"Brazil 2001" story # 13

Fortaleza, Ceara           May 15, 2001

Oh, boy. What a relaxing stay it's been at Luciana's house. It seems to be getting time to move on, though. Let me check the calendar. Let's see ... "Maio." It's March already? No, wait a minute. It's May!?
     Mid-May, even. Where has my semester gone? I'd better finish my studies for college down here pronto. This also means that the Eckerd College Class of '01 will be finishing up its studies for good. Those kids who entered college with me will soon be graduating. I'm so proud. Congratulations, guys!
     As far as I can tell, I'll be graduating too. Unfortunately, because I'm carrying out my studies in Brazil, I'll miss the big ceremonies with everyone walking across the stage. There's no need to worry, though; I had a party of my own to go to.
     My Fortaleza "Despedidia," or going-away party, was the other night, attended by a group of my and Luciana's friends:
     Short-haired Bruno is a gibberish-talking goof-off who dreams of being a Backstreet Boy, and he's become a good friend of mine; JoAnna is his thin, fashion-designing girlfriend, who always has a big smile for when Bruno says or mumbles something strange; Ana Carla is a shorter girl with long, especially frizzy, jet-black hair, whose quality of life is determined only by how many hours a week she hangs out with her friends; Bebeko is a lanky, buzz-cut blonde who can't wear a shirt for five minutes and who teaches me long, slang phrases in Portuguese to repeat whenever I see him; there were others, too.
     We sat around Bruno's place, drinking and talking.
     "Oi, Justin," said Bebeko, shining his constant, "Yeah, I know I'm the Man" smile. "Folha! ... e, alli, folha!"
     "Qual é dessa babylonia?" I responded in my favorite expression he'd taught me.
     Bebeko gave me a cool handshake, even though I only half-knew what I'd said.
     It was for precisely this reason - the language difference - that I probably shouldn't have been drinking. The last time I'd drunk wine with these guys, I became so tired I said, "Eu esto com tao sonho que cuando eu penso em ingles, cuando eu penso em portugues, eu já esquece que estava originalmente pensando." (I'm so tired that when I think something in English, by the time I think this Portuguese, I've already forgotten what I was originally thinking.)
     I hoped that wouldn't be a problem this night. As we continued drinking, I passed my despedida in three main ways:
     1. Speaking in "palavrinhas," (little words) a way of thinking in which we add the ending, "inha" (little) to as many words as possible. It's pretty fun, and Bruno's the best at it: "Oinho, Justininho, Aninha Carlinha estáinha na telefoninha."
     2. Flirting with Ana Carla and trying to get her to dance salsa with me.
     3. Thinking of fun ways to build my Portuguese vocabulary.
     "Qual é o nome dessa?" I asked Ana Carla, holding up a square pillow. (How do you say this?)
     "Cabecera," she said.
     "Cabecera," I repeated, and I stuffed the pillow in her face mischievously, hoping in my drunk state that this would somehow convince her to dance salsa with me.
     Instead, it began a pillow fight.
     In my drunk state, as Ana Carla creamed my cabeça with the cabecera, I began to see the pillow differently. If you looked at it creatively, it kind of resembled the square cap college seniors wear at graduation. It kind of made me sad that I'd miss the event and my friends at college - and Ana Carla's relentless pillowing didn't help.
     But, it gave me an idea. We could have a "formatura simulaçao," a created graduation to make me feel better. Everyone agreed to it. I assigned roles to my Brazilian friends and began writing the script.
     We soon took our places, with the graduating seniors lining up in the kitchen. (I should note that I didn't have as many actors as needed to represent all my college friends. For example, I was going to have my hero, Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter," appear in the graduating class, but I ran out of people. Thus, the simulaçao wasn't as realistic as I wanted it to be.)
     In the living room, Professor Watson, the head of my school's creative writing department (as played by Bruno), began the speech I'd written for him. I feel the speech was pretty accurate for an Eckerd College graduation, provided that it be given in Portuguese, that I be allowed to write it (while drunk), and that Eckerd College started hiring people like Bruno as professors.
     "Oi. Eu sou Professor Watson. Seja bem vindo á essa formatura de class 2001 de Eckerd College." (Welcome ... blah, blah.) Bruno went on to say he was proud of the class.
     "Whoo!" we all screamed from the kitchen.
     Bruno continued. "Por exemplo, nos temos um homem - um viajador MUITO especial." (For example, there's one man - a traveller - VERY special.)
     "Whoo!" we cheered.
     "Ele é um aluno e escritor muito bom." (He is a very good student and writer.)
     "Nao. Ele é o escritor MELHOR no mundo." (No. He's the BEST writer in the world.)
     "Nao. Ele é a PESSOA melhor no mundo." (No. He's the best PERSON in the world.)
     This was beginning to sound like the Professor Watson I knew. (Just kidding. There were several people at my school who'd thought he wouldn't even pass me - but this was MY simulaçao, so I basked in it.)
     "Parabens," said the professor. "E tambem, ele é o dançador de salsa, americano, melhor, no mundo enteiro, e ele vai dançar salsa com Aninha Carlinha depois." (Congratulations. Also, he's the best American salsa dancer in the world, and he's going to dance with little Ana Carla afterwards.)
     "Whoo!" everyone but Ana Carla cheered.
     Bruno announced the first graduate. "Patty Manteiga!"
     As Ana Carla shook hands with the professor, walking with a pillow on her head, my mind fashed back to fond memories of Patty, highlighted by "Date of the Week" X.
     Bruno read the next name to cheers. "Andrew 'CrazyMan' Dunsky." One of my other college friends (played by Melana).
     Next, came Costas, the Greek boyfriend of Luciana (played by Max), and Jojo, the 6'9" wily Swede and my "Week of Gluttony" competitor (played by JoAnna).
     I was getting all emotional and proud, but my pride hit the roof when Bruno announced, "Ewan 'Johnny' Smith!"
     Bebeko entered the living room on a sprint, clenching his pillow to his head and pumping his fist. "Folha," he said.
     He looked a bit like Ewan "Johnny" Smith, my college roommate for the times I was actually at my college - from the day I first ordered pizza with the thin, basketball-playing freshman until the day I last saw the chubby, beer-drinking senior sprawled out at the beach to catch an ocean-bound football. How could I describe my pride? Nobody had earned a college degree more by earning it less than he had. We'd been through it all, and we'd had a nice ride.
     Finally, Bruno said, "Justin Breen!" (played by me)
     I walked in happily, giving Ewan "Johnny" Smith a hi-five and shaking Professor Watson's hand.
     But, how could the day be complete without my good buddies, Cory "Johnny" Anderson and Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams cheering in the crowd?
     Cory (played by Carol) yelled, "You're really doing it, buddy!"
     Lucas (by Cecilia) yelled, "You really did it!" (You have to understand, Cory and Lucas used these catch-phrases ALL the time, for accomplishments as simple as getting together on a Tuesday night to drink and wrestle over ice cream, to accomplishments as big as ... well, we never really accomplished much more than the Tuesday night thing. Man, it had been a nice ride.)
     "St. Pete or Bust!" Cory added.
     Just when I was about to babble a drunk speech, Ana Carla took the pillow off her head and threw it in the air. We all did the same, which felt pretty good.
     The whole thing was very nice, but I couldn't forget the real reason I'd come up with the entire scheme: to finally trick Ana Carla into dancing with me.
     "Salsa! Salsa!" the others yelled, and Bruno put on Santana's "Gitano."
     The rapid, candy-like rhythms of Santana's latin piano trickled through the room, tickling everyone and practically forcing us to take one left step to the front, one step with feet together, and one right step behind. "Dos a como, dos a yo ... amigo!"
     But, what finally convinced Ana Carla to dance with me was when I reminded her who she was: Patty Manteiga, a half-Colombian, salsa-loving maniac.
     She recognized my devious plot and reluctantly agreed to do a little number with me. Ah, my graduation day was a success. I even pulled out an original Modern Oddyseus move, holding her right hand in my left and twisting so her arm crept up my back and around my neck, where she was forced to remain close to me. (Pretty slick, huh?)
     It was a pretty fun simulaçao. I especially never would've expected to see Professor Watson twisting my roommate to a salsa beat, but it goes to show how unique Brazilian graduations can be.
     Congratulations, Eckerd College Class of 2001.
     Congratulations, Ewan "Johnny" Smith.
     "I can't believe you're really doing it, buddy!"

Ciaozinho, Fortalezeirinhas - Moderninho Oddyseusinho

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