Monday, 30 August 2010
I go out drinking with the Louth Media Mafia and The Pampas Goat and as is the way of things deadlines slide past and I am left with two options home – a R$25 taxi ride or one bus and then another via the storied Cais De Santa Rita. Like any right thinking wastrel/scribe/human being I choose the latter and so I wander off towards the bus stop thinking I will catch an empty late night bus home.
Only the bus when it comes bears the fruit of Recife´s other rush hour – that of the waiters and the pot cleaners and the floor scrubbers of the city´s (or As Republicas) better restaurants. It is packed and it is very loud because everyone is talking to one another which is remarkable in itself because they are all getting off twelve or fourteen hour shifts. I am immediately aware that I am the only person on the bus who is not like the other people on the bus.
There are no women because Recife´s restaurant staff are almost exclusively male (women deemed perhaps too susceptible a prey to the machisto clientele) but the chatter rolls on undaunted. The men themselves are a mixture – ugly and beautiful and fat and thin and young and old. All of them are wearing plastic sandals and sleeveless shirts and most of them are wearing baseball caps. I am both sadly and happily acquainted with lives such as theirs – happily because they are good lives to know and be a part of, sadly because they should be better than they are.
They are travelling miles to small houses on unpaved streets in distant neighbourhoods such as Sitio Novo and Janga and Agua Fria and Chão De Estrelas where they will creep into tiny living rooms and then on to bedrooms where the stale breath of wives and girlfriends and children hangs sweet and heavy. It is a life that I once considered I could be part of and who is to say that I could not or if I would be more or less happy than I am today. It is also a heroic life because these are men who work to buy clothes and food for their families and not much else and it makes me feel heroic (but also, with my relatively pampered life, slightly false) to be close to them.
The bus stops in front of the Cais which is or are being redeveloped so there are red plastic fences everywhere and great holes in the pavement and the street and it is even more chaotic than usual. Across the river is the Paço Alfandega shopping center where a t-shirt might cost R$400 which is most of a month´s salary for most of the people getting off the bus.
I wait for another bus which at two o’clock comes and it races through the downtown streets and over another bridge with the black water glittering underneath. Then we are on Conde Da Boa Vista and caught in this reverie I almost miss my stop and only at the last minute do I manage to pull myself up and ring the bell. The bus stops and I get off and wander home through the beautiful and amazing streets of Boa Vista which are amazing because they are neither the streets where my fellow passengers boarded the bus nor the streets to where they are going to, but are instead the streets where I live.