see me?
     She reiterated how long she'd be at the hair-dresser's. "O dia enteiro." (The whole day.) She wouldn't see me.
     I was infuriated. I couldn't believe she could care so little for me. Over the past month, she'd neglected to return my phone calls, refused to wake up before two, ignored me to travel, agreed to see me seldomly and only through coaxing, and now this. I managed to contain myself outwardly, but the veins in my head swelled with such rage they nearly burst.
     "Tchau." I wanted nothing more to do with her.
     "Tchau," she said reluctantly.
     "Beijos." "Beijos." And that was it. Georgia may have let out a slight "meow" before hanging up - though she doesn't hack up hairballs, as far as I know.
     "What a f*@#ing heartless bi*@h!" said my friend back in the States, Ricarda "Johnny" Hirsiger. It felt good to hear her say that.
     Other than Johnny's quote, the story's not too happy. I spent all my money. I didn't travel Argentina. Georgia and I were not meant for each other. And not only that, but, because all the times and feelings we'd shared had failed to bring us forever closer as people who still care about one another, all the good memories we had together have been undone. Worse yet, I fear Georgia, a girl who I couldn't resist loving more than anything due to her natural beauty, will have a tough time finding happiness.
     On the positive side, I did make one hell of an effort after the girl. Heck, I got deported for her! And I suppose I learned some things:
     I learned that passion rules all. I'd pursue my passion, whether it be an art, a girl, a platonic friend, a place, a philosophy, to the end of the earth.
     To take it a step further, passion can bring us meaning in these bleak times. Meaning brings inner peace. And inner peace brings us constant happiness, a happiness which doesn't wax and wane with or without money, luxuries, television, food, drugs and alcohol, even companionship if you're strong.
     But, always be on the lookout for something better. Georgia may not have been the girl for me, but if I feel that way about another girl in the future, I won't hesitate to follow her over my travel writing.
     Like I said, times were tough even after I left Brazil. Realizing my passion once again for my travel writing took time, and I've had to pass many sharp stones to do it.
     But, with the completion of this story, I do believe I've reached the beach. And look! Some savory coconuts have just arrived.
     Won't you join me?
     After all, I am, again, the one and only ...

...Modern Oddyseus

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